The date chosen was deliberate. It was on that day 249 years ago that General Washington created what was then called the Badge of Military Merit. It's story has oft been covered in this space.
This year that date was yesterday, and events took place across the U.S. in honour of the brave men and women who were either wounded or killed in action.
Today the Purple Heart is known as the oldest military medal in the U.S.. However fact checkers can quickly discovered that the Badge was discontinued after only a handful were awarded and within a few months of it's very creation.
Thus any claim that it is the oldest medal in use with the U.S. military is 100% wrong, though revisionist history has yet to admit it.
The original order creating the Badge of Military Merit actually created three "badges." The first being a service stripe, then called a "strip" for 3 years of faithful service, including bravery, fidelity and good conduct and a 2nd badge, made of 2 strips (stripes), for those serving 6 or more years of such service. And those strips... or stripes... are still in use and it is these that one could claim are the oldest "Medals" still in service with the U.S. military.
While other attempts to revive the original badge, (which consisted of a piece of purple cloth and bearing the word "merit " failed, things changed in the early 1930's.
No doubt with approved from his superiors, on 22 Feb, 1932 General MacArthur issued his General Order #3 and created the Purple Heart of today. It was in the image of the earlier clothe version from so many years earlier.
General MacArthur, being the shy man he was (not) declared that he was to be the first in the military to receive the new medal. Some claim, though I have yet to verify, that the reverse of his medal has it numbered... #1.
Over the past several years, in early August I have reviewed the web regarding the Purple Heart. In most of those searches the reader would learn that MacArthur' PH was the first ever earned or awarded.
While he clearly seems to be the first to take possession of the medal, his pecking order has him NOT in first place.
With the very creation of MacArthur's Purple Heart in 1932, there was an interesting clause in the legislation. It provided for the backdating of the award to those qualified and going as far as 5 April 1917.
But the web is usually silent on this legality.
MacArthur received 2 Purple Hearts. They were dated for actions on 11 March 1918 and a 2nd medal on 12 October 1918, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Army.
This same sight... and others document that prior to the above dates, actions on 17 Aug., 1917 saw a Purple Heart awarded for a member of the US military for losing sight in one eye while tending the wounded in battle. The event has been referred to as possibly the first victim of WW l for the US... even when the U.S. was yet to join in that war.
And whist so little mentioned on the net, THIS FIRST Purple Heart was awarded... not to a soldier... but to a nurse, and about 7 months before MacArthur got his first of 2 Purple Hearts.
And her name was Beatrice Mary MacDonald, and she was a Canadian, from PEI, working as an American nurse in a British hospital in Belgium. It was clearly marked as such but the Germans bombed it anyway.
Too bad the web can't tell you this as much as telling of the false claim that MacArthur was the first to get this precious medal.
Back on Sunday next.