The History of the Purple Heart Medal

Purple Heart MedalOn August 7, 1782, George Washington – commander-in-chief of the Continental Army – created the first Purple Heart Award, originally called the Badge of Military Merit at the Newburgh, NY headquarters. This badge is considered to be the first official military combat badge of the U.S. Armed Forces.

At this time, 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 War I.

Key Dates:

  • Oct. 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.” This bill was withdrawn.
  • Jan. 7, 1931 – Summerall’s successor, General Douglas MacArthur, confidentially reopened work on a new design for the Medal, involving the Washington Commission of Fine Arts. *Image shown above.
  • Feb. 22, 1932 – By Executive Order of the President, the Purple Heart was revived on the 200th Anniversary of George Washington’s birth, out of respect to his memory and military achievements. The war department authorized the award to soldiers who had been awarded the Meritorious Service Citation Certificate, Army Wound Ribbon, or were authorized to wear Wound Chevrons subsequent to 5 April 1917.

Purple Heart Medal Criteria for Award


Purple Heart MedallionThe 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.
  4. 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.
  7. 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.


Purple Heart Presentations

Purple Heart PatchCurrent 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.

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in the Town of New Windsor, New York (near Newburgh). The mission of the Hall of Honor is to collect and preserve the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across generations in an attempt to ensure that all recipients are represented. Their stories are preserved and shared through a series of exhibits, live and videotaped interviews with Veterans themselves, and the Roll of Honor, an interactive computer program detailing the stories of each individual.

The first Purple Heart was awarded on Feb. 22, 1932. Since that time, there has been over 1,900,000 Purple Hearts awarded.

Our prayers to all who sacrificed, both past and present, living and deceased.

Thanks to all my brother and sister U.S. Veterans and Military!

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