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Where Did the Purple Heart Come From?

purple heart, military award, metal
The idea of the purple heart originated with General George Washington in 1782. (Image credit: U.S. Army | Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Back on an August day in 1782, General George Washington ordered a "Badge of Military Merit" created. It had a purple cloth heart with a silver braided edge. Only three people are known to have been given the award during the Revolutionary War, and the idea got lost in the shuffle of a radically changing country. In 1932, on the 200th anniversary of Washington's birth, the concept was revived by the U.S. War Department and the name changed to the Purple Heart. Bearing an image of Washington, it is awarded to troops injured by the enemy.

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Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at Space.com starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.