Purple Heart Day

Purple Heart Day is observed every year on August 7, since the medal was created on that day in 1782.

Originally called the Badge of Military Merit, consisting of a cloth purple heart worn over the left breast, it was awarded the first time by General George Washington. It was mostly forgotten until World War I, when a plan for valor and merit medals took shape. 

Then in 1932, US Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur reintroduced the old Badge of Military Merit, renaming it the Purple Heart.

The Purple Heart is awarded for combat action only and is awarded to any person wounded in action while serving with the armed forces of the United States, even posthumously.

Designed by Elizabeth Will, the heart-shaped medal, including a profile of Washington, is one of the best known and most beautiful of all US decorations.

Both Dale R. Wilson and Daniel S. Wilson were killed in action during World War II. Both were awarded a Purple Heart. Daniel’s, with his name engraved on the back, was sent to his grieving parents. Dale’s death wasn’t officially declared until January of 1946. I asked for the family to receive his Purple Heart. It is not engraved.

It’s puzzling that the Purple Heart is awarded even for superficial wounds for veterans who survive, but there is no separate medal commemorating those who actually lose their lives.

American Medals and Decorations by Evans Kerrigan


  1. Interesting distinction (i.e., superficially wounded vs. KIA) that you note here. It seems there should be a difference made between them. Just as the distinction between the blue stars and the gold stars.

  2. Not all wartime deaths are the result of wounds received. Accident and disease are prevalent in WWI & WWII. Purple Heart Medals are for wounds received by direct conflict with the enemy. Where death occurred as a result, the General Order will say awarded “posthumously.”

      • DOD Manual 1348.33, Volume 3, states the criteria for award of the Purple Heart Medal: …the PH is awarded to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Forces, after April 5, 1917, has been wounded, killed, or who has died or may hereafter die of wounds received under any of the following circumstances:

        1. In action against an enemy of the United States.

        Key words = “in action”. They were training.

      • That’s why there are only two Purple Hearts. I didn’t expect Junior to get one. He was waiting for overseas orders. I’m writing the book about my research into what happened to the three of them I have all their casualty reports. The family story “Leora’s Stories: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II.” The two oldest brothers were in the Navy. One of them survived the sinking of the CV-5, being awarded a Navy Commendation Medal for being part of the attempt to salvage the carrier when she didn’t sink the first night.

  3. It is with grace you explain how you family was given the Purple Heart. I do not understand why Junior did not – he was after all in the uniform of his country.

  4. Great post Joy. This is the second I’ve seen on the Purple Heart. Great information and a good reminder of the sacrifices of those who serve.

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