Almanac: The Badge of Military Merit / Purple Heart Established (August 7, 1782)
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration that is awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who are wounded or killed in action. It is one of the oldest and most recognized military decorations in the United States, and it has a rich history that spans over two centuries.
The origins of the Purple Heart can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington established the Badge of Military Merit on August 7, 1782. The Badge of Military Merit was awarded to soldiers who demonstrated exceptional bravery and meritorious conduct in combat. It was a purple cloth heart-shaped badge that was worn on the uniform, and it was the first U.S. military decoration created specifically for enlisted personnel.
After the Revolutionary War, the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse and was largely forgotten for many years. However, in 1932, on the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth, General Douglas MacArthur, the Army Chief of Staff, revived the idea of the Badge of Military Merit as a way to recognize soldiers who were wounded or killed in action. The new design for the medal featured a purple heart-shaped medal with a profile of George Washington and the inscription "For Military Merit."
On February 22, 1932, the Purple Heart was officially established by Executive Order of President Herbert Hoover. It was initially awarded only for wounds received in action against the enemy. However, during World War II, the eligibility criteria for the Purple Heart were expanded to include not only wounds received in combat but also injuries or death resulting from acts of terrorism or as a result of being held as a prisoner of war.
Since its establishment, the Purple Heart has been awarded to thousands of U.S. military personnel who have been wounded or killed in action during various conflicts, including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan, among others.
The Purple Heart is considered a prestigious and solemn honor, and it holds a special significance for those who have received it and their families. Recipients of the Purple Heart are entitled to various benefits and privileges, including priority in receiving medical treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, access to certain military and veterans' organizations, and the ability to wear the Purple Heart license plate on their vehicles.
The Purple Heart remains an enduring symbol of courage, sacrifice, and patriotism, and it serves as a reminder of the bravery and dedication of the men and women who have served and continue to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Each year, Americans recognize August 7th as Purple Heart Day.
READ MORE: Armed Forces Decorations & Awards (Free PDF Booklet)
VIEW ART & PHOTOGRAPHY: War/Military Collection