Wages of War Chapters 15-18

So, chapter 15 revolved around the discrimination faced by blacks and Italians. Discrimination against blacks is, of course, nothing new. Discrimination against immigrants is also nothing new. However, with the influx of immigrants coming in from Southern and Eastern Europe as opposed to Northern Europe, people found a new reason to complain. Italians were thought of in much the same manner as blacks, meaning unintelligent, incapable, and barely even human. So much for Michelangelo and da Vinci, huh?

Both blacks and Italians volunteered for the army during the war in order to gain respect, and in the Italians’ case, gain citizenship. Blacks were segregated, and most never saw action, but were instead assigned to corpse duty. Italians faired better, and were allowed to mingle with other white soldiers. For the most part, serving did not change the reception of blacks or Italians. It did, however, make them more inclined to stick up for themselves, leading to racial violence and riots when they got home.

Chapter 16 dealt with the complete inability of the government to create any competent organization for veterans’ affairs. The Federal Bureau for Vocational Rehabilitation that was meant to help train vets for jobs mostly just annoyed and drove everyone ways because of its ineffectiveness. The Veterans’ Bureau wasn’t handled any better with a shifty fellow named Charles Forbes as its head. President Harding was, unfortunately, a very bad judge of character. With the exceptional amount of money he was put in charge of in order to build vet hospitals, etc., Forbes couldn’t help but put one (or many) over on the government.

The next chapter discussed the American Legion and its attempts to get bonuses for veterans. The Legion was essentially an All-American, anti-communist vet group that the government felt more comfortable with, as compared to some other vet organizations. Though Legion leaders were cautious about asking for a bonus at first, the poor conditions many vets faced finally forced them to try. Vets were angered that industrial workers at home during the war got higher pay and bonuses than the men who were fighting overseas did. In the end the Legion was damned if it did and damned if it didn’t. Comments were made about the greedy Legion for wanting money, but on the other hand, some believed that it wasn’t fighting hard enough.

Chapter 18 covered the Bonus March, for the most part recapping what we read with Keene. Severo and Milford take a personalized approach by describing the past history of Walters Waters, the ‘leader’ of the march, much like they did with Shays. They do, however, get a little overly dramatic in writing that the Bonus March was, “the ugliest, most violent and heart-wrenching confrontation between veterans and the Government since the crushing of Shays’ Rebellion…(266).” Despite Pelham Glassford’s, police chief and former career military officer, attempts to keep things peaceful, the vets were forcibly removed. MacArthur was, apparently, always a headstrong, disobedient kind of fellow. The government, and surprisingly most newspapers (much like the Revolution), portrayed the Bonus Expeditionary Force as a group of communists, or fascists, or just plain criminals (they couldn’t seem to decide) rather than the veterans that they were. The public didn’t seem to agree with this view though, as President Hoover soon found himself replaced with FDR a few months later.

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