Purple Heart Day

Purple Heart patch for those wounded in WWII

Purple Heart patch for those wounded in WWII

 

On this date in 1782, in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington created the “Badge for Military Merit,” a decoration consisting of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged in silver, with the word Merit etched.  It was to be presented for any one meritorious action and it permitted the wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge.   The honoree’s name and regiment were to be inscribed in “The Book of Merit.”

Purple Heart certificate given during the Korean War

Purple Heart certificate given during the Korean War

Only three soldiers are known to have been awarded this medal during the Revolutionary War: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell Jr.  The Book of Merit was lost and the medal was virtually forgotten.  In 1927, General Charles Summerall  sent an unsuccessful draft bill to Congress to revive the Badge.

Patch for Afghanistan

Patch for Afghanistan

General Douglas MacArthur took up the cause, hoping to get the medal reinstated for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday.  He succeeded – 22 February 1932 the US War Department announced the creation of the “Order of the Purple Heart.”

National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, New Windsor, NY

National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, New Windsor, NY

This medal is awarded to members of the US Armed Forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy.  It is also given to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.

The 'impersonal chaos of war' display in the Hall of Honor

The ‘impersonal chaos of war’ display in the Hall of Honor

The most Purple Hearts awarded to any individual soldier is nine (9) to USMC Sergeant Albert Luke Ireland; five (5) for World War II and four (4) for his action in the Korean War.

"Wounded Warrior" painting by U.S. Marine Michael Fay

“Wounded Warrior” painting by U.S. Marine Michael Fay

The estimates for each war read as:

WWI – 320,518
 
WWII – 1,076,245
 
Korea – 118, 650
 
Vietnam – 351, 794
 
Persian Gulf – 607
 
Iraq – 34,000
 
Afghanistan – 2,700
 
 
 
Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

DeWayne Anderson – Arvada, CO; US Army, WWII & Korea, @ Bronze Stars, Purple Heart

Purple Heart

Purple Heart

Mo Breeding – Oklahoma City, OK; US Army, WWII & Korea, Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars & Purple Heart

William Bush – Utica, NY & New Smyrna Bch, FL; US Naby, Vietnam, Purple Heart

Melvin Chubb – Joplin, MO; US Air Force, Lt. General, Vietnam, 500 combat missions, Purple Heart

Carl Donica Jr. – Springfield, MO; US Navy, corpsman, Vietnam, Purple Heart

Peter Duchscherer – Fairbanks, AK; US Army, Vietnam, Purple Heart

Harold Greene – New York, US Army, MGeneral, Afghanistan, Purple Heart

Herbert Harkey Jr. – Riverside County, CA; USMC, LtCol. (Ret. 27 yrs.), 2 tours Vietnam, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

William Kunz – Rockford, IL; US Army, 3rd InfantryDiv., WWII, ETO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Charles Roth – Des moines, IA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

James Tucker – Las Vegas, NV; US Army, medic, Purple Heart

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on August 7, 2014, in Korean War, Uncategorized, Vietnam, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 87 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing this history!

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  2. Interesting gp, leaves me a couple of questions though, initially the Purple Heart was for meritorious action, it doesn’t mention Wounded in Action, which leads me to believe that the latter Purple Heart was instigated under different criteria.
    From my recollections the Purple Heart was awarded to any soldier wounded in action, irrespective of being a meritorious action.
    No expert on the subject as you know gp, Your professional research advice would be appreciated.
    Cheers.

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  3. Thanks for this post. You have a lot of readers! That’s cool.

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    • The troops deserve our thanks. The readers are a great group that have gotten to know each other as well as me [I’m just the narrator for this knowledgeable bunch] They discuss the subjects among each other, contribute links and stories to help make this site a project from around the world!!

      Like

  4. Reblogged this on Writing of Kayleen Reusser-Home and commented:
    The Purple Heart has an interesting history. I’ve interviewed several WWII vets and Vietnam who have been awarded Purple Hearts. Be sure to read about the American soldier who has been awarded the most Purple Hearts!

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  5. ps Why did they choose “purple”? Just curious…

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    • You were one of those kids that asked, “Why is the sky blue?” aren’t you, Koji!! 🙄 Actually, most people believe it is simply because George Washington picked that color, but he picked it because purple stands for courage and the original award for was courage. [actually – great question!]

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  6. It was really interesting to hear the story of such was famous award. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:

    FOR THOSE WHO EARNED THE MEDALS.

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  8. Wow. Nine? I would love to read about his acts of heroism.

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    • I’m afraid there isn’t as much out there as there should be. Sgt. Ireland started in the Royal Canadian forces until Pearl Harbor when he joined the Marines. He also received two Bronze Stars. Other than that it is difficult to locate much on him. Thank you for going back into the archives and reading this, Shelley.

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  9. Does that mean the Badge of Military Merit was no longer reinstated, and is opposed to the requirements for the criteria for the Purple Heart ?
    The only similarity is, the Purple Heart and the Badge of Military Merit is the both have a Purple Heart.
    Regards
    Ian

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  10. Thanks for this! I never knew about the early origins of the Purple Heart!

    Were they awarded to First World War veterans retroactively after 1932?

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    • I was curious about that myself. I could not locate specific wording to that effect, but it must have happened that way – don’t you think?
      God to see you Lemuel – busy at work I imagine.

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  11. Brave soldiers. Thx for sharing the history of the Purple Heart.

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  12. Nine Purple Hearts would be the ultimate hero! Not that all aren’t deserving but that is above and beyond!

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  13. Your two links gpcox related to the Purple Hearts which are recognised world over for bravery and valour are similar to our Australian award The Victoria Cross. How much do we owe to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. And as you have shown in the continuing story of the treachery of Pearl Harbour , many Purple Hearts were won there. Its right that we recognise deeds of valour , where ever performed and by whom .

    Looking forward to the continuing story.
    Ron

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    • Thank you very much, Ron. Yes, the Victoria Cross is similar – soldiers the world over can never get enough recognition for their efforts and sacrifices that go into our freedoms. Glad you’ll be here for more of the story!

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  14. My wife’s uncle, Bill Dwin got a purple heart after being shot down over Italy. He is buried over there. It sits in a drawer and has a musty odor. It is a lasting reminder of a life cut short and the potential lost.

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  15. I was astonished over the numbers: Over 1 million for WWII and about a third of that for Vietnam. To me, since the war on Japan lasted for roughly for about 3-1/2 years, I imagined the number to be lower…

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    • We have to remember that the war was being fought on every continent except Antarctica and South America verses Vietnam, a rather small area of the world. Thanks for reading, Koji. (Doing any baking this week?)

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  16. Thanks for the history of the Purple Heart. When I saw the Wounded Warrior picture, it reminded me that an author friend of mine, J.M. Madden, donates a percent of all her book sales to the Wounded Warrior program. They certainly deserve our support.

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  17. I enjoyed learning the history of the Purple Heart.

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  18. What great thing – Purple Heart Hall of Honor! I was not aware of it and your post, gp, brought that knowledge to me. Thank you. I think the world including myself holds the Purple Heart Medal in most high respect. Am so happy “it” has a Brick-and-Mortar home there – just fantastic!

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  19. Wonderful to know the history of the Purple Heart. I didn’t realize it went all the way back to the Revolutionary War!

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  20. Before I forget...

    I love your blog, it is such an insight and I your depth of knowledge is amazing. I feel it is so important that we keep honour those who fight everywhere, and educate people like me who have little knowledge of this history.

    I would like to nominate you for the ‘VERY INSPIRING BLOG AWARD’ because I would like you to be recognised for your passion and dedication to sharing this with the us.
    vib-award.jpg

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    • I thank you very much and I am honored, but I’m afraid I do not accept awards here. I am simply a reporter of what data I uncover and attempt to put the history in order as they occurred. ( i.e. So many books I’ve read bounce from one year to the next and back again, etc.) Please do not be offended.

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  21. According to the two articles linked below, the USA has only recently had to re-start buying Purple Hearts because a huge stock was built up in 1945 ahead of the planned invasion of Japan. Some were purchased in 1976 but 125,000 that had been forgotten about were then found in a warehouse.

    http://www.stripes.com/blogs/the-rumor-doctor/the-rumor-doctor-1.104348/are-purple-hearts-from-1945-still-being-awarded-1.116756

    http://hnn.us/article/1801

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    • I remember hearing something about this, but never read an article about it, thanks, Martin. I would have loved to have a WWII age Purple Heart. Smitty was entitled to one, but refused to put in for it since he felt it was his own stupidity that caused him to be hit with shrapnel; he didn’t want to be included in with the guys who put in for one because they cut themselves shaving and wanted to impress the girl back home. He held all medals in very high regard. I appreciate you sending the links for us – I love it when everybody kicks in some data – it makes the post so much more complete!!

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  22. I always wondered about the origins of this medal. I just learned something new, thanks.

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    • Thanks, Mike. I learn too as I go about my research – I love it.
      “The day I stop learning, please do me a favor – and close the lid” ____Everett Smith aka Smitty

      Like

  23. There must be error in Iraq/Afg totals. I’ve repeatedly read over 60,000 returning amputees.

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    • They are still accumulating, Carl – did you see the morning news? Looks like Iraq is going to cost us even more just as the Afghanistan total climbs each day. I found 3 totals for them – each one higher than the other, but nothing will be accurate until we get our butts out of there. We were supposed to be out of Afghanistan 5 days ago, if I’m not mistaken!!

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      • I am not sure we’ll ever be completely out as mil/pol strategy of present policy wants us to have permanent “beach heads” to fight Iran or at least maintain an ability of military intimidation in the region with instant response capability.

        On another point the fact that this president cannot or will not get our soldier out of Mexico makes him the most disgraceful commander in chief in history. Ronald Reagan woulda drove down there himself with a few boys in a Ford Bronco, kicked in the door and brought home the soldier himself.

        As for ISIS and all the other Islamic militant crazies, this president or one in the near future is going to have to make the decision to exterminate every last one of them or there will never be peace and security.

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        • I felt Obama was not qualified and should not have been elected the first time – thought he should stay in the Senate for at least another term – but – here we are looking back at past mistakes. IMO, I have my doubts that anything will be resolved for a very long time. Hopefully the country can hold out long enough to recover, all we need now is to default on all our trillions of dollars in loans.

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  24. Amazing history, GP. Thanks.

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  25. Looks like we were like minds today with our post.

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  26. I just visited a photo exhibit in France commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of WW1 and so many of the photos were of wounded soldiers…heartbreaking. Thanks for your background information on the Purple Heart – informative as always.

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    • You are very welcome, Carol. The French exhibit must have been very moving, but also extremely informative. Those men sacrificed greatly to protect freedom.

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  27. Too often these soldiers are our forgotten casualties of war . Here’s to my cousin Bill Miller , who earned two purple hearts in Vietnam .

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    • I hope he is well today, no lasting affects? The true Purple Heart recipients deserve much more than I can give them, but please shake Bill’s hand for me the next time you see him!

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  28. Thanks for the great history of this. I think most people have heard of this medal and know why it is awarded, but few know the history or statistics on it.

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  29. gp, Interesting that only WWII surpasses Vietnam in total # of Purple Hearts. And thanks! I never knew there was a Hall of Honor in New York State! I have a Bronze Star for my Vietnam service…How ’bout that!!!!! Ha! Phil

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  30. A great piece, it’s good to know a little more about the background of such awards and in particular the number awarded. It’s considerably a lot lore than I thought. Thanks for sharing it.

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  31. Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat™.

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  32. I never knew the history! Thank you for sharing and for always, teaching us

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  33. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    The “PURPLE HEART” ….. the greatest honor. This I have to share … Salute!

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  34. I was wondering if the Bissell Bridge in CT was named after Daniel Bissell Jr. Turns out that Daniel was from nearby East Windsor, but the bridge is the “Captain John Bissell Memorial Bridge”. John came over from England in the 1600’s. Daniel Bissell Jr appears to be his great great great grandson. Not sure that any of that matters, but it was an interesting way to enjoy my coffee today. I don’t live far from the Bissell Bridge and I’ve biked over it a few times.

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  35. Will check out Sergeant Ireland, the warrior. God bless them all.

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  36. Nine purple hearts …

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  37. Good to learn more about the Purple Heart. The Hall of Honor would be an interesting place to visit.

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  38. A Purple Heart award sends chills up my back. I know it represents suffering. Of course that means also that someone was willing to sacrifice for us. I wish such a thing did not need to exist. But I respect those who have earned it.

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    • I understand your feelings,Colleen. There should be no need for a day like this, but since the dawn of mankind – we’ve had wounded warriors. And so, we honor those that enter the danger, despite knowing the possible consequences.

      Like

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