Friday, February 16, 2007
Military Order of the Purple Heart
At his headquarters in Newburgh, New York, on August 7, 1782, General George Washington devised two new badges of distinction for enlisted men and noncommissioned officers. To signify loyal military service, he ordered a chevron to be worn on the left sleeve of the uniform coat for the rank and file who had completed three years of duty "with bravery, fidelity, and good conduct"; two chevrons signified six years of service. The second badge, for "any singularly meritorious Action," was the "Figure of a Heart in Purple Cloth or Silk edged with narrow Lace or Binding." This device, the Badge of Military Merit, was affixed to the uniform coat above the left breast and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge and to have his name and regiment inscribed in a Book of Merit. The Badge specifically honored the lower ranks, where decorations were unknown in contemporary European Armies. As Washington intended, the road to glory in a patriot army is thus open to all."
Three badges were awarded in the waning days of the Revolutionary War, all to volunteers from Connecticut. On May 3, 1783, Sergeants Elijah Churchill and William Brown received badges and certificates from Washington’s hand at the Newburgh headquarters. Sergeant Daniel Bissell, Jr., received the award on June 10, 1783.
The award fell into disuse following the Revolution. The award was not in use during the Civil War and was not proposed again officially until after World War I. On October 10, 1927, Army Chief of Staff General Charles P. Summerall directed that a draft bill be sent to Congress "to revive the Badge of Military Merit."
For reasons unclear, the bill was withdrawn and action on the case ceased on January 3, 1928, but the Office of The Adjutant General was instructed to file all materials collected for possible future use.
The rough sketch accompanying this proposal showed a circular disc medal with a concave center in which a relief heart appeared. The reverse carried the legend: For Military Merit.
On January 7, 1931, Summerall’s successor, General Douglas MacArthur, confidentially reopened work on a new design, involved the Washington Commission of Fine Arts. His object was medal issued on the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.
Miss Elizabeth Will, an Army heraldic specialist in the Office of the Quartermaster General, was named to redesign the newly revived medal, which became known as the Purple Heart. Using general specifications provided to her, Ms. Will created the design sketch for the present medal of the Purple Heart.
As described in Army Regulations 600-35 of November 10, 1941, the design consisted of a purple enameled heart within a bronze quarter-inch border showing a relief profile of George Washington in Continental uniform.
Surmounting the enameled shield is Washington’s family coat of arms, the same used by the heart shape and the coat of arms of the obverse is repeated without enamel; within the heart lies the inscription, For Military Merit, with space beneath for the engraved name of the recipient. The device is 1-11/16 inches in length and 1-3/8 inches in width, and is suspended by a rounded rectangular length displaying a vertical purple band with quarter-inch white borders.
The War Department announced the new award in General Order No. 3, February 22, 1932:
By order of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart established by General George Washington at Newburgh, August 7, 1782, during the War of the Revolution, is hereby revived out of respect to his memory and military achievements.
By Order of the Secretary War:
Chief of Staff
The association of the Purple Heart with wounds or fatality suffered in the line of meritorious service also stems from this time. Eligibility for the new award was defined to include:
Those in possession of a Meritorious Service Citation Certificate issued by the Commander-in Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The Certificates had to be exchanged for the Purple Heat or the award and Oak Leaf Clusters as appropriate. This preserved the ideal of presenting the award for military merit and loyal service.
Those authorized by Army Regulations 600-95 to wear wound chevrons. These men also had to apply for the new award.
Those not authorized wound chevrons prior to February 22, 1931, but who would otherwise be authorized them under stipulations of Army Regulations 600-95.
Revisions to AR 600-45 at the time, defining conditions of the award, elaborated upon the "singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity service" required. "A wound which necessitates treatment by a medical officer and which is received in action with an enemy, may, in the judgment of the commander authorized to make the award, be construed as resulting from a singularly meritorious act of essential service."
The Purple Heart is ranked immediately behind the bronze star in order of precedence among the personal awards; however, it is generally acknowledged to be among the most aesthetically pleasing of American awards and decorations.
Celebrating the 225th Anniversary
of the Creation of the Purple Heart.
March 3, 2007
Fullerton Fire Company #1,
851 Second Street,
The social hour will begin at 11:00 a.m. with a cash bar. A family style dinner of ham and roast chicken will be served at 12:30 p.m. followed by the program. Cost is $18 per person.
Reservations for this event must be made no later than February 23, 2007. To make reservations, please mail your check to Henry Lesher, 1000 Seneca Street, Pottsville, PA 179011-1539. Please include your name and address along with the names of any guest that will accompany you. Checks should be made payable to "L.V. Chapter 190 MOPH".
Details can be found on the MOPH web site:
"In Honor of Those Who Served or Who are Serving"
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