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Definition: Purple Heart, Order of the from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

The earliest US military award for distinguished service beyond the call of duty, established by George Washington 1782, when it was the equivalent of the modern Congressional Medal of Honor. Made of purple cloth bound at the edges, it was worn on the facings over the left breast. After the American Revolution it lapsed until revived by Congress in 1932, when it was established as an award for those wounded in combat. The present Purple Heart is of bronze and enamel.

Summary Article: Purple Heart
From Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable

The original US military decoration of this name was instituted by George Washington in 1782 and awarded for bravery in action. It was simply a purple heart-shaped piece of cloth edged with silver braid and sewn onto the coat. Records show that only three men received it during the War of American Independence (1775-83), after which it was forgotten about for some 150 years. It was revived on 22 February 1932, the bicentenary of Washington's birth, this time as a medal in the form of a purple heart-shaped badge with bronze edges and a relief bust of Washington in military uniform. The reverse side has the inscription 'For Military Merit' and the recipient's name. Purple hearts was also a 1960s slang term for amphetamines.

Copyright © Cassell / The Orion Publishing Group Ltd 2000, 2009

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