The Purple Heart

The Purple Heart is an award developed by General Washington in 1782 that is offered as a merit reward to troops who are either injured or killed while protecting the United States of America against perceived or real enemies (Borch, 2010). During the Revolutionary War, Daniel Bissell, Jr., William Brown, and Elijah Churchill had the distinction of presenting the medal to the men who qualified for the award. Creating the model also allowed for the creation of the Book of Merit, which would contain the names of the soldiers who received the medal. The soldiers who have also suffered as prisoners of war qualify to be awarded the medal.

The Purple Heart Design

The award has a purple silk that holds the Purple Heart. The purple displays the bust of George Washington and the coat of arms that was on his coat. The award stooped with a shorter period after its inception and was actively used again within the military circles in 1932 (Borch, 2010). The re-introduction of the award has led to the increased categorization of the groups who qualify for the award. Some of the groups who have been included include those injured during the friendly fire and those injured from an act of terrorism (Tucker, 2013). The soldiers who have been awarded the medal are within the categories of marines, soldiers, airmen and the sailors. A soldier is entitled to be assigned the purpose hear provided that he or she meets the minimum criteria that have been set to be awarded. Therefore, a superior officer doesn’t have the exclusive rights to deny the award, lest there is proof on how a given soldier should not be granted the honor.

Revival and Expansion

During the revival of the award by Douglas MacArthur, on 22 Feb 1932, the sole objective of issuing the award was for the recognition of merit for the soldiers who have the set minimum benchmark. In the 1950s, there was the challenge to grant the prize even to the soldier who had faced a frostbite in the course of undertaking their duty (Borch, 2010). However, after careful examination by the senior military personnel, frostbite was ruled out. The only civilian who had been granted the award was Ernie Pyle, in 1983, having been killed in 1945 as a war correspondent. However, currently, the civilians no longer qualify to be granted the award. The extension of the award to cover the soldiers who had been killed or injured when repelling an act of terrorism was signed in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. In 1989, the issue of heart stroke came to the table, as a criterion of awarding the Purple Heart, an issue that is opposed by the veterans (Tucker, 2013). During the same period, stroke is excluded from the requirements that needed to be looked into before the issuance of the award.

Exclusive and Historical Significance

One unique feature of the award is that it is only issued once. For any soldier who has an injury from war, and has received the award can just be recognized through the oak leaf cluster. In 1945, the Pentagon was said to have come up with a considerable number of the Purple Heart medals in anticipation of the many casualties that were to arise from the invasion of the Japanese home islands. The medals that were produced then are said to be the one still being issued to the current crop of soldiers. The medal is supposed to be exclusive to the person to whom it has been granted and cannot be transferred to any other person.

Wars and Recipients

Some of the wars where soldiers participating have received a higher number of the awards include the First and Second World Wars, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. Notably, most of the soldiers who have received the war are deceased and an honor for the service that they show for the country (Tucker, 2013).

Expansion and Critiques

In the periods of 1942 to 1997, the civilians whose work was complementary to that of the soldiers also qualified for the award. Some of the civilians who qualified to be granted the honor include the Red Cross employees, civil servants whose work was complementary to that of the soldiers and the war correspondents (Byrne & Sweeney, 2006). However, since 1997, the award has to only been exclusive to the armed forces for their contribution in the protection of the country.

Concerns and Recommendations

However, there has been a critique on the issuance of the award. First, there has been a concern on the more than one million soldiers who have received the award without categorizing the data based on the type of injury or cause of death to which one is awarded. Second, the changing of the criteria has been of concern. Third, animals such as horses and dogs used in war are not eligible for the award despite their active contribution. In the recommendation, there is need to develop a standard framework from which the award can be issued.


Borch, F. L. (2010). For military merit: Recipients of the Purple Heart. Annapolis, Ad: Naval Institute Press.

Byrne, K. B., & Sweeney, J. K. (2006). A handbook of American military history: From the Revolutionary War to the present. Lincoln [u.a.: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

Tucker, S. (2013). Almanac of American military history. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

Tucker, S. (2013). The encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War: A political, social, and military history. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

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