Tuesday, November 11, 2014

History Lesson: Veterans' Day

Gold Diggers of 1933
Today is Veterans’ Day.  November 11 was originally Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I.  So how did those veterans make out?  Civil War veterans – at least those on the Union side – got a disability pension from the federal government.  That benefit was gradually transformed over the years to become more and more generous until it became a kind of proto-Social Security benefit for veterans, disabled or not, and their spouses.  A large Pension Building in Washington DC (now an architectural museum) was built to house the administrators of the Civil War pension.
The Pension Building
To avoid that expense after World War I, the federal government did not provide a pension but instead promised a bonus to be paid in the 1940s.  In short, during the actual War, there were promises to soldiers of great things to come when they returned.  Listen to:
But after World War I, there was a more stingy attitude.  Along came the Great Depression and veterans marched on the capital to demand early payment of the bonus.  They were met with troops to clear their encampment (and no bonus):
The injustice to veterans who had fought in the war to end all wars and were rewarded by Depression unemployment and repression in Washington, DC was a popular theme in music and movies of that era:
The GI Bill after World War II was partly an attempt to avoid a repeat of the post-World War I experience.

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