Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill

How Veteran Politics Shaped the New Deal Era

268 pages

April, 2012

ISBN: 9780814762684

$26

Paper

Also available in

Author

Stephen R. Ortiz is an associate professor of history at Binghamton University in New York.

All books by Stephen R. Ortiz

The period between World Wars I and II was a time of turbulent political change, with suffragists, labor radicals, demagogues, and other voices clamoring to be heard. One group of activists that has yet to be closely examined by historians is World War I veterans. Mining the papers of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion (AL), Stephen R. Ortiz reveals that veterans actively organized in the years following the war to claim state benefits (such as pensions and bonuses), and strove to articulate a role for themselves as a distinct political bloc during the New Deal era.

Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill is unique in its treatment of WWI veterans as significant political actors during the interwar period. Ortiz’s study reinterprets the political origins of the “Second” New Deal and Roosevelt’s electoral triumph of 1936, adding depth not only to our understanding of these events and the political climate surrounding them, but to common perceptions of veterans and their organizations. In describing veteran politics and the competitive dynamics between the AL and the VFW, Ortiz details the rise of organized veterans as a powerful interest group in modern American politics.

Reviews

  • “Stimulating, clearly written, and meticulously documented.”

    The Journal of Military History

  • “Ortiz (Bowling Green State Univ.) has written an interesting account of a neglected component of politics during the New Deal era-- the impact of organized WWI veterans... This book will be required reading for anyone interested in the history of veteran politics and New Deal politics.”

    —CHOICE

  • “This book should be on the reading list of any course that touches upon the 1920s and 1930s. Ortiz examines the pivotal role the bonus question played in stoking the anti-New Deal movement lead by Charles Coughlin and Huey Long and how settling this issue proved essential for FDR’s decisive electoral victory in 1936.”

    —G. Kurt Piehler, Remembering War the American Way

  • “So much has been written about America in the 1930’s that it is hard to say anything new. But, mounting a vigorous argument, Ortiz demonstrates convincingly that scholars have neglected a very important development in this period. Thanks to him, historians will be compelled to rewrite their accounts of the age of Roosevelt.”

    —William E. Leuchtenburg, author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal: 1932-1940

  • “Moving beyond other well documented examples of activism by former servicemen . . . Ortiz traces the fortunes of the two major U.S. veterans’ organizations, the first the patrician American Legion . . . the second the older, smaller and scrappier Veterans of Foreign Wars.”

    Times Literary Supplement

  • "Ortiz's book is an excellent contribution to a historical episode in need of political contextualization."

    —Jeremy M. Teigen, Political and Military Sociology