Purple Heart History

The “Badge for Military Merit”(precursor to the Purple Heart) was established by George Washington on August 7, 1782.  The design, originally conceived by George Washington, was never really used.  The ledgers containing the names of the recipients were lost.  Only three soldiers received the Badge for Military Merit.  The idea was never truly revived until 1931. General Douglass MacArthur pushed the idea with the US War Department.  On February 1932, George Washington’s 200th Birthday, the US War Department created “The Order of the Purple Heart.”  The design was similar to George Washington’s design.  Also noteworthy, the bust of George Washington was added to the center of the heart.

The Purple Heart is reserved for military service members that are killed or wounded in combat.  In addition, it is also awarded to service members that are maltreated as prisoners of war.

Purple Heart Award USMC Coins USMC Veteran Hats

Purple Heart Award

Purple Heart Recipients by War

This is a estimate of of Purple hearts that were awarded since WWI.

World War I

320,518  (This is the number of service members awarded retroactively since 1917 to 1932)

World War II


Korean War


Vietnam War


Operation Desert Storm


Operation Enduring Freedom


Operation Iraqi Freedom


Arlington National Cemetery USMC Coins USMC Veteran Hats

Arlington National Cemetery USMC Memorial Service

The Bonus Army

Since WWI the United States has come a long way in veteran reform.  Many service members returned home wounded with missing limbs, unable to go back to work.  In 1924, WWI veterans received “Bonus” Certificates, redeemable in 20 years.  However, the Great Depression forced many veterans to try to cash in their certificates early.  20,000 veterans marched on the Capitol to demand financial retribution for their service.  This group was known as the Bonus Army.

Bonus Army March on Washington USMC Coins USMC Veteran Hats

President Hoover did not grant the protesters an audience.  However, the members of the Congressional Delegation did decide to meet with key leaders.  They addressed a wide range of issues.  The delegates than retired to Capitol Hill to deliberate them before Congress.  In the meantime the Bonus Army set up shantytowns across the Potomac.  On June 17th Congress refused their demands and many returned home.

With no where else to go, many stayed put.  President Hoover feared a threat to national security had the shantytowns cleared.  The effort was coordinated with Washington Police and the US Army.  The units commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower forced the protesters out.  In addition, they set fire to the shantytowns.

The public opinion for the Hoover administration waned after that incident.  Nine out of ten protesters were veterans.  20% of the veterans were disabled.  This left many Americans very angry with the way our warriors were treated.

This protest was the largest march on Washington up to that time.  The Bonus Army left an impression with the administration.  Veteran reform would get better after the incident.  Furthermore, that same year in 1932, the Purple Heart Award was approved by the US War Department.

VA Hospital USMC Coins USMC Veteran Hats

VA Hospital

VA Reform

The Purple Heart is not just a military award.  Many State benefits are provided to service members that have one.  Receiving the award can also play a big role in VA benefits after you leave service.  Our Veterans Administration would not be were it is today if the Bonus Army did not march to Washington.

Today having a Purple Heart, or a service connected disability, will aid in getting a federal job.  The respect our nation gives our vets today is a far cry from what it was before.

Purple Heart Shirt by Devil Dog Shirts USMC Coins USMC Veteran Hats

Purple Heart month Devil Dog Shirts

Devil Dog Shirts is proud to give you this next design in honor of those that sacrificed so much for us.  The Marine Corps Purple Heart Shirt design pays homage to the dead and wounded in battle.  In addition, any warrior that can provide an E-copy of their Purple Heart citation will receive 20% the Purple Heart Shirt and Coin.