Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Since it is Veterans Day (and points to you for knowing that this is the day - 11/11 - that the Versailles peace treaty was signed - at 11:11am - that ended World War I), here are some interesting facts about the Purple Heart.  The PH is awarded to servicemen and servicewomen who have been wounded while performing their duties.

The PH was actually dreamt up by George Washington, who decided to give out little fabric hearts to three soldiers during the Revolutionary War.  It lapsed until after World War I, when people (including George MacArthur) revived the medal, designing the version you see today.

In World War II, 964,409 Purple Hearts were awarded.  In Korea: 136,936.  In Vietnam: 200,676.  In the Persian Gulf: 590.  In Afghanistan: 2,743 (as of August of this year).  In Iraq: 33,923 (as of August as well).

Interestingly, the Purple Hearts that are handed out to soldiers today are from the stock of Purple Hearts that the Pentagon still has on hand from the end of World War II.  Anticipating massive casualties from invading Japan, the Pentagon ordered 500,000 medals.  If you add up all the casualties since WWII, you'll see that this does not add up to 500,000.  So all the Purple Hearts awarded to soldiers today were cast in 1944-45.  There are enough PH's in stock that units in Iraq actually carry them around to award them on the field of battle.

By the way, it is a federal offense to sell your Purple Heart, as it is a federal offense to fake one.

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