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The Intriguing World War II Story About Purple Hearts!

One of the highly-recognized and honorable medals awarded to American service member is the Purple Heart given to those injured or killed in combat.

Originating in 1782 when George Washington called it the Badge of Merit, many of these medals can be seen on display in military history museums all over the country.

Medal and badge displays at World War II living history museums are interesting and sentimental looks back into history and the recognition that service members have received through the decades.

The Purple Heart Today

The Purple Heart is still awarded today to the courageous members of all branches of our military services to recognize their sacrifice if they have been injured or died facing an enemy.

Recipients of all Purple Hearts are also now recognized on August 7th, Purple Heart Day, an unofficial military holiday that honors those millions who have sacrificed their well-being and many their lives for this great country.

Yet what many may not realize is that the actual Purple Heart medals being awarded today have their own interesting history that makes them, in some eyes, even more significant.

1.5 Million Purple Hearts

The Purple Heart has been an important honor for American military members, especially during World War II.

As Germany was finally surrendering the war in the European theater, President Harry Truman had approximately 1,531,000 medals made, understanding the significance of this recognition.

It was in anticipation of the number of dead that were expected at the time, with the fighting in Japan only just beginning.

The detail that changed all of that and brought far fewer war dead and injured home from Japan than expected was the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan.

Japan surrendered almost immediately afterward, officially ending the Second World War and the potential for further casualties. 

According to historical records, 1,076,245 Purple Hearts were awarded to soldiers who fought in World War II.

Some of these can be found on display in living history museums across the country in tribute to the soldiers that received them. 

The WWII Purple Heart Medal Surplus

So what happened to all of the other Purple Heart medals?

With a surplus of nearly 450,000 medals after WWII and as many as 120,000 still in stock as of the year 2000, they are still being awarded now along with newly-minted medals.

The WWII medals were refurbished with new, compliant ribbons so they matched the newest issues of Purple Heart medals, then added to the general stockpile of Purple Hearts.

While there is no rhyme or reason as to who receives these older, refurbished medals, it is sometimes possible for recipients to research theirs and determine that it was one of the surplus medals produced for World War II.

Visit A Living History Museum - Celebrate Purple Heart Day!

Since 2014, America has recognized Purple Heart Day on August 7th, a day to remember the sacrifices made by millions of our service members of the past as well as any current recipients.

The Purple Heart is only one of many important medals of honor and recognition awarded to U.S. military members that can be seen on display in military history museums including the Museum of the American G.I.

Visiting a living history museum to see medal and badge displays and much more is a great way to honor Purple Heart Day as well as other award recipients while learning about American military history in an enjoyable way.

Celebrate Purple Heart Day - August 7, 2022!

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