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The Military Order of the Purple Heart
By AlphaNews
8/7/2016 7:01:00 AM
Military Order of the Purple Heart

It was 234 years ago today that General George Washington sat in his headquarters in Newburgh, New York, thinking about how to keep up the morale of his Continental Army troops. Since the U.S. Congress had taken away the ability of generals to reward their soldiers with commissions, he needed a way to honor them. And so on August 7, 1782, Washington gave the general order to establish the "Badge of Military Merit." In honor of its birthday we present five things to know about the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

1) From the Heart: When General Washington created to the badge it was a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged with a narrow binding of silver, with the word Merit stitched across the face in silver. Today's medal maintains many of the original features with the addition of a bust of Washington and his coat of arms.

2) Open to All:  Typically badges such as these were only awarded to high-ranking officers but General Washington said "the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is…open to all." The first three people to receive the Badge of Military Merit during the American Revolutionary War were Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell, Jr. Records show there may have been others but these were known to be the first receipients. It is estimated that 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded to date.

3) Forget Me Not: After the Revolutionary War the Badge of Merit was forgotten until 1927 when General Charles P. Summerall, the U.S. Army chief of staff, unsuccessfully tried to revive it. In 1931, Summerall’s successor, General Douglas MacArthur, took up the cause, hoping to reinstate the medal in time for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. On February 22, 1932, Washington’s 200th birthday, the U.S. War Department announced the creation of the "Order of the Purple Heart." 

4) Fidelity First: The Badge of Military Merit is the oldest known United States military decoration still in use.  It is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. It is also awarded to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.  But prior to its founding the Continential Congress had created the Fidelity Medallion otherwise known as the Andre Capture Medal given to the three privates from the New York Militia who captured British spy Major John Andre during the American Revolutionary War. It was never awarded again.

5) Making the Honor Roll: In New Windsor, NY, you'll find The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. The hall is dedicated to history and honorees of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The Roll of Honor is a database created to preserve and present the stories of Purple Heart recipients. 

Tags: Alpha Industries, Purple Heart, Badge of Merit, George Washington
Categories: Military History
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