• Private Colliey G. Brown, of Brooklyn, NY, receiving his Purple Heart. Seventh Army, 4423rd Quartermaster Car. Co., XXI Corps, Schwabisch Gmund, Germany, May 18, 1945.
(Henry Utley Milne Collection).

    "For Wounds Received In Action...."

    Private Colliey G. Brown, of Brooklyn, NY, receiving his Purple Heart. Seventh Army, 4423rd Quartermaster Car. Co., XXI Corps, Schwabisch Gmund, Germany, May 18, 1945. (Henry Utley Milne Collection).

  • Brigadier General Elmer F. Wallender congratulating Lieutenant Bernowsky of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, upon receipt of his Purple Heart. Photograph taken March 21, 1945, at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea.(Henry Utley Milne Collection).

    Thank You, Soldier.

    Brigadier General Elmer F. Wallender congratulating Lieutenant Bernowsky of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, upon receipt of his Purple Heart. Photograph taken March 21, 1945, at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea.(Henry Utley Milne Collection).

  • This certificate indicates that a Purple Heart was awarded to Private First Class Gene A. Metz, who was killed in action on 28 January 1952 in Korea. Metz served with Company I, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. His twin brother Dean served in the same unit and survived the war.
(Dean A. Metz Collection).

    "To All Who Shall See These Presents...."

    This certificate indicates that a Purple Heart was awarded to Private First Class Gene A. Metz, who was killed in action on 28 January 1952 in Korea. Metz served with Company I, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. His twin brother Dean...

  • This Purple Heart was awarded to Private Elmer M. Kann on  August 5, 1932.  Kann, a bugler for Company C, 316th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, was wounded on November 3, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

    The Purple Heart

    This Purple Heart was awarded to Private Elmer M. Kann on August 5, 1932. Kann, a bugler for Company C, 316th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, was wounded on November 3, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

  • This is a reverse view showing the inscribed name on the Purple Heart awarded to Private Elmer M. Kann on  August 5, 1932.  Kann, a bugler for Company C, 316th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, was wounded on November 3, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. 
Photo by the U.S. Army Heritage Museum.

    The Purple Heart , Reverse View

    This is a reverse view showing the inscribed name on the Purple Heart awarded to Private Elmer M. Kann on August 5, 1932. Kann, a bugler for Company C, 316th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, was wounded on November 3, 1918, during the...

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  • "The Road to Glory": The Purple Heart

On August 7, 1782, General George Washington ordered "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." Washington made it clear that the badge could be bestowed upon soldiers of any rank. It was the first decoration in the Army to include enlisted troops. That Purple Heart could also be awarded for "extraordinary fidelity and essential service."

The first Badges of Military Merit, as they were known, were awarded on May 3, 1783 to Sergeants Elijah Churchill and William Brown. Churchill, of the 2nd Regiment, Light Dragoons, earned his badge for conduct while leading two raids on Long Island in November 1780 and October 1781. Brown, of the 5th Connecticut Regiment, led an attack against Redoubt 10 at Yorktown in October 1781.

One other badge was known to be awarded during the Revolutionary War. Washington declared on June 8, 1783, that Sergeant Daniel Bissell, of the 2nd Connecticut Regiment, would receive a badge. Bissell had spied behind enemy lines from August 1781 to September 1782 in New York City.

The Badge of Military Merit stalled on its course of glory until being officially "revived" on February 22, 1932, the 200th anniversary of Washington's birth. General Douglas MacArthur, as US Army Chief of Staff, brought back the Purple Heart "out of respect to his [Washington's] memory and military achievements."

Regulations stipulated that a Purple Heart could still be awarded for "any singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service," but now also for "a wound, which necessitates treatment by a medical officer, and which is received in action with an enemy of the United States . . . [which] may, in the judgment of the commander authorized to make the award, be construed as resulting from a singularly meritorious act of essential service." Later, the award was made retroactive to World War I.

Though the criteria for receiving the Purple Heart have changed since its inception, the path to today's Heart clearly began with George Washington in 1782. Near the end of his order establishing the Badge of Military Merit, Washington wrote, "The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus opened to all." In Washington's time, the glory went to those who performed exceptional action. Today, the glory of the Purple Heart goes to those who bear wounds for their country.

Page last updated Mon July 21st, 2008 at 16:09