On August 7, 1782, General George Washington - then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army - established the Purple Heart award, originally designated as the Badge of Military Merit.
The Purple Heart exists in its current form since 1932, and is awarded to service members "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".
During World War II, almost 500,000 Purple Heart medals were produced in anticipation of the huge number of casualties estimated to result from the planned Allied invasion of Japan. The invasion never happened due to the dropping of the atomic bomb on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, the total combined casualties of the sixty-five years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number, so the Purple Heart medals awarded today are part of that stock.
As of 2010, a total of over 1,900,000 Purple Hearts have been awarded in our nation's history - over 35,000 to service members for wounds sustained in the Iraq War and over 7000 for the war in Afghanistan.