*THE PURPLE HEART
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration
awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after 5 April 1917 with
the U.S. military. The Purple Heart is the oldest symbol and award that is still given to U.S. soldiers in service, surpassed
only by the long obsolete Fidelity Medallion. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in Newburgh, New York.
Appearance: A Purple
Heart 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 Washington coat of arms (a white shield with two red bars and three red stars in chief)
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 3⁄8 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 1⁄8 inch white;
1 1⁄8 inches purple; and 1⁄8 inch white. As with other combat medals, multiple awards are denoted by award stars
for the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or oak leaf clusters for the Army and Air Force.
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 7 August 1782. The actual order includes
the phrase: "Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the purple heart has given of his blood in the defense
of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen." The Badge of Military Merit was only awarded to three Revolutionary War soldiers and fell into disuse following the
War of Independence. Although never abolished, the award of the badge was not proposed again officially until after World
Revival: On 10 October
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 The bill was withdrawn and action on the case ceased on 3 January 1928, but the office of the Adjutant
General was instructed to file all materials collected for possible future use.
On 7 January 1931, Summerall’s successor,
General Douglas MacArthur, confidentially reopened work on a new design, involving the Washington Commission of Fine Arts.
This new design was issued on the bicentennial of George Washington's birth. 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 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 22 February 1932. The criteria was announced in War Department
circular dated 22 February 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 5 April 1917, the
day before the United States entered World War I.
The first Purple Heart was awarded to MacArthur.
the early period of American involvement in World War II (7 December 1941-22 September 1943), 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.
Executive Order 9277, dated 3 December 1942, extended
the decoration was to be applicable to all services and the order required that regulations of the Services be uniform
in application as far as practicable. This executive order also authorized award only for wounds received.
Executive Order 10409, dated 12 February 1952,
revised authorizations to include the Service Secretaries subject to approval of the Secretary of Defense.
Executive Order 11016, dated 25 April 1962, included
provisions for posthumous award of the Purple Heart.
Executive Order 12464, dated 23 February 1984, authorized
award of the Purple Heart as a result of terrorist attacks or while serving as part of a peacekeeping force subsequent to
28 March 1973.
The Senate approved an amendment to the 1985
Defense Authorization Bill on 13 June 1985 which changed the precedent 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 25 April 1962.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 1998 (Public Law 105-85) changed the criteria to delete authorization for award of the Purple Heart Medal to any civilian
national of the United States while serving under competent authority in any capacity with the Armed Forces. This change was
effective 18 May 1998.
Subtitle G—Military Decorations and Awards
SEC. 571. PURPLE HEART TO BE AWARDED ONLY TO
MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES.
(a) IN GENERAL.—(1) Chapter 57 of title 10, United States Code,
is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
‘‘§ 1131. Purple Heart: limitation
to members of the armed forces
‘‘The decoration known as the Purple
Heart (authorized to be awarded pursuant to Executive Order 11016) may
only be awarded to a person who is a member of the armed forces at the time the person is killed or wounded under circumstances otherwise qualifying that person for award of the Purple Heart.’’.
(2) The table of sections at the beginning
of such chapter is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
‘‘1131. Purple Heart: limitation to members of the armed forces.’’.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—Section 1131 of title 10, United States
Code, as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to persons
who are killed or wounded after the end of the 180-day period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act.
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 5 April 1917,
has been wounded or killed, or who has died or may hereafter die after being wounded...
1. In any action against an enemy of the United States.
2. In 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.
3. 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.
5. As the result of an act of any hostile foreign force
6. 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.
28 March 1973, as a result of military operations while serving outside the
territory of the United States
as part of a peacekeeping force.
While an individual decoration,
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 authorized for the first wound
suffered under conditions indicated above, but for each subsequent award an Oak Leaf Cluster will be awarded to be worn on the medal or ribbon. Not more than one award will be made for more than
one wound or injury received at the same instant or from the same missile, force, explosion, or agent.
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.
Examples of enemy-related injuries which justify award
of the Purple Heart are...
Injury caused by enemy bullet, shrapnel, or other projectile created by enemy
Injury caused by enemy placed mine or trap.
Injury caused by enemy released chemical, biological,
or nuclear agent.
Injury caused by vehicle or aircraft accident
resulting from enemy fire.
Concussion injuries caused as a result
of enemy generated explosions.
Injuries or wounds which do not qualify for award
of the Purple Heart are....
Frostbite or trench foot injuries
Food poisoning not caused by enemy agents
Chemical, biological, or nuclear agents not released by the enemy
Disease not directly caused by enemy agents
Accidents, to include explosive, aircraft, vehicular, and other
not related to or caused by enemy action
Self-inflicted wounds, except when in the heat of battle, and
not involving gross
Post-traumatic stress disorders
Jump injuries not caused by enemy action
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. Note the following examples:
In a case such as 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.
(b) 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.
(c) Individuals injured as a result of their own negligence; for example, 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.
A Purple Heart will be issued to the next of
kin of each person entitled to a posthumous award. Issue will be made automatically by the Commanding General, PERSCOM, upon receiving a report of death indicating entitlement.
Upon written application to Commander, ARPERCEN,
ATTN: DARP-VSE-A, 9700 Page Boulevard. St. Louis, MO 63132-5200, award
may be made to any member of the Army, who during World War I, was awarded a Meritorious Service Citation Certificate signed by the Commander in Chief, American Expeditionary Forces, or who was
authorized to wear wound chevrons. Posthumous awards to personnel
who were killed or died of wounds after 5 April 1917 will be made to the appropriate next of kin upon application to the Commanding General, PERSCOM.
Any member of the Army who was awarded the Purple
Heart for meritorious achievement or service, as opposed to wounds received in action, between 7 December 1941 and 22 September
1943, may apply for award of an appropriate decoration instead of the Purple Heart.
For those who became Prisoners of War after 25 April
1962, the Purple Heart will be awarded to individuals wounded while prisoners of foreign forces, upon submission by the individual
to the Department of the U.S. Army of an affidavit that is supported by a statement from a witness, if this is possible. Documentation
and inquiries should be directed to Commander, PERSCOM, ATTN: TAPC-PDA, Alexandria, VA 22332-0471.
Any member of the U.S. Army who believes that he or
she is eligible for the Purple Heart, but through unusual circumstances no award was made, may submit an application through
military channels, to Commander, PERSCOM, ATTN: TAPC PDA, Alexandria, VA 22332-0471. Application will include complete documentation,
to include evidence of medical treatment, pertaining to the wound.
Modern Day Presentations:
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. 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, but this was often not the case. In addition, during the mass demobilizations that followed
each of America's major wars of the 20th century, it was a common occurrence for the Purple Heart to be omitted from service
records, due to clerical errors, once the service record was closed upon discharge. An added complication is that a
number of field commanders would engage in "bedside presentations" of the Purple Heart which would typically entail a general
entering a hospital with a box of Purple Hearts, pinning them on the pillows of wounded service members, and then departing
with no official records kept of the visit or the award of the Purple Heart. Service members, themselves, could complicate
the issue by leaving hospitals unofficially, returning to their units in haste to rejoin a battle or to not appear as 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 which treated the enemy wound, would never be recorded 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, those Army members
so qualified 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 the Navy, Marine
Corps, and Coast Guard presents 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 (Report of
Separation), are corrected on site at the National Personnel Records
Center through issuance of a document known as a DD-215.
As the Purple Heart did not exist prior to 1932, records of the decoration are not annotated in service histories of those
veterans who were wounded or killed by enemy action prior to the establishment of the medal. The Purple Heart, however, is
retroactive to 1917 meaning that it may be presented to veterans as far back as the First World War. In such cases, service
departments will review service histories and all available records to determine if a veteran may be retroactively awarded
the Purple Heart.
Destroyed Record Requests:
Due to the 1973 National Archives Fire, a large number of retroactive Purple Heart requests are difficult to verify since
to substantiate the award may very well have
been destroyed. As a solution to this, the National Personnel Records Center maintains a separate office to deal with Purple
Heart requests where service records have been destroyed in the 1973 fire. 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.
Last Resort Requests:
Some veterans who have exhausted all available sources, often still feel that they should be awarded a Purple Heart, even
if there are no records of the decoration. In such cases, service members may appeal directly to the military service department
by way of a Defense Department Form 149, which requests an official change to military records. Usually, if the 149 is denied
by the service department, there is nothing more a veteran can do and will not be awarded the Purple Heart. In some cases,
however, veterans have been recommended for the Purple Heart, after the fact, by a United States Senator or Congressman. Such
cases are treated as brand new award recommendations and the process for presenting the Purple Heart begins again with a review
ofrecords and interview of witnesses to the action in which a service member was wounded.
Legal: Any false verbal,
written, or physical claim to the Purple Heart Medal, by an individual to whom it has not been awarded, is a federal felony
offense punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
Interesting Facts: During
World War II, nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the casualties resulting from the abandoned
invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall. However, all the American military casualties of the following sixty years, including
the Korean, Vietnam War, and the Iraq War, appear to have exhausted this stockpile by 2007.
The most Purple Hearts received
by one person is eight.
Six U.S. Army soldiers share
- Richard J. Buck - Four Purple
Hearts in the Korean War and four in the Vietnam War
- Robert T. Frederick - Eight
Purple Hearts in World War II; also received two Distinguished Service Crosses
- David H. Hackworth - Eight Purple
Hearts in the Korean War and Vietnam War;also received two Distinguished
Service Crosses and ten Silver Stars
- Robert L. Howard - Eight Purple
Hearts in the Vietnam War; also received the Medal of Honor
- William L. Russell - Eight Purple
Hearts in World War II; Silver Star
- William Waugh - Eight Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War; also received the Silver Star.
Click Below To Learn
COMMON MYTHS ABOUT THE PURPLE HEART