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Purple Heart

Purple Heart


The Purple Heart is a United States military
decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed, while serving,
on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military. With its forerunner, the Badge of Military
Merit, which took the form of a heart made of purple cloth, the Purple Heart is the oldest
military award still given to U.S. military members; the only earlier award being the
obsolete Fidelity Medallion. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is
located in New Windsor, New York. History
The original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by
George Washington—then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army – by order from
his Newburgh, New York headquarters on August 7, 1782. The Badge of Military Merit was only awarded
to three Revolutionary War soldiers. From then on as its legend grew; so did its
appearance. Although never abolished, the award of the
badge was not proposed again officially until after World War I. On October 10, 1927, Army Chief of Staff General
Charles Pelot Summerall directed that a draft bill be sent to Congress “to revive the Badge
of Military Merit”. The bill was withdrawn and action on the case
ceased January 3, 1928; but the office of the Adjutant General was instructed to file
all materials collected for possible future use. A number of private interests sought to have
the medal re-instituted in the Army, this included the board of directors of the Fort
Ticonderoga Museum in Ticonderoga, New York. On January 7, 1931, Summerall’s successor,
General Douglas MacArthur, confidentially reopened work on a new design, involving the
Washington Commission of Fine Arts. Elizabeth Will, an Army heraldic specialist
in the Office of the Quartermaster General, was named to redesign the newly revived medal,
which became known as the Purple Heart. Using general specifications provided to her,
Will created the design sketch for the present medal of the Purple Heart. The new design was issued on the bicentennial
of George Washington’s birth. Her obituary, in the February 8, 1975 edition
of The Washington Post newspaper, reflects her many contributions to military heraldry. The Commission of Fine Arts solicited plaster
models from three leading sculptors for the medal, selecting that of John R. Sinnock of
the Philadelphia Mint in May 1931. By Executive Order of the President of the
United States, the Purple Heart was revived on the 200th Anniversary of George Washington’s
birth, out of respect to his memory and military achievements, by War Department General Orders
No. 3, dated February 22, 1932. The criteria were announced in a War Department
circular dated February 22, 1932, and authorized award to soldiers, upon their request, who
had been awarded the Meritorious Service Citation Certificate, Army Wound Ribbon, or were authorized
to wear Wound Chevrons subsequent to April 5, 1917, the day before the United States
entered World War I. The first Purple Heart was awarded to MacArthur. During the early period of American involvement
in World War II, the Purple Heart was awarded both for wounds received in action against
the enemy and for meritorious performance of duty. With the establishment of the Legion of Merit,
by an Act of Congress, the practice of awarding the Purple Heart for meritorious service was
discontinued. By Executive Order 9277, dated December 3,
1942, the decoration was applied to all services; the order required reasonable uniform application
of the regulations for each of the Services. This executive order also authorized the award
only for wounds received. For both military and civilian personnel during
the World War II era, to meet eligibility for the Purple Heart, AR 600-45, dated September
22, 1943, and May 3, 1944, required identification of circumstances. Subject to approval of the Secretary of Defense,
Executive Order 10409, dated February 12, 1952, revised authorizations to include the
Service Secretaries. Dated April 25, 1962, Executive Order 11016,
included provisions for posthumous award of the Purple Heart. Dated February 23, 1984, Executive Order 12464,
authorized award of the Purple Heart as a result of terrorist attacks, or while serving
as part of a peacekeeping force, subsequent to March 28, 1973. On June 13, 1985, the Senate approved an amendment
to the 1985 Defense Authorization Bill, which changed the precedence of the Purple Heart
award, from immediately above the Good Conduct Medal to immediately above the Meritorious
Service Medals. Public Law 99-145 authorized the award for
wounds received as a result of friendly fire. Public Law 104-106 expanded the eligibility
date, authorizing award of the Purple Heart to a former prisoner of war who was wounded
before April 25, 1962. The National Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 1998 changed the criteria to delete authorization for award of the Purple Heart
to any civilian national of the United States, while serving under competent authority in
any capacity with the Armed Forces. This change was effective May 18, 1998. During World War II, nearly 500,000 Purple
Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the estimated casualties resulting from
the planned Allied invasion of Japan. To the present date, total combined American
military casualties of the sixty-five years following the end of World War II—including
the Korean and Vietnam Wars—have not exceeded that number. In 2003, there remained 120,000 Purple Heart
medals in stock. The existing surplus allowed combat units
in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep Purple Hearts on-hand for immediate award to soldiers wounded
in the field. The “History” section of the November 2009
edition of National Geographic estimated the number of purple hearts given. Above the estimates, the text reads, “Any
tally of Purple Hearts is an estimate. Awards are often given during conflict; records
aren’t always exact”. The estimates are as follows:
World War I: 320,518 World War II: 1,076,245
Korean War: 118,650 Vietnam War: 351,794
Persian Gulf War: 607 Afghanistan War: 7,027
Iraq War: 35,321 Criteria The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of
the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States
who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed
Services after April 5, 1917, has been wounded or killed. Specific examples of services which warrant
the Purple Heart include any action against an enemy of the United States; any action
with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United
States are or have been engaged; while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an
armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent
party; as a result of an act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces; or as the result
of an act of any hostile foreign force. After 28 March 1973, as a result of an international
terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United
States, recognized as such an attack by the Secretary of the Army, or jointly by the Secretaries
of the separate armed services concerned if persons from more than one service are wounded
in the attack. After 28 March 1973, as a result of military
operations while serving outside the territory of the United States as part of a peacekeeping
force. The Purple Heart differs from all other decorations
in that an individual is not “recommended” for the decoration; rather he or she is entitled
to it upon meeting specific criteria. A Purple Heart is awarded for the first wound
suffered under conditions indicated above, but for each subsequent award an oak leaf
cluster is worn in lieu of the medal. Not more than one award will be made for more
than one wound or injury received at the same instant. A “wound” is defined as an injury to any part
of the body from an outside force or agent sustained under one or more of the conditions
listed above. A physical lesion is not required; however,
the wound for which the award is made must have required treatment by a medical officer
and records of medical treatment for wounds or injuries received in action must have been
made a matter of official record. When contemplating an award of this decoration,
the key issue that commanders must take into consideration is the degree to which the enemy
caused the injury. The fact that the proposed recipient was participating
in direct or indirect combat operations is a necessary prerequisite, but is not sole
justification for award. The Purple Heart is not awarded for non-combat
injuries. Enemy-related injuries which justify the award
of the Purple Heart include: injury caused by enemy bullet, shrapnel, or other projectile
created by enemy action; injury caused by enemy placed land mine, naval mine, or trap;
injury caused by enemy released chemical, biological, or nuclear agent; injury caused
by vehicle or aircraft accident resulting from enemy fire; and, concussion injuries
caused as a result of enemy generated explosions. Injuries or wounds which do not qualify for
award of the Purple Heart include frostbite or trench foot injuries; heat stroke; food
poisoning not caused by enemy agents; chemical, biological, or nuclear agents not released
by the enemy; battle fatigue; disease not directly caused by enemy agents; accidents,
to include explosive, aircraft, vehicular, and other accidental wounding not related
to or caused by enemy action; self-inflicted wounds, except when in the heat of battle,
and not involving gross negligence; post-traumatic stress disorders; and jump injuries not caused
by enemy action. It is not intended that such a strict interpretation
of the requirement for the wound or injury to be caused by direct result of hostile action
be taken that it would preclude the award being made to deserving personnel. Commanders must also take into consideration
the circumstances surrounding an injury, even if it appears to meet the criteria. In the case of an individual injured while
making a parachute landing from an aircraft that had been brought down by enemy fire;
or, an individual injured as a result of a vehicle accident caused by enemy fire, the
decision will be made in favor of the individual and the award will be made. As well, individuals wounded or killed as
a result of “friendly fire” in the “heat of battle” will be awarded the Purple Heart as
long as the “friendly” projectile or agent was released with the full intent of inflicting
damage or destroying enemy troops or equipment. Individuals injured as a result of their own
negligence, such as by driving or walking through an unauthorized area known to have
been mined or placed off limits or searching for or picking up unexploded munitions as
war souvenirs, will not be awarded the Purple Heart as they clearly were not injured as
a result of enemy action, but rather by their own negligence. From 1942 to 1997, civilians serving or closely
affiliated with, the armed forces—as government employees, Red Cross workers, war correspondents,
and the like—were eligible to receive the Purple Heart. Among the earliest civilians to receive the
award were nine firefighters of the Honolulu Fire Department, killed or wounded, while
fighting fires at Hickam Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor. About 100 men and women received the award,
the most famous being newspaperman Ernie Pyle, who was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously,
by the Army, after being killed by Japanese machine gun fire in the Pacific Theater, near
the end of World War II. Before his death, Pyle had seen and experienced
combat in the European Theater, while accompanying, and writing about, infantrymen, for the folks
back home. The most recent Purple Hearts presented to
civilians occurred after the terrorist attacks at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, in 1996—for
their injuries, about 40 U.S. civil service employees received the award. However, in 1997, at the urging of the Military
Order of the Purple Heart, Congress passed legislation prohibiting future awards of the
Purple Heart to civilians. Today, the Purple Heart is reserved for men
and women in uniform. Civilian employees of the U.S. Department
of Defense who are killed or wounded as a result of hostile action may receive the new
Defense of Freedom Medal. This award was created shortly after the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001. Appearance
The Purple Heart award is a heart-shaped medal within a gold border, 1 3⁄8 inches wide,
containing a profile of General George Washington. Above the heart appears a shield of the coat
of arms of George Washington between sprays of green leaves. The reverse consists of a raised bronze heart
with the words FOR MILITARY MERIT below the coat of arms and leaves. The ribbon is 1 and 3⁄8 inches wide and
consists of the following stripes: 1⁄8 inch white 67101; 1 1⁄8 inches purple 67115;
and 1⁄8 inch white 67101. Devices
Additional awards of the Purple Heart are denoted by oak leaf clusters in the Army and
Air Force, and additional awards of the Purple Heart Medal are denoted by 5/16 inch stars
in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Presentation Current active duty personnel are awarded
the Purple Heart upon recommendation from their chain of command, stating the injury
that was received and the action in which the service member was wounded. The award authority for the Purple Heart is
normally at the level of an Army Brigade, Marine Corps Division, Air Force Wing, or
Navy Task Force. While the award of the Purple Heart is considered
automatic for all wounds received in combat, each award presentation must still be reviewed
to ensure that the wounds received were as a result of enemy action. Modern day Purple Heart presentations are
recorded in both hardcopy and electronic service records. The annotation of the Purple Heart is denoted
both with the service member’s parent command and at the headquarters of the military service
department. An original citation and award certificate
are presented to the service member and filed in the field service record. During the Vietnam War, Korean War, and World
War II, the Purple Heart was often awarded on the spot, with occasional entries made
into service records. In addition, during mass demobilizations following
each of America’s major wars of the 20th century, it was common occurrence to omit mention from
service records of a Purple Heart award. This occurred due to clerical errors, and
became problematic once a service record was closed upon discharge. In terms of keeping accurate records, it was
commonplace for some field commanders to engage in bedside presentations of the Purple Heart. This typically entailed a general entering
a hospital with a box of Purple Hearts, pinning them on the pillows of wounded service members,
then departing with no official records kept of the visit, or the award of the Purple Heart. Service members, themselves, complicated matters
by unofficially leaving hospitals, hastily returning to their units to rejoin battle
so as to not appear a malingerer. In such cases, even if a service member had
received actual wounds in combat, both the award of the Purple Heart, as well as the
entire visit to the hospital, was unrecorded in official records. Service members requesting retroactive awards
of the Purple Heart must normally apply through the National Personnel Records Center. Following a review of service records, qualified
Army members are awarded the Purple Heart by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in
Alexandria, Virginia. Air Force veterans are awarded the Purple
Heart by the Awards Office of Randolph Air Force Base, while Navy, Marine Corps, and
Coast Guard, present Purple Hearts to veterans through the Navy Liaison Officer at the National
Personnel Records Center. Simple clerical errors, where a Purple Heart
is denoted in military records, but was simply omitted from a DD Form 214, are corrected
on site at the National Personnel Records Center through issuance of a DD-215 document. Requests
Retroactive requests Because the Purple Heart did not exist prior
to 1932, decoration records are not annotated in the service histories of veterans wounded,
or killed, by enemy action, prior to establishment of the medal. The Purple Heart is, however, retroactive
to 1917 meaning it may be presented to veterans as far back as First World War. Prior to 2006, service departments would review
all available records, including older service records, and service histories, to determine
if a veteran warranted a retroactive Purple Heart. As of 2008, such records are listed as “Archival”,
by the National Archives and Records Administration, meaning they have been transferred from the
custody of the military, and can no longer be loaned and transferred for retroactive
medals determination. In such cases, requestors asking for a Purple
Heart are provided with a complete copy of all available records and advised the Purple
Heart may be privately purchased if the requestor feels it is warranted. A clause to the archival procedures was revised
in mid-2008, where if a veteran, themselves or, an immediate member of the family, requested
the Purple Heart, on an Army or Air Force record, the medal could still be granted by
the National Archives. In such cases, where a determination was required
made by the military service department, photocopies of the archival record,, would be forwarded
to the headquarters of the military branch in question. This stipulation was granted only for the
Air Force and Army; Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard archival medals requests are still
typically only offered a copy of the file and told to purchase the medal privately. For requests directly received from veterans,
these are routed through a Navy Liaison Office, on site at 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO
63132-5100. Destroyed record requests
Due to the 1973 National Archives Fire, a large number of retroactive Purple Heart requests
are difficult to verify because all records to substantiate the award may have been destroyed. As a solution to deal with Purple Heart requests,
where service records were destroyed in the 1973 fire, the National Personnel Records
Center maintains a separate office. In such cases, NPRC searches through unit
records, military pay records, and records of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If a Purple Heart is warranted, all available
alternate records sources are forwarded to the military service department for final
determination of issuance. The loaning of fire related records to the
military has declined since 2006, because a large number of such records now fall into
the “archival records” category of military service records. This means the records were transferred from
the military to the National Archives, and in such cases, the Purple Heart may be privately
purchased by the requestor but is no longer provided by the military service department. Notable recipients Most Purple Heart awards
The most Purple Hearts awarded to a single individual is nine. Marine Sgt. Albert L. Ireland holds that distinction,
being awarded five Purple Heart Medals in World War II and four more in the Korean War. Seven soldiers, including two Medal of Honor
recipients, were awarded eight Purple Hearts: Richard J. Buck: Four awards, Korean War / Four
awards, Vietnam War Robert T. Frederick: Eight awards, World War
II David H. Hackworth: Three awards, Korean War
/ Five awards in the Vietnam War Joe Hooper: Eight awards, Vietnam War
Robert L. Howard: Eight awards, Vietnam War William Waugh: Eight awards, Vietnam War
In popular culture In May 2006, a soldier made national headlines
after giving his Purple Heart to a girl who had written many letters to troops. In May 2007, Vietnam veteran Jerrell Hudman
announced that he planned to give one of his three Purple Hearts to George, a Jack Russell
terrier. George died from injuries sustained when he
saved a group of five children from being mauled by two pit bull terriers in New Zealand. See also
Elizabeth Cross Gold Star Lapel Button
Law Enforcement Purple Heart Sacrifice Medal
Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom
Texas Purple Heart Medal Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service
Wound stripe Wound Badge
References Notes Bibliography
” Case Reference Guide regarding verification and issuance of the Purple Heart Medal”, Military
Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri External links
Army Regulation 670-1: Wear and Appearance of Army Uniform and Insignia
Purple Heart History The Purple Heart: Background and Issues for
Congress Congressional Research Service


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