The Purple Heart turns 225 years old today.
Created by General George Washington during the American Revolution, the award for “military merit” consisted of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged with silver, featuring the word “merit” stitched across the face.
A soldier who performed “any singularly meritorious action” was eligible to receive the Purple Heart. Soldiers wearing a Purple Heart were allowed to pass guards and sentinels without challenge and they had their names inscribed in a “Book of Merit.” Gen. Washington awarded the Purple Heart to just three soldiers during the American Revolution: Elijah Churchill, William Brown, and Daniel Bissell, Jr.
The Purple Heart was forgotten until 1927, when a movement began to revive the decoration. With Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s support, the Purple Heart was reinstated in 1932, on Gen. Washington’s 200th birthday.
Today, the Purple Heart holds true to Washington’s original design, but it also features a bust of Washington and his coat of arms. The Purple Heart is America’s oldest military decoration for military merit. It is awarded to members of the U. S. military who have been killed and wounded by the enemy. Soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war are also eligible to receive the Purple Heart.