Thursday, March 31, 2016

“The Yanks are Starving” by Glen Craney – Forgotten Veterans

The Yanks are Starving by Glen Craney-book cover
The way in which the United States government is treating it's veterans is sure a hot topic today, but unfortunately, it's a phenomenon with nothing new to it. Indeed, the U.S. seems to have a track record of mistreating its veterans that, at the very least, goes all the way back to the First World War, the horrors of which were soon unjustly overshadowed by the second one. As it happens, with the Great Depression in full force, many American veterans from WWI found themselves in abysmal living conditions, eventually leading to the infamous incident involving their coalition named the “Bonus Army”.

In his book The Yanks are Starving, Glen Craney takes it upon himself to provide a novelized account of the history behind the whole thing. He does so by following the lives of a few individuals until they finally coverge in Washington D.C. in 1932. Some of them are actual historical figures, while others are amalgamations of various personalities. Of the real historical figures we have Herbert Hoover, Douglas MacArthur, Pelham Glassford, Walter Waters, Floyd Gibbons, Joe Angelo, and even George Patton. After that, we have the nurse Anna Raber and the African American musician Ozzie Taylor, who are composites of people who were lost to history, the former represnting those in the medical field with pure motivations, while the latter stands for the African American veterans who were part of the “Bonus Army”.

The first half of the book is dedicated to acquainting us with the people who are listed above, and in as intimate a way as possible. Each of their individual lives is traced with great precision, with Craney leaving very little to the imagination. By the time the second half of the book comes around, the reader already feels a great connection with those people who are brought to life through Craney's masterful work. There are no questions left as to their motivations, where their drives came from, what kinds of lives they had, what they expect, or even how they think. The descriptions of the real historical actors were also consistent with how they came to be known for their contributions to history later on.

As far as the actual historical lessons one can draw from this book go, it really shows that Craney did all the research he could possibly get his hands on, touching on the various social, political and economic subjects that were pertinent to the 1920s and early 1930s. He depicts a very accurate and complete picture of the epoch, building the world as much as possible before delving into the second half of the book, the formation of the “Bonus Army” and the fight they put on for their rights.

Now, at this point it needs to be said that not all the facts are known about what happened at the time, and Glen Craney does put forth his own conjectures about a few controversial topics, such as the shooting that was supposedly planned by MacArthur which resulted in two deaths, two injuries, and a retaliatory attack against the “Bonus Army” camp.

On the whole though, the amount of facts sure trumps the amount of supposition, making this a mandatory read for those are interested in a part of American history that has been shoved into obscurity. Masterfully novelized, The Yanks are Starving skimps on nothing and provides as complete a picture as possible of those turbulent years, all while being entertaining and captivating in its own way.

Glen Craney

Glen Craney

Personal site

Glen Craney is an American author, novelist, journalist and lawyer with degrees from Hanover College, Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He has taken to writing novels with more of a historical penchant, such as The Virgin of the Wind Rose and The Fire and the Light.

More of the Glen Craney book reviews:
The Virgin of the Wind Rose
The Spider and the Stone

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