VETERANS OF TWO WARS
What Happened To
The Veterans of World War I
As Told To
AUTHOR OF "FREEDOM ROAD"
By HENRY GEISZ
THE closer this war gets to a finish, the easier it is to see what is being cooked up by the various political groups in this country as a means of handling the post-war problems we are all fac-ing. I am not a news commentator or a profes-sor, but I can see the trends as well as any of them. I know what happened after the last war in this country, what happened between wars, and I don't want to see it happen again. I speak as a veteran of World War I, a past commander of a Legion post, and an electrician by trade, a man who has carried an A.F. of L. union card ever since I was seventeen years old. I know from my own experiences when the politicians are handing out pap and when they are on the level.
Well, the war ended suddenly, just as this one is going to do, on Nov. 11, 1918. 1 wasn't here to see any of the armistice and victory celebration or do any parading on Broadway in showers of ticket tape. I was still in the Navy, like most of the boys. But I wanted to get back into civvies and get to work. I was discharged from the Navy March 1, 1919, and went back to Balti-more. I got the surprise of my life when I got home, and it wasn't a band at the station. There was no work except for a few men. Our A.F. of L. local worked out a rotating system whereby we rotated on what jobs there were. Since I was still Just a kid, living at home, I usually passed up the job when it fell my turn to give it to some poor devil who had a wife and kids to support.
But nobody was paying any attention to un-employment. Instead they were laying off more and more men. Being a veteran didn't mean a thing. Then Harding began campaigning on that "Back to Normal" platform and all the papers were for it and saying that was the trouble, if we'd just get back to normal everything would be okay.
Well, we got Harding and got back to normal. We soon found out that the "normal" that Harding and the Republicans were talking about included no employment for several million of us, especially vets without a trade. In fact, it meant more lay-offs.
Harding and his crooked gang, most of whom later either committed suicide or went to jail, had another big post-war plan. That was their "Americanization Program." It sounded pretty appealing to a lot of unemployed vets because it sounded patriotic and said everyone had a right to a job. But as we soon found out, their "Amer-icanization Program" was just an open-shop campaign to break the unions by smearing them as un-American and foreign. Another of their ideas was to reduce the wages. The idea was, they said, that if we would reduce our wages, then business would have more confidence and begin big projects and everybody would have work. I remember in our local we voluntarily cut our wages from $1.35 to $1 an hour to give business confidence. But nothing happened. We had no more work and we were stuck back on an old rate it had taken us years to build up from. Things picked up a bit now and then, but there was no steady work. Along with a. good many other veterans I began studying some way the veterans could help ease their economic posi-tion. A lot of the boys were being talked into buying their own homes with those fancy mortgages. I know, because I was one of them. Those were supposed to be good days, the Twenties, with Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. But I never saw any of that big money; in fact, few did.
Then, long before the crash of 1929, we began to feel it coming. Construction work slowed up. I remember working on the Empire State build-ing and before we got up to the street level the whole building was in hock to the Metropolitan Insurance Co. By 1931 things were really bad. Hoover was sitting in the White House and I don't think he did a thing but issue statements that everything was all right and veto the vet-erans' bonus bill. By then things were really tough and I remember seeing a tent set up in New York's Union Square recruiting for the bonus army to march on Washington, and de-mand our bonus.
The Bonus March finally came. Whole posts went down to sit on Mr. Hoover's doorstep. I was there, not as a bonus marcher, but more as a spectator and observer for three days until I satisfied myself they were good American vets just like myself. I came back to New York to raise support for them. Meanwhile Hoover called out the Army and had the Bonus March-ers chased out of Anacosta Flats. It gave me and a couple million other vets a solid idea of just how much contempt Hoover has for democ-racy. Pictures of him with Dewey just make me sick physically because he's the boss of that team and anything he cooks up for the veterans of this war is going to have that Bonus Army treatment mixed up in it. The economic picture of the entire people began to change when we got rid of Hoover and made Roosevelt presi-dent, especially for the veterans.
Everything began to change for the better the minute Roosevelt took office. It was bet-tered not for me or the veterans alone, but for everyone, including the banks and big indus-tries. Just before the war and today the banks and big shots have been yelling and fighting against WPA and other relief projects. Well, I can remember that a few days after Roosevelt took office the banks and big shots went running down to Washington for help and he gave them a bank holiday, which was the only thing that saved them. But of course they are against relief
I am for Roosevelt and I think that every vet-eran who realized where his true interest lies is also for him. Our boys will be coming out of the Navy one of these happy days. But many are not coming out as I did, a single boy who can live with his family. A couple of million others have married and have had families since entering the service. They'll need jobs the min-ute they come out. I don't see anything emanat-ing from either Mr. Dewey or any other Repub-lican leader showing that they are ready to pro-vide such jobs, that they have a real concrete program to meet this problem with. Instead I see lined up behind Dewey, or holding him by the hand, the very people who gave the veterans of the last war the shellacking they took throughout the twenties from the Republicans. If Dewey wouldn't give the soldiers the vote, he will hardly give them a job.
WE, the People's Picture Magazine, is published by A. Martin Tumin, 8451 Beverly Road, Kew Gardens, Long Island, New York. SANDY MORRISON, Editor; EARL KERKAM and LAWRENCE H. CHERNEY, Art Directors. (32pp 10½×13¼", 10¢)