90 YEARS AGO TODAY: 22 February 1932, The modern Purple Heart medal was established by General Order #3, signed by General Douglas MacArthur. The date was chosen in observance the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. The award was inspired by the Badge of Military Merit, created by Washington in the waning days of the Revolution. As was the Badge of Military Merit, the Purple Heart was also originally a merit-based award. Wounds received in action were one way a person could qualify for the award.
Since 1942, the medal is awarded to U.S. service members who have been killed or wounded by enemy action.