On this day, August 7, 1782:
George Washington created the Purple Heart, America's oldest military decoration. He called the award the Badge of Military Merit. See http://www.thepurpleheart.com/history/
"The General, ever desirous to cherish the virtuous ambition in his soldiers as well as 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 his left breast, a 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 due reward."
The badge permitted the wearer to pass sentinels without challenge. Only three soldiers -- Elijah Churchill, William Brown, and Daniel Bissell Jr -- are known to have received the award during the Revolutionary War.
After the Revolution the badge fell out of use. In 1932 the military revived the decoration to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth. The Order of The Purple Heart is now awarded to members of the armed services who have been wounded or killed in action. The modern medal has a bronze heart bearing Washington's silhouette in its purple center and the Washington coat-of-arms at the top.
Why did Washington choose purple? No one knows for certain, but for ages purple had been the color of royalty. In Washington's eyes, the common soldier who sacrificed for his country deserved as much respect as any king. As he wrote in his order creating the decoration, "the road to glory in a patriot arm and a free country is open to all."
Also On This Date:
1789.... Congress establishes the War Department, no known as The Department of Defense.
1942.... U.S. troops land at Guadalcanal, marking a shift by Allied Forces from defensive operations to an offensive campaign in the Pacific in World War II?
1959.... The U.S. launches Explorer 6, the first satellite to photograph Earth from orbit.
1998.... Al-Queda explodes bombs at U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people, including 12 Americans.