The Purple Heart Medal is a 1 3/8 inch wide Purple heart bordered with Gold. Within the Purple heart is a profile of General George Washington. Above the heart and between sprays of Green leaves is a replica of the Washington Coat of Arms (a White shield with two Red bars and three Red stars at the top). A raised Bronze heart with "FOR MILITARY MERIT" engraved below the coat of arms and leaves is on the reverse side. The ribbon for the Purple Heart is 1 3/8 inch wide and has three stripes. The first is 1/8 inch and White, middle 1 1/8 inch and Purple, and the third is 1/8 inch and White.
Awarded in the name of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart is awarded to any soldier who while serving after 5 April 1917, in the Armed Forces of the United States has been injured or killed, or who has died or may be expected die after being wounded: (1) In any conflict against an enemy of the United States; (2) While involved in conflict with an opposing armed force of a foreign country that the United States military is or has been engaged; (3) While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in combat against an opposing military in which the United States is not a belligerent party; (4) Because of a result of the actions of any enemy of conflicting armed forces; (5) Because of an act of any unfriendly foreign force; (6) After 28 March 1973, because of an international terrorist attack upon the United States or another nation friendly to the United States. This attack must have been recognized as a terrorist attack by the Secretary or Secretaries of the department/departments involved (if more than one department are injured in the attack); (7) After 28 March 1973, while a part of a peacekeeping force serving in a foreign land, because of military force; (8) After 7 December 1941, by weapon fire while immediately involved in combat, with disregard to the fire which actually caused the wound; (9) During time in captivity or while being taken prisoner of war. After 7 December 1941, it has been awarded to persons that died while held as a POW. The wound justifying the award must have demanded treatment by a medical officer.
On 7 August 1782, from his headquarters at Newburgh, New York, General George Washington recognized the Badge of Military Merit. This award is now the Purple Heart. George Washington wrote: "The General ever desirous to cherish a virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military Merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward".
Only three noncommissioned officers: Sergeant Daniel Bissell of the 2d Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line; Sergeant William Brown of the 5th Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line, and Sergeant Elijah Churchill of the 2d Continental Dragoons, which was also a Connecticut Regiment were awarded the Badge of Military Merit, according to the known remaining records.
After the Revolutionary War there were no awards of the Purple Heart given out. By War Department General Orders No. 3, dated 22 February 1932, the 200th Anniversary of General George Washington's birth, the Purple Heart was revived out of respect for his memory and military accomplishments. War Department Circular dated 22 February 1932, published the criteria for the award and sanctioned award to persons who had been awarded the Meritorious Service Citation Certificate or were certified to wear wound chevrons after to 5 April 1917 at their request.
From 7 December 1941 to 22 September 1943, The Purple Heart was awarded for wounds obtained in combat against the enemy and for meritorious execution of duty in World War II. When an Act of Congress created the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart was no longer awarded for meritorious service. Executive Order 9277, dated 3 December 1942, declared the Purple Heart to be appropriate to all branches of the military and order demanded that regulations of the Services be consistent as possible in the awarding. At this time, it was also authorized that the Purple Heart only be awarded for wounds received.
Executive Order 10409, dated 12 February 1952, revised authorizations to include the Service Secretaries with the approval of the Secretary of Defense. Executive Order 11016, dated 25 April 1962, allowed the award of the Purple Heart posthumously. Executive Order 12464, dated 23 February 1984, provided for the award as a result of terrorist attacks or while operating as part of a peacekeeping force after 28 March 1973.
13 June 1985 the Senate approved an amendment to the 1985 Authorization Bill to change the order from just above the Good Conduct Medal to directly above the Meritorious Service Medals. The award was approved for wounds received as a result of "friendly fire" by Public Law 99-145. The eligibility date to receive the award was expanded approving the award to a former POW wounded before 25 April 1962 by Public Law 104-106.
Effective 18 May 1998, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year1998 (Public Law 105-85) deleted the approval for the award of the Purple Heart Medal to any United States civilian national while performing under command of the Armed Forces.