On This Day in … 1782

George Washington creates the Badge for Military Merit (most  commonly known as the Purple Heart) to recognise singularly meritorious action. It is only awarded to three known soldiers in the Revolutionary War.

It fell into disuse for 150 years until it was revived in the 1930s. The number of casualties anticipated in an American invasion of Japan during the Second World War was so high that half a million Purple Hearts were manufactured.

After the surrender of Japan following the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki these were no longer needed. There are still 100,000 of this order left.