Small Wars Journal

Reviewed by Mike Few

Georgia Lowe’s debut novel, The Bonus, vividly captures a United States President entrenched in rising unemployment rates, pending economic collapse, and unrest abroad that hauntingly echoes today’s worst case scenarios. In the middle of this turmoil, Georgia takes the reader on a journey that follows the plight of the Bonus Expeditionary Force, some 17,000 disfranchised World War One veterans and families marching on Washington DC in the summer of 1932 demanding immediate payment promised by the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924. After local police failed to turn away the protesters, President Herbert Hoover dispatched an Army unit commanded by GEN Douglas MacArthur and including MAJ George S. Patton and MAJ Dwight D. Eisenhower to quell the protesters using fixed bayonets and tanks. The resulting violence would tear at the nation’s already stressed social fabric and remained a dark footnote in the nation’s history.

Georgia’s interest in writing this work stemmed from the collective stories of her parents, Bonus Marchers who lived through the Great War and the Great Depression, and she focuses her story on the personal level of those involved. Her main characters, a newspaper reporter, a movie star, and a police chief, are neither protagonists nor antagonists. Rather, they are combat veterans attempting to assimilate back into society after surviving through the face of battle. In their personal flaws and shortcomings, the reader understands the characters humanity, a trait that the veterans might have felt long lost. In modern clinical terms, the characters might be diagnosed with varying degrees of traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In following the journey of the Bonus Marchers, The Bonus provides the reader with a greater understanding of an often passed over event. Ultimately, Georgia’s novel does a great service to her parents, and in a time of protracted war, it begs the reader to question the cost of war and what is owed to those that served. This book should be in the kit-bag of every combat leader as they wrestle with the nature of war and warfare.

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