Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur consults Major George S. Patton (center) on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
In his memoir, Reminscences, General Douglas MacArthur provides an illuminating account of the Bonus Army riots in the summer of 1932, which, as Army Chief of Staff, he would help quell after District of the Columbia requested assistance.
MacArthur's account highlights some striking similarities with recent Black LIves Matter/Antifa rioting in the nation's capital, especially when it comes to his overview of the tense situation in these final months of the Herbert Hoover administration.
In 1964, MacArthur wrote:
In these days of wholehearted unity, it is hard to believe that thirty years ago the President of the United States lived in danger, and the Congress shook with fear at the sight and sound of the marchers. It is hard to believe, too, that government employees and other citizens of Washington who bore witness to the tawdry street battles cheered the stoning of the Washington police force.
Plus ca change ...
The movement was actually far deeper and more dangerous than an effort to secure funds from an already depleted federal treasury. The American Communist Party planned a riot of such proportions that it was hoped that the United States Army, in its efforts to maintain peace, would have to fire on the marchers. In this way, the Communists hoped to incite revolutionary action. Red organizers infiltrated the veteran groups and presently took command from their unwitting leaders. (Emphasis added.)
... plus c'est la meme communists.
Yes, indeed, nearly ninety years ago, "Red organizers" were already using civil strife -- in this case, the stress and poverty of thousand of unemployed WWI veterans nearly three years into the Great Depression -- to try to spark a violent overthrow of the federal government, or cause as much chaos and mayhem as possible in the attempt while demonizing the anti-communist President Hoover and General MacArthur.
Interestingly enough, the D.C. police commander, Pelham Greenford, was more on the "woke" side than we might expect of law enforcement at the time. Fortunately, the D.C. government and the Secretary of War were clearly on the side of protecting law, order and the White House, and not the agitators -- patriotic support President Trump has not enjoyed.
Here's how events unspooled in 1932. Thousands of "Bonus Army" protestors had camped out in and around the District on federal property since May. After Congress failed to comply with their demands to issue an immediate bonus for their war service, President Hoover was able to get a bill passed providing them with travel fare home. Thousands left the city. Those who remained were increasingly under Communist Party influence and increasingly violent.
After twice advising against providing Army assistance to Washington metropolitan police, MacArthur writes, "on July 28, the crisis was reached."
A mob 5,000 strong began to move up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Treasury Building and the White House. The police were outnumbered five to one. [Police commander] Glassford was mauled and stripped of his police superintendent's gold badge, gunfire broke out, and a score or more were badly injured. It was evident that the situation had gotten beyond the control of the local authorities.
A request was immediately made through the Board of Commissioners for the District of Columbia for federal troops.
Note that in 2020, after three days of rioting and looting in D.C., including in and around Lafayette Square during which some 60 Secret Service and special agents "sustained multiple injuries" defending the White House, and St John's Church was torched, D.C. Mayor Bower was more adamant about fending off National Guard assistance than fending off protestors. She even went so far as to eject members of the Utah National Guard from a D.C. hotel, and, infamously, permitted 16th Street, NW, to be emblazoned with the words "Black Lives Matter."
Back to 1932:
Commissioner Richelderfer, in requesting such assistance from the President, "stated that it would be impossible for the police department to maintain law and order except by the free use of firearms. The presence of federal troops in small numbers will obviate the seriousness of the situation, and it will result in far less bloodshed and violence.
The President then conferred with Patrick Hurley, the Secretary of War, who was immediately placed in charge. Hurley issued the following order:
To: General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff US Army
The President has just now informed me that the civil government of the District of Columbia has reported to him that it is unable to maintain law and order in the District.
You will have United States troops proceed immediately to the scene of disorder. Cooperate fully with the District of Columbia police force which is now in charge. Surround the affected area and clear it without delay.
Turn over all prisoners to civil authorities.
In your orders insist that any women or children who may be in the affected area be accorded every consideration and kindness. Use all humanity consistent with the due execution of the order.
Patrick J. Hurley
Secretary of War
Contrast War Secretary Hurley's statement with that of Defense Secretary Mike Esper, who insubordinately came out against President Trump's call for military to assist local police in restoring order to American cities on fire.
Six hundred soldiers entered Washington in July 1932. "In accordance with the President's request," MacArthur continues, "I accompanied General Miles and brought with me two officers who later wrote their names on world history: Major Dwight D. Eisenhower and Major George S. Patton."
Not a shot was fired. The sticks, clubs, and stones of the rioters was met only by tear gas and steady pressure. No one was killed and there were no serious injuries on either side. By 9:30 P.M. the area was cleared as far as Anacostia Flats. The show of force, the excellent discipline of the troops, the proper use of tear gas had turned the trick without serious bloodshed. At Anacostia Flats, I received word from the Secretary of War, as we were in the midst of crossing the river, to suspend the operation at my discretion. I halted the command as soon as we had cleared the bridge, but at that moment, the rioters had set fire to their own camp. This concluded the proceedings for the night.
I personally reported to the President and Secretary Hurley at the White House about eleven o'clock, and they expressed gratification at what had been accomplished. Secretary Hurley asked me to give a statement to the waiting newspapermen. After explaining the events of the preceeding day, I continued:
If President Hoover had not acted when he did he would have been faced with a serious situation. Another week might have meant that the government was in peril. He had reached the end of an extraordinary patience and had gone to the limit to avoid friction before using force. Had the president not acted when he did he would have been derelict in his duty.
Certainly, the same is true for President Trump: Had he not acted when he did he would have been derelict in his duty. Trump's mission, however, was more difficult than Hoover's because of the open support for BLM/Antifa's Marxist agenda and against him, the duly elected president, by Mayor Bowser.
Another similarity with the past is the Communist technique of incessant demonization of anti-communists.
One of the Communist Party leaders of the Bonus Army rioters, John A. Pace, left the communist movement in 1936 and became an ardent anti-communist. In 1949, he discussed orders he received relevant to the Bonus Army in Communist Party USA headquarters in New York City from a Russian representative of the Communist International (Comintern).
See if what he describes doesn't sound very familiar.
The "CI Rep" also told the party leaders to arrange my speaking tour under the auspices of the Workers' Ex-Servicemen's League, a Communist "front" group.
Pace said he made the tour and arranged for a convention of Red veterans in Cleveland that fall. He continued: "Almost every day I received instructions from New York to call Mr. Hoover and Gen. MacArthur every name in the book. The list of names ranged from `Fascist murderers,' to `Wall Street butchers,' and some unprintable names. The Communist press joined in the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of literature against President Hoover and MacArthur echoed the lines of the `CI Rep.' I had never seen such an actuve `smear' and even at the time a devoted Communist, I got a little sick of the lies that appeared in this propaganda."
At party orders, Pace called a convention of the league in Cleveland that fall and organized a second bonus march on Washington under complete Communist control...
Plus ca change, plus la meme communists.