Purple Heart

Purple Heart medal

Known officially as the Order of the Purple Heart for Military Merit, this award is given to soldiers who are wounded in the line of duty. The Purple Heart (known originally as the Badge of Military Merit) was created by General George Washington in 1782 during the American Revolution.

Records relating to this award were lost until they were discovered in 1932, after which the United States Army created the modern Purple Heart medal, which bears an image of General Washington as well as the Washington coat of arms.


During the opening and closing scenes of Saving Private Ryan the elderly James Ryan is seen wearing a Purple Heart lapel pin along with a 101st Airborne pin. The members of Miller's company who had been killed would have been posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

There is some question as to when Private Ryan would have earned his Purple Heart. He did not seem to be injured following the Battle of Ramelle, but it is possible that he was injured while returning to the States.