This award, the modern form of the original Purple Heart established by General George Washington in 1782, is conferred on any person wounded in action while serving with the Armed Forces of the United States. It is also awarded posthumously to the next of kin of personnel killed or having died of wounds received in action after April 5, 1917.
The Purple Heart is awarded for wounds or death as result of an act of any opposing Armed Force, as a result of an international terrorist attack or as a result of military operations while serving as part of a peacekeeping force.
All the USAFE Fallen Airmen who were killed based on this criteria received purple hearts.
Prior to the adoption of the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star Medal, it was given by the Army for meritorious service. The decoration was authorized for the Army by a War Department order of February 22, 1932, and for Navy and Marine Corps personnel by a Navy Department order of January 21, 1943, superseded by an executive order of November 12, 1952.
The heart-shaped medal, one of the best known and also one of the most beautiful of our decorations, was designed by Elizabeth Will and modeled by John R. Sinnock. The inner heart on the obverse is of purple plastic (originally enamel), and the sculptured outer heart of gold-colored metal. On the purple heart General Washington is shown in profile, facing left, in a relief also of gold-colored metal. Above this heart is Washington's coat of arms, and enamel shield of white with two horizontal bands of red, and above them three red stars with sprays of green leaves on either side of the shield.
The reverse of the medal is entirely of gold-colored metal, including the shield and leaves. Within the sculptured outer heart and below the shield is the inscription, set in three lines, "For Military Merit," with a space below for the recipient's name. The ribbon is deep purple with narrow white edges.
Second and subsequent awards of the Purple Heart are denoted by a gold star for Navy and Marine Corps personnel and by an oak-leaf cluster for Army and Air Force personnel.