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.” Test your knowledge of this prestigious recognition of service to our nation with these trivia questions.
Why Did Washington Create the Purple Heart? During the Revolution, the Continental Congress forbade Washington from issuing commissions or promoting a soldier in rank to recognize military merit. But, being the great general he was, Washington wanted a way to honor his enlisted men who perform “any singularly meritorious action,” and so, on August 7, 1782, in Newburgh, New York, Washington ordered the establishment of the Badge of Military Merit. When awarded and worn over his left breast, The Badge of Merit permitted a soldier to pass by guards and sentinels the way a commissioned officer was permitted to do.
How Many People Received a Purple Heart During the Revolutionary War? In addition to the badge, Washington also established a “Book of Merit” where a recipient’s name and regiment would be recorded. Unfortunately, that book has never been recorded. Therefore, we know of only three honorees from the Revolution: Sergeant Elijah Churchill, 2nd Continental Dragoons; Sergeant William Brown, 5th and Sergeant Daniel Bissel, 2nd Connecticut Continental Line Infantry. After the war, the recognition largely disappeared until its resurgence in 1932 by General Douglas MacArthur.
How Many People Have Received One Total? There’s not a definitive record of every honoree and therefore, no known number of awards. In addition to records lost during wartime, a massive fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973 destroyed many of the records. However, it’s estimated that 1.8 million American soldiers have received the Badge of Merit since its establishment on August 7, 1782.
How Does One Qualify to Receive a Purple Heart?
Qualifications have undergone several changes since the establishment of the Badge of Merit. Today, a Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President to any member of the military who, while serving with one of the U.S. Armed Services after April 5, 1917, has been wounded or killed.
While clearly an individual decoration, the Purple Heart differs from all other decorations in that an individual is not "recommended" for the decoration; rather he or she is entitled to it upon meeting specific criteria. Any member of the U.S. Army who believes that he or she is eligible for the Purple Heart, but through unusual circumstances no award was made, may submit an application through military channels.