Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Purple Heart ~ August 7, 1782 to August 7, 2007

The Purple Heart

Badge of Military Merit

The original 'Purple Heart' - Badge of Military Merit - was awarded by George Washington on August 7, 1782 - 225 years ago. He had been awarding promotions based on merit, but the Continental Congress ordered him to stop, as there were no funds to pay the increase in rank. General Washington developed the Badge of Military Merit - the first award given to the enlisted soldier. It was a heart of purple cloth embroidered with the word MERIT.

"The General, ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers as well as foster and encourage every species of military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with due reward. The name and regiment of the persons so certified are to be enrolled in a Book of Merit which shall be kept in the orderly room." The order further states: "Men who have merited this distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do. The order to be retroactive to the earliest stages of the war, and to be a permanent one." Washington ended his order with: "The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all."

Front and Back of the current Purple Heart

The Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse after the Revolutionary War. In 1927, Army chief of Staff, General Charles P Summerall, proposed to Congress the reissuance of the award. The proposal was shelved. In 1931, Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur, requested revival of the award to coincide with the bicentennial of the birth of George Washington. On his birthday, February 22, 1932, the War Department announced the new award. In 1942, Franklin Roosevelt extended the use beyond the Army to include the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1952, President Truman extended eligibility back to April 5, 1917 to cover the soldiers of World War I.

The revived form is known as the PURPLE HEART. It is made of metal, in the shape of a rich purple heart bordered with gold, with a bust of Washington in the center and the Washington coat-of-arms at the top. The latter is believed to have been the source of the stars and stripes of the American Flag.

The PURPLE HEART is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.

To honor the 75th Anniversary of the PURPLE HEART, the United States Post Office issued this stamp on August 7, 2007. It is also the 225th Anniversary of the Military Badge of Merit.

An artist has mowed an 850,000-square-foot rendering of a Purple Heart medal into a park field to honor the 75th anniversary of the medal that commends servicemembers killed or wounded in action. The rendering, to be unveiled Sunday in Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Hamptonburgh, 55 miles northwest of New York City, was done by field artist and painter Roger Baker.

This monument to the Purple Heart and the Purple Heart Trail sits in front of George Washington's Mount Vernon.

An organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart," was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Composed exclusively of Purple Heart recipients, it is the only veterans service organization comprised strictly of "combat" veterans. It also has a Women's Auxillary and Associate memberships for family members of recipients.

The Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New York's Hudson River Valley at the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site. Its mission is to collect and preserve the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of the service and across the generations in an attempt to ensure that all recipients are represented. Their stories will be preserved and shared through exhibits, live and videotaped interviews with the veterans themselves, and the Roll of Honor, an interactive computer program preserving the stories of each individual. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor the first in the nation to recognize the more than 800,000 Americans wounded or killed in action while serving in the United States Military. For more information or to have your story preserved as a Purple Heart recipient, please visit the website at If you wish to write or call: The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, PO Box 207, 374 Temple Hill Road, Vails Gate, New York 12584-0207. Phone: 845-561-1765; 877-28H-ONOR (284-6667). FAX: 845- 561- 6577


daniel said...

For 'unusual gallantry but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service'
Could not have said it better!
Valiant and brave, I'm greatfull for their efforts!

Sarge Charlie said...

do you ever read a post and think, damn, I wish I had done that. This is it.

Mike said...

There's never been a group of Americans more deserving of recognition than those wounded or killed in battle. God bless them all.

Mike's America said...

Thanks for the history of the Purple Heart. I didn't know it's origins.

The mowed field is pretty cool. I wonder how long it takes to do that? I don't have enough room in the postage stamp lawn I have or I'd do something similar.

When I was a kid, I tilled my parent's front lawn and planted red, white and blue tulips in the shape of a flag. It didn't work. The colors came up one at a time.

My father wasn't very pleased!