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The Bonus Marcher incident of the summer of 1932 during the Hoover administration is one of the best known events of the 1930s. Historians and Roosevelt biographers have ever since contrasted the humane treatment of the Bonus Marchers under FDR with the apparent callousness of Hoover. Yet FDR experienced his own Bonus Marcher incident in 1935, one that goes unmentioned in histories of the New Deal years. Fearful of another incident, the Roosevelt administration shipped hundreds of bonus marchers to rehabilitation camps in the South. Many were sent to camps in the Florida Keys for work on the overseas highway project. Largely ignored by Washington, the men were housed in flimsy shacks barely above sea level. As the devastating hurricane of Labor Day 1935 approached the keys, the Bonus Marchers waited unprotected in its path for their supervisors to move them to safety. Confused, divided, and inexperienced leadership, however, prevented help from arriving in time. At least 256 perished.
This is an oral and documentary history of the tragedy and is designed for a general audience, as well as for those interested specifically in the 1930s and the Roosevelt administration. It finally balances the Hoover and FDR records on the Bonus Marchers and gives a valuable graphic description of a terrible human tragedy that could easily have been avoided.
About the Author
GARY DEAN BEST is Professor of History at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. He is the author of The Politics of American Individualism (Greenwood Press, 1975), To Free a People (Greenwood, 1982), Herbert Hoover: The Postpresidential Years (2 volumes, 1983), and Pride, Prejudice, and Politics: Roosevelt versus Recovery, 1933-1938 (Praeger, 1991), as well as numerous essays for scholarly books and journals. He has held fellowships from the American Historical Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities and was a Fulbright Scholar in Japan from 1974 to 1975.
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