The Purple Heart is an American decoration-the oldest
military decoration in the world in present use and the first
American award made available to the common soldier. It was
initially created as the Badge of Military Merit by one of
the world's most famed and best-loved heroes-General George
General Washington is often pictured as a cold,
stern soldier, a proud aristocrat. Yet we know he showed
sympathy and concern for his troops, and was not too proud to
pray humbly on his knees for his beloved country and for the
men who served it, and him, so bravely and loyally.
appreciation of the importance of the common soldier in any
campaign impelled him to recognize outstanding valor and
merit by granting a commission or an advance in rank to
deserving individuals. In the summer of 1782 he was ordered
by the Continental Congress to cease doing so-there were no
funds to pay the soldiers, much less the officers!
of his usual means of reward, he must have searched for a
substitute. Shortly after receiving the "stop" order from
Congress, he wrote his memorable General Orders of August 7,
1782, which read in part as follows:
"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."
Lost or misfiled for almost 150 years among the
War Department Records at Washington, D.C., this important
paper came to light during the search for Washington's papers
prior to the celebration of his bicentennial in 1932. With it
were the dramatic accounts of three soldiers who received the
decoration at Newburgh, N.Y., at Washington's Headquarters.
The Book of Merit has not been found. The U.S. War Department
revived the Purple Heart decoration on February 22, 1932.
Miss 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, Ms. Will
created the design sketch for the present medal of the Purple
Heart. 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. The
revived form is of metal, instead of perishable cloth, made
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.
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.
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"
Funds for welfare, rehabilitation and/or service
work carried on by the organization are derived through the
collection of used household items, the operation of Thrift
Stores, through the donation of automobiles and, at the
community level, from the annual distribution of its official
flower, the Purple Heart Viola. Violas are assembled by
disabled and needy veterans, many of whom receive little or
no compensation from other sources. Thus your contribution to
programs of the Military Order of the Purple Heart serve a
two-fold purpose-they help the veterans who participate in
these endeavors and enable the organization to do many things
on behalf of hospitalized and needy veterans and their
Wives, mothers, daughters, step-daughters and
adopted daughters of Purple Heart recipients are eligible to
belong to the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Military Order of the
Purple Heart, which also does important work nationally and
locally in Veterans' Hospitals. Further information about the
Order and its Ladies' Auxiliary may be obtained from the
National Headquarters as listed below.
copyright © 2006 by Chapter 190 Military Order of the Purple Heart.
All rights reserved.
Uploaded: 2013-02-28 17:25