(BPT) – August 7 marks the third anniversary of Purple Heart Day and commemorates the creation of the Purple Heart medal in 1782. The Purple Heart medal is awarded to members of the United States military who are wounded or killed in combat. The predecessor to the Purple Heart medal was the Badge of Military Merit, created in 1782 and retired shortly thereafter.
The Badge of Military Merit was reinstated twice, once in 1927 and again in 1931. General Charles Pelot Summerall wished for a bill to pass in Congress regarding the badge, but no action was taken after 1928. In 1931, General Summerall had been succeeded by General Douglas MacArthur, which brought renewed interest in reinstating the award. On February 22, 1932, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, the Badge of Military Merit was renamed the Purple Heart in honor of the fabric used to create the original award. The first Purple Heart was awarded to General MacArthur.
The U.S. involvement in World War II began after the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. At the time, Hawaii had a large Japanese population, and the government feared their loyalty to the United States and wanted to send them into internment camps. However, 2,000 Japanese-Americans volunteered to serve in the military and wanted to become a fighting force to deploy to Europe or Africa. They formed the 100th Battalion, and due to their ethnicity, they faced animosity from their fellow soldiers. The purple in the Purple Heart Medal represents courage, which is exactly what the 100th Battalion displayed through all adversity. Never giving up, the 100th Battalion won over their comrades and proved their loyalty and bravery during intense trainings.
On September 2, 1943, the 100th Battalion finally deployed to Oran, North Africa, and became a part of the 133rd Infantry Regiment under the 34th Division. It was not until the battle at Monte Cassino that they earned the nickname the “Purple Heart Battalion,” with the motto “Remember Pearl Harbor.” The battalion earned its nickname because of the many casualties it suffered in combat. During this battle they underwent intense fire and bombings, and lost over 800 soldiers, but never gave up, also being given the nickname “little men of iron.” Due to the number of casualties suffered, the 442nd Infantry replenished the 100th ranks, and deployed to Anzio, Italy. Showing courage once again, the 100th Battalion volunteered for the mission to capture two German soldiers, which led to the fall of the final German stronghold in Rome.
The 100th/442nd is considered to be the most highly decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history, with:
* At least 1 Medal of Honor
* 52 Distinguished Service Crosses
* 560 Silver Stars
* 28 Oak Leaf Clusters to the Silver Star
* 4,000 Bronze Stars and 1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters to the Bronze Star
* 9,486 Purple Hearts.
The Purple Heart Battalion embodies the significance of what the Purple Heart medal signifies. No matter the circumstances, home or abroad, and the adversity the Battalion faced, they never gave up, and continued to fight for our country to protect our freedom. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting veterans in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who are in need of assistance while transitioning home from the battlefield. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge here to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve.