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Purple Heart Recipients for Vietnam

The number of Purple Heart recipients for Vietnam is over 200,000. Following is an overview of the Vietnam War and information about the Purple Heart Medal.

The Vietnam War

Purple Heart Recipients for Vietnam

The Vietnam War was a conflict that lasted a very long time, from 1959 to 1975. It was a part of the goal of the United States to stop the expansion of the Soviet Union and Communism. It occurred during the Cold War and the United States and the Soviet Union were in opposition and each supported a separate side in the conflict. It began with North Vietnam attacking South Vietnam and ended in 1975 when Saigon fell. The United States was involved in the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1973.

North Vietnam was communistic and lead by Ho Chi Minh and South Vietnam was a democratic government lead by Ngo Dinh Diem. The United States became involved after a North Vietnamese torpedo boat assaulted a U.S. warship in the Gulf of Tonkin. Congress granted the president authority to initiate military actions in the area. After the massive Tet offensive in 1968, the war became very unpopular and the U.S. started bringing troops home. On April 30, 1975, North Vietnam took over Saigon and South Vietnam surrendered. The United States lost over 58,000 service personnel during this conflict and more than 153,000 were wounded. Most of these were Purple Heart recipients for Vietnam.

The Purple Heart

The Purple Heart was called the Badge of Military Merit and was established by George Washington on August 7, 1782. This is part of his order: “...he who wears the military order of the Purple Heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen." It was awarded to three Revolutionary soldiers and was not used again until after World War I.

In 1927, General Summerall had a bill sent to Congress to reinstate the Badge of Military Merit. No action was taken, so General Douglas MacArthur continued Summerall’s work. Elizabeth Will designed the new medal, and the Purple Heart was finally revived 200 years after the birth of George Washington on February 22, 1932.

About Purple Heart Recipients for Vietnam

The Purple Heart is in the shape of a heart, surrounded by gold. It is 1 3/8 inches wide and has a profile of George Washington’s bust facing to his right. A shield of George Washington’s Coat of Arms appears above the heart. The shield is white with three red stars at the top and two red bars underneath them. On either side is a spray of green leaves. The reverse side of the medal has a raised heart of bronze with the phrase “FOR MILITARY MERIT” with the words separated on three lines. The shield and leaves at the top are also bronze. The ribbon that holds the medal is 1 3/8 inches wide and has a purple stripe in the center that is 1 1/8 inches wide. It is bordered on both sides by a white stripe 1/8 inch wide.

The Purple Heart is awarded for "Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces".

Records have not been kept consistently so there is no accurate count of how many Purple Hearts have been awarded. Estimates put the amount at around 1,635,000. There have been approximately 200,676 Purple Heart recipients for Vietnam. Over 964,000 were awarded for World War II alone.

It is against the law to state that you have been awarded the Purple Heart if that is not true. The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 established penalties for those who do so, and it covers any kind of false claim: physical, verbal, or written. It is also illegal to sell a Purple Heart Medal. Sale of the medal is a federal offense can bring with it a fine or even time in jail.