The GI Bill created a comprehensive package of benefits, including financial assistance for higher education, for veterans of U.S. military service. The benefits of the GI Bill are intended to help veterans readjust to civilian life following service to their country and to encourage bright, motivated men and women to volunteer for military duty. This legislation came in two parts: the
Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 and the Montgomery GI Bill.
The first GI Bill was proposed and drafted by the AMERICAN LEGION, led by former Illinois governor John Stelle, during WORLD WAR II. The public remembered a post-World War I recession, when millions of veterans returned to face unemployment and homelessness. Twice as many veterans would return from World War II, and widespread economic hardship was a real concern. A healthy postwar economy, it seemed, would depend on providing soldiers with a means to support themselves once they were back home.
Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst became the bill's most ardent and vocal supporter. Hearst and his nationwide string of newspapers lobbied the public and members of Congress to support those who served their country, and his effort was a success. The bill unanimously passed both chambers of Congress in the spring of 1944. President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT signed the bill into law on June 22, 1944, just days after the D-Day invasion of Normandy (Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, ch. 268, 58 Stat. 284).
The original GI Bill offered veterans up to $500 a year for college tuition and other educational costs?ample funding at the time. An unmarried veteran also received a $50-a-month allowance for each month spent in uniform; a married veteran received slightly more. Other benefits included mortgage subsidies, enabling veterans to purchase homes with relative ease.
Despite initial misgivings over its success, the GI Bill proved to be enormously effective. Prior to its passage, detractors feared that paying the education expenses of veterans would lead to overcrowding at colleges, which before World War II were accessible predominantly to members of society's upper class. Critics were concerned that veterans would wreak havoc on
A group of military veterans line up to purchase books under the GI...