The original Purple
Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by
General George Washington by order from his headquarters at Newburgh,
New York, August 7, 1782. The writings of General Washington quoted in
"The General ever desirous to cherish a virtuous
ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every
species of Military Merit, directs that whenever any singularly
meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to
wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in
purple cloth or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only
instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and
essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward".
as the known surviving records show, this honor badge was granted to
only three men, all of them noncommissioned officers: Sergeant Daniel
Bissell of the 2d Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line; Sergeant
William Brown of the 5th Connecticut Regiment of the
Continental Line, and Sergeant Elijah Churchill of the 2d Continental
Dragoons, which was also a Connecticut Regiment. The original Purple
Heart depicted on the first page is a copy of the badge awarded to
Sergeant Elijah Churchill and is now owned by the New Windsor
Cantonment, National Temple Hill Association, PO Box 525, Vails Gate, NY
12584. The only other known original badge is the badge awarded to
Sergeant William Brown and is in the possession of The Society of the
Cincinnati, New Hampshire Branch but differs in design by not having any
lettering embroidered on the heart and the leaves are at the top only
with a larger spray of leaves at the base.
Subsequent to the Revolution, the Order of the Purple Heart had fallen
into disuse and no further awards were made. By 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 or were authorized to wear wound chevrons subsequent to 5
the early period of World War II (7 Dec 41 to 22 Sep 43), 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. By Executive
Order 9277, dated 3 December 1942, the decoration was extended 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.
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.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year1998 (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.
of precedence and wear of decorations is contained in Army Regulation
670-1. Policy for awards, approving authority, supply, and issue of
decorations is contained in AR 600-8-22.