Scene 1: Having built a
Hooverville Camp on the I.C. Railroad property in Gary,
Indiana, a group of unemployed workers are faced with an
order of the department of sanitation to evacuate at noon.
Mitch Butler's adroitness dispatches the policeman to phone
his chief about a so-called "counter-order." The arrival of
Bud Morris, a former salesman, who urges them to join the
Bonus Expeditionary Force, fires them with enthusiasm. The
indignant policeman returns to a scene of commotion and
preparation for departure that leaves him gasping when they
merrily march off.
Scene 2: The veterans
appropriate a "B. and O." freight-train for transportation
to Pittsburgh. Bud's ingratiating advances fail to appease
the irate superintendent, who threatens them with a police
raid. It is only when Roy, a member of the Ex-Servicemen's
League, and leader of the "Michigan bunch," prevails upon
the round-house workers to arrange a walk-out, that the
super is compelled to give the veterans transportation.
Scene 3: As the freight
approaches a water tower, a railroad-dick bursts into one of
the box-cars. His orders are to jump. He sights Ozzie, a
Negro, and orders him the first off. Defended by the others,
Ozzie refuses to go. The Lumberjack and Swede advance upon
the dick -- whereupon he whips out his revolver and shoots.
Still guarding himself, he jumps from the car. The veterans
turn to the dead Lumberjack. No one knows who he is, where
he comes from. "He was just a Vet, and he needed the bonus."
Scene 4: Called before the
Secretary of Finance, Mills, and Secretary of War, Hurly,
Police Commissioner Hardcourt is severely reprimanded for
permitting the veterans to camp in Washington. The
Secretaries demand immediate dispersion by militia.
Hardcourt, however, advised friendly caution towards the
veterans. He plans to work through Gen. Rivera and instructs
him to call demonstration before Congress in opposition to
the tactics of his "reds" -- and "make it a River's
demonstration." But his final instructions are: "All men
back to camp." Hardcourt is given one month to prove his
Scene 5: Roy hands out
leaflets for picket-action to the vets stationed before
Congress awaiting Rivers. The "Death Marchers," veterans
picketing Congress for their "Bonus, or drop dead," urge
Rivers' army to join them. Unable to withstand the appeal,
many attach themselves to the marchers. In order to quiet
the men, Hardcourt speaks to them. Rivers finally appears
with news of victory: Congress will not close session before
granting the bonus. His order to return to camp is thwarted
by "Tar-hill's" statement that Congress has adjourned. The
Vets demand picket-action, but the police break up their
Scene 6: The month's time
granted Hardcourt has expired. Mills and Hurly wish to take
action and the commissioner leaves in a huff upbraiding
their tactics. Hurly fears their course of action will react
badly upon the election. Mills answers: "Do you remember
Coolidge and the police strike? That made him president."
Scene 7: Striving to maintain
the remnants of his authority, Rivers urges the vets not to
protest the order of the Treasury Department to evacuate the
Pennsylvania Avenue buildings. the derisive answer of the
Vets is that they're willing to remain until 1945 for the
bonus. Not even Hardcourt's threats shake their
determination. The militia is now ready for attack. The
Veterans still doubt an onslaught by fellow soldiers -- but
the command is to fire convinces them that the war is on.
Scene 8: Guarded by troopers
the Vets are escorted in trucks to the Pennsylvania-Maryland
state line. Many have been wounded, many killed. Deeply
embittered by their government's treachery, the Veterans
listen to Roy's words which are an incentive to gather new
forces of farmers and workers and complete the work begun in
Washington. So that when a trooper pushes him on, Mitch
answers, "We'll come back, and we'll know what to do with
the guns. We know the trade, buddy. S'long."