On June 22, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the GI Bill, into law.
When World War I veterans returned home, many had trouble finding jobs. Thousands of them flooded the labor market and most struggled to make a living, even with the government programs available.
To help alleviate the situation, Congress passed the Bonus Act of 1924, which offered veterans a bonus based on the number of days they had served in the military. However, the bonus wouldn’t be paid until 1945 – another 20 years – which would be little help to veterans at that time.
The Great Depression made the situation worse and by 1932, the out of work veterans were frustrated. On July 28, 1932, a group of 43,000 veterans and their families marched in Washington, DC, demanding they receive their bonus payments immediately. They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force and the media called them the Bonus Army.
President Herbert Hoover ordered the veterans removed from government property and Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur commanded infantry and tanks to force their removal. The following March, they held another Bonus March. This time, President Roosevelt offered them jobs with the Civilian Conservation Corp, which many of them took. And in 1936, Congress voted to award the veterans their bonus nine years early.
Needless to say, the situation wasn’t ideal, and as America entered World War II just a few years later, many looked for a better way to support our veterans when they returned home. Roosevelt was among those searching for an answer, as he wanted to expand the middle class and avoid the issues that followed the last war.
A major figure in the resulting GI Bill was American Legion National Commander Harry W. Colmery. He suggested offering benefits to all World War I veterans, male and female. Members of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as other veteran’s organizations, mobilized to encourage Congress to pass the bill. Ernest McFarland and Warren Atherton are considered the fathers of the GI Bill while Edith Nourse Rogers helped write and co-sponsor it and is considered the mother of the bill.
Initially, President Roosevelt suggested the bill offer one year of funding to poor veterans and four years of college to those that earned high marks on a written text. However, the final bill offered full benefits to all veterans, regardless of their wealth. The bill was introduced in January and signed into law on June 22, 1944.
The GI Bill included paid tuition and living expenses for veterans to attend high school, college, or vocational schools. It also offered low-cost mortgages and low-interest loans to start businesses plus one year of unemployment compensation. Any veteran who had been on active duty for at least 90 days during the war and wasn’t dishonorably discharged was eligible – they didn’t need to have seen combat. They also didn’t have to pay income tax on their benefits.
By 1947, nearly half of all college admissions were veterans and by 1956, some 7.8 million veterans used their GI Bill to go to school. Veterans purchased mass-produced houses in the suburbs with low-interest government loans. Now living in new homes outside the city, they commuted in their new cars on new roads. Many supermarkets, restaurants, and retail stores also relocated. These post-World War II families were the first American middle class.
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9 responses to "GI Bill "
9 thoughts on “GI Bill ”
My father was one of those veterans that benefited from the GI bill. A engineering degree from Marquette University, raised 7 children, and provided a wonderful upper middle class life.
This was a blessing for our country to grow and produce the greatest generation. The innovations we experience today was the result.
Thank you to the fathers and mother of the GI bill.
FDR, one of the few or the only president that really gave a dam for the little guy! And great applause and appreciation for those who sought to make a difference.
In the early 70’s, I received a sabbatical stipend from the Seattle School District to pursue a masters degree. I was feeling a bit of burn out from teaching junior high instrumental music, so it was a bit of a godsend. The sabbatical along with the GI bill and a small TA enabled me to complete my MA over a period of one school year, bookended by two summer sessions. I returned to teaching for an additional twenty plus years. The point being that the GI bill (I served from 1958 – 1960) was extent well beyond the WWII era. I hope the government did as well by the Vietnam vets.
Largely because of the GI Bill that I acquired after voluntarily serving in the Regular Army during the Vietnam War I was one of a small number of my seminary class who graduated debt-free with a M. Div. degree … something that I greatly appreciated!
It was good for the WWII vets. They deserved it. When I came back from Vietnam I received $96 a month, total. Didn’t even pay for my books. Our return from Vietnam still hurts. That’s OK I survived and graduated from college.
The way veterans from WWI were badly treated in the 1920’s was due to Republican control in those years, and they still don’t give a hoot for veterans today! FDR came to the rescue in the 1930’s that led to the GI Bill to benefit veterans from WWII, which directly or indirectly led to a strong middle class. Veterans deserve better and should have free good quality medical care and tax benefits; if it weren’t for them we would be speaking German and/or Japanese now.
Great article, and heartening to hear the stories of how the GI Bill benefited the vets who returned home after serving.
I am from India, and always learn something new from these Mystic stamp articles. Keep the good work going… !
A very interesting article. I served 10years in the Army and while I pat FDR on the back for what he did, WHY did it take SO long to help our veterans who put their lives on the line?? FDR served part of four … 4 … terms in office ! But, I guess, like today, the wealthy in Congress then … who did NOT serve in the U.S. military … were only interested in themselves and not the Americans who served and needed help, when THEY did. Indeed … very sad.
The idea of the GI Bill did not come from FDR. The American Legion which was founded at the end of World War I was instrumental in getting the GI Bill enacted
Please, give them credit!