There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Images of veterans returning to empty streets instead of cheering throngs bring to mind the Vietnam era, but as Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen (Dickson is pictured left, with Allen, right) write in The Bonus Army: An American Epic, some veterans of World War I came home to “an indifferent society eager to forget the war.” Given the handiness of historical amnesia, it’s no surprise that the story of the Bonus Expeditionary Force—a group of thousands of veterans who marched on Washington after Congress shot down legislation in May 1932 that would disburse military bonuses immediately (earlier legislation had postponed payment until 1945 or death)—isn’t exactly front and center in most textbooks. It’s a gap that The Bonus Army—a blend of deep research, an engaging narrative, and a cast of characters both forgotten and famous—goes a long way toward closing. Though the army’s campaign in D.C. ended in a clash with the police that left two veterans dead and required the military to escort the rest out of town with the aid of bayonets and tear gas, the authors point to two positive legacies: The GI Bill of Rights, passed in 1944, prevented similar problems in the wake of World War II, and future groups of citizens had a model for petitioning their government in person. “If you have a grievance, take it to Washington,” Dickson and Allen write, “and if you want to be heard, bring a lot of people with you.” Dickson and Allen speak at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28, at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor. Free. (202) 662-7129. (Joe Dempsey)