5 Things You Didn't Know About The Purple Heart

On August 7, 1782, General George Washington, the commander in chief of the Continental Army, created the “Badge for Military Merit,” otherwise known as a “Purple Heart.” Here are five things you didn't know about the Purple Heart...


The Original Purple Heart Was a Cloth Patch The current design of the Purple Heart falls in line with other military awards, with a purple and gold ribbon that is pinned to the uniform, and a metal heart with a gold-colored likeness of George Washington. Originally, it was a purple cloth heart, first plain and later embroidered with the word "Merit" in white. The medal was redesigned in the 1930s.

Civilians Used to Be Able to Receive a Purple Heart  Journalist Erie Pyle is one of the most famous civilians to earn the Purple Heart. Pyle was a war correspondent who covered World War II from the trenches of Europe. He was killed during the Battle of Okinawa. Civilians were eligible to receive the Purple Heart between 1942 and 1997. Today, they receive the Defense of Freedom Medal. 


World War II Holds the Record for Most Purple Hearts Awarded As of August 2019, almost two million Purple Hearts have been awarded. World War II saw more Purple Hearts awarded than any other conflict — by a lot. In fact, about 1.07 million Purple Hearts were awarded during World War II, more than were awarded in all of the other conflicts of the 20th century combined. The Gulf War of the early 1990s saw the fewest awarded, with fewer than 1,000 medals.

Some Famous People Have Received The Purple Heart Although each Purple Heart recipient deserves widespread recognition, a handful of honorees standout as household names.  Some famous Purple Heart recipients include actors (Charles Bronson, James Garner, Rod Serling), writers (Kurt Vonnegut, Oliver Stone), athletes (Warren Spahn, Pat Tillman, Rocky Bleier), and even animals Sergeant Stubby the dog and Sergeant Reckless the horse.

Animals Can No Longer Receive a Purple Heart Unless It's Commemorative Animals have long shown that they are just as brave as humans. For this reason, an animal that was wounded in combat used to be eligible to receive the Purple Heart medal, and a few actually did. However, this honor was later stopped in 1944 because an official thought the idea of an animal receiving the award could be seen as insulting to injured humans. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation that officially barred animals from receiving the medal. Since then, some animals have received commemorative Purple Hearts, namely existing medals from humans who donated one of theirs