On August 7th in 1782, George Washington proudly established the Badge for Military Merit which would later be known as the Purple Heart. The shape and color of the Badge inspired the modern Purple Heart.
George Washington’s soldiers needed recognition for their faithful service and outstanding acts of bravery, but they were on the verge of mutiny due to lack of pay. George Washington was determined to end that, so he issued a general order establishing the “Badge of Merit”.
10 Things to Know about The Purple Heart
- As of now, only three of Washington’s badges are known to have been given out: to Sgt. Elijah Churchill, 2nd Continental Dragoons; Sgt. William Brown, 5th Connecticut Continental Line Infantry; and Sgt. Daniel Bissel, 2nd Connecticut Continental Line Infantry. The award was open to enlisted men, and allowed them to pass all guards and sentinels as if they were commissioned officers. (National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)
- The Purple Heart was considered a merit award until the creation of the Legion of Merit in 1942. (National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)
- Civilian Purple Hearts were allowed “for those under competent military authority” from 1962 to 1998. (National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)
- John F. Kennedy is the only U.S. president to earn a Purple Heart, while serving in the Navy during World War II.
- Celebrities with Purple Hearts range from Oliver Stone and Kurt Vonnegut to Pat Tillman, Charles Bronson and more.
- Sgt. Stubby (a dog) and Sgt. Reckless (a horse) also earned Purple Hearts.
- Curry Haynes, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, earned 10 Purple Hearts during his military career.
- The American Legion’s memorial database includes a number of local Purple Heart memorials and Purple Heart City designations.
- There is no way to know how many members of the Legion have Purple Hearts as a result of their service, but a search of the Legiontown website or the American Legion national website yields stories of Purple Hearts earned, lost, found and more.
- If you do not have a Purple Heart – or any other medal – that you or a loved one earned, archives.gov has information on how to request one.