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New Old Stock Purple Hearts Awarded in the Present, Internet Article

Article about: A good example of a conundrum for future collectors. Fifty years from now, when most of us will be very old or passed on, some collector will buy one of these medals from WWII, awarded to a

  1. #1

    Arrow New Old Stock Purple Hearts Awarded in the Present, Internet Article

    A good example of a conundrum for future collectors. Fifty years from now, when most of us will be very old or passed on, some collector will buy one of these medals from WWII, awarded to a modern day armed forces personnel and say "it can't be real as it isn't textbook" or at least ponder whether engraving is "fake"...



    I thought this might be of interest to some. Kind of ironic that Hearts struck during WW II for an invasion that was not to be, are now being awarded to the grandsons of that generation.



    Are New Purple Hearts Being Manufactured to Meet the Demand?



    Are New Purple Hearts Being Manufactured to Meet the Demand?
    By D.M Giangreco and Kathryn Moore

    Mr. Giangreco is the author of War in Korea: 1950-1953. He and Kathryn Moore are co-authors of Dear Harry . . . Truman’s Mailroom, 1945-1953: The Truman Administration through Correspondence with "Everyday Americans" and the upcoming Eyewitness D-Day.

    In 2000, for the first time in years, the government ordered a new supply of Purple Hearts. The old supply, manufactured in anticipation of the invasion of the home islands of Japan during World War II, had begun to run low.

    The decoration, which goes to American troops wounded in battle and the families of those killed in action, had been only one of countless thousands of supplies produced for the planned 1945 invasion of Japan, which military leaders believed would last until almost 1947.

    Fortunately, the invasion never took place. All the other implements of that war -- tanks and LSTs, bullets and K-rations -- have long since been sold, scrapped or used up, but these medals, struck for their grandfathers, are still being pinned on the chests of young soldiers.

    Remarkably, some 120,000 Purple Hearts are still in the hands of the Armed Services and are not only stocked at military supply depots, but also kept with major combat units and at field hospitals so they can be awarded without delay.

    But although great numbers of the World War II stock are still ready for use, the recent production of 9,000 new copies was ordered for the most simple of bureaucratic reasons. So many medals had been transferred to the Armed Services that the government organization responsible for supplying them had to replenish its own inventory.

    In all, approximately 1,506,000 Purple Hearts were produced for the war effort with production reaching its peak as the Armed Services geared up for the invasion of Japan. Despite wastage, pilfering and items that were simply lost, the number of decorations was approximately 495,000 after the war.

    By 1976, roughly 370,000 Purple Hearts had been earned by servicemen and women who fought in America’s Asian wars, as well as trouble spots in the Middle East and Europe. This total included a significant number issued to World War II and even World War I veterans whose paperwork had finally caught up with them or who filed for replacement of missing awards.

    It was at this point that the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia (DSCP) found that its decades-old stock of Purple Hearts had dwindled to the point that it had to be replenished.

    The organization ordered a small number of medals in 1976 to bolster the "shelf worn" portions of the earlier production still retained by the Armed Services at scattered locations around the globe. It wasn’t long, however, before an untouched warehouse load of the medal was rediscovered after falling off the books. The DSCP suddenly found themselves in possession of nearly 125,000 more Purple Hearts.

    Increasing terrorist activity in the late 1970s and ’80s resulted in mounting casualties among service personnel and a decision was made to inspect and refurbish all of the remaining stock. Fully 4,576 of the 124,588 medals stored in the Pennsylvania warehouse were deemed to be too costly to bring up to standards and were labeled "un-salvageable." The remaining decorations were refurbished and repackaged between 1985 and 1991.

    Demand for the item was high. By the end of 1999, most of the refurbished medals had been shipped to other government customers and the DSCP entered into contracts for the first large-scale production of Purple Hearts since World War II.

    Veterans of World War II were keenly interested in the new development, particularly those who had worked with the Smithsonian Institution on the 50th Anniversary display of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Controversy had erupted over the Smithsonian’s presentation at the National Air and Space Museum, when veterans protested that the multimedia display and exhibit script was crafted in a way that portrayed the Japanese as victims, and not instigators, of the war.

    The veterans were heavily criticized in some academic circles for their insistence that the dropping of the atom bomb had ended the war quickly and ultimately saved countless thousands of American -- and Japanese -- lives during an invasion.

    When hearing of the new production, Jim Pattillo, then president of the 20th Air Force Association stated that, "detailed information on the kind of casualties expected would have been a big help in demonstrating to modern Americans that those were very different times."

    Medical and training information in "arcanely worded military documents can be confusing," said Pattillo, "but everyone understands a half-million Purple Hearts."

    Gary Hoebecke is one of the soldiers who received Purple Hearts during service in Vietnam for wounds suffered in 1965, 1968 and 1969. The retired lieutenant colonel was amazed that the decades-old medals are still being used.

    "With all the waste and screw-ups," said Hoebecke, "it’s quite remarkable that they have kept track of that stock and are still using them."

    When told that 125,000 had effectively been lost until after the Vietnam War, Hoebecke laughed. "Now that’s the Army I know!" he said, adding, "I’m glad we didn’t have to use them."

    But perhaps the most poignant appreciation came from a fellow Vietnam vet who learned for the first time that he had received a medal minted for the grandfathers of he and his buddies. "I will never look at my Purple Heart the same way again," he said.
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  2. #2

    Default Re: New Old Stock Purple Hearts Awarded in the Present, Internet Article

    Great post Steve, Thanks for this information. This is very interesting and did not know some of these facts.

    Here is my Purple Heart to see, well not mine, it was my Mothers Brother, my Uncle. These items shown I have had since I was 7-8 years old. I am 52 now.

    These items from "Uncle Buddy" as he was known when growing up, and some of my Fathers and Grandfathers WW2 items, are what got me started on a lifetime of Military interest and collecting. (Also shown is a 24 hour pass of my Fathers )

    Sorry to get off track, or hijack your thread, but wanted to show this Purple Heart, and tell the story with it. They mean a lot to me.

    One more thing, the Purple Heart was awarded posthumously in 1950, and given to my grandmother. They did not find him, and the other 9 members of the crew of his B-24 until 1950. The plane was found on an island in Greece.

    Happy Holidays, and Godspeed to our soldiers.

    Regards, Steve
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #3

    Default Re: New Old Stock Purple Hearts Awarded in the Present, Internet Article

    Quote by Steven M View Post
    A good example of a conundrum for future collectors. Fifty years from now, when most of us will be very old or passed on, some collector will buy one of these medals from WWII, awarded to a modern day armed forces personnel and say "it can't be real as it isn't textbook" or at least ponder whether engraving is "fake"...



    I thought this might be of interest to some. Kind of ironic that Hearts struck during WW II for an invasion that was not to be, are now being awarded to the grandsons of that generation.



    Are New Purple Hearts Being Manufactured to Meet the Demand?



    Are New Purple Hearts Being Manufactured to Meet the Demand?
    By D.M Giangreco and Kathryn Moore

    Mr. Giangreco is the author of War in Korea: 1950-1953. He and Kathryn Moore are co-authors of Dear Harry . . . Trumanís Mailroom, 1945-1953: The Truman Administration through Correspondence with "Everyday Americans" and the upcoming Eyewitness D-Day.

    In 2000, for the first time in years, the government ordered a new supply of Purple Hearts. The old supply, manufactured in anticipation of the invasion of the home islands of Japan during World War II, had begun to run low.

    The decoration, which goes to American troops wounded in battle and the families of those killed in action, had been only one of countless thousands of supplies produced for the planned 1945 invasion of Japan, which military leaders believed would last until almost 1947.

    Fortunately, the invasion never took place. All the other implements of that war -- tanks and LSTs, bullets and K-rations -- have long since been sold, scrapped or used up, but these medals, struck for their grandfathers, are still being pinned on the chests of young soldiers.

    Remarkably, some 120,000 Purple Hearts are still in the hands of the Armed Services and are not only stocked at military supply depots, but also kept with major combat units and at field hospitals so they can be awarded without delay.

    But although great numbers of the World War II stock are still ready for use, the recent production of 9,000 new copies was ordered for the most simple of bureaucratic reasons. So many medals had been transferred to the Armed Services that the government organization responsible for supplying them had to replenish its own inventory.

    In all, approximately 1,506,000 Purple Hearts were produced for the war effort with production reaching its peak as the Armed Services geared up for the invasion of Japan. Despite wastage, pilfering and items that were simply lost, the number of decorations was approximately 495,000 after the war.

    By 1976, roughly 370,000 Purple Hearts had been earned by servicemen and women who fought in Americaís Asian wars, as well as trouble spots in the Middle East and Europe. This total included a significant number issued to World War II and even World War I veterans whose paperwork had finally caught up with them or who filed for replacement of missing awards.

    It was at this point that the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia (DSCP) found that its decades-old stock of Purple Hearts had dwindled to the point that it had to be replenished.

    The organization ordered a small number of medals in 1976 to bolster the "shelf worn" portions of the earlier production still retained by the Armed Services at scattered locations around the globe. It wasnít long, however, before an untouched warehouse load of the medal was rediscovered after falling off the books. The DSCP suddenly found themselves in possession of nearly 125,000 more Purple Hearts.

    Increasing terrorist activity in the late 1970s and í80s resulted in mounting casualties among service personnel and a decision was made to inspect and refurbish all of the remaining stock. Fully 4,576 of the 124,588 medals stored in the Pennsylvania warehouse were deemed to be too costly to bring up to standards and were labeled "un-salvageable." The remaining decorations were refurbished and repackaged between 1985 and 1991.

    Demand for the item was high. By the end of 1999, most of the refurbished medals had been shipped to other government customers and the DSCP entered into contracts for the first large-scale production of Purple Hearts since World War II.

    Veterans of World War II were keenly interested in the new development, particularly those who had worked with the Smithsonian Institution on the 50th Anniversary display of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Controversy had erupted over the Smithsonianís presentation at the National Air and Space Museum, when veterans protested that the multimedia display and exhibit script was crafted in a way that portrayed the Japanese as victims, and not instigators, of the war.

    The veterans were heavily criticized in some academic circles for their insistence that the dropping of the atom bomb had ended the war quickly and ultimately saved countless thousands of American -- and Japanese -- lives during an invasion.

    When hearing of the new production, Jim Pattillo, then president of the 20th Air Force Association stated that, "detailed information on the kind of casualties expected would have been a big help in demonstrating to modern Americans that those were very different times."

    Medical and training information in "arcanely worded military documents can be confusing," said Pattillo, "but everyone understands a half-million Purple Hearts."

    Gary Hoebecke is one of the soldiers who received Purple Hearts during service in Vietnam for wounds suffered in 1965, 1968 and 1969. The retired lieutenant colonel was amazed that the decades-old medals are still being used.

    "With all the waste and screw-ups," said Hoebecke, "itís quite remarkable that they have kept track of that stock and are still using them."

    When told that 125,000 had effectively been lost until after the Vietnam War, Hoebecke laughed. "Now thatís the Army I know!" he said, adding, "Iím glad we didnít have to use them."

    But perhaps the most poignant appreciation came from a fellow Vietnam vet who learned for the first time that he had received a medal minted for the grandfathers of he and his buddies. "I will never look at my Purple Heart the same way again," he said.
    Steve,
    Excellent posting. Valuable information for the medal collector. I recall visiting the awards and decorations office at Ft. Monroe in 1980 to see if I could gather a couple medals for a retirement plaque for our boss. The Sgt told me to go into the closet and get what I needed. While in there is noticed stacks of WW2 period medals from DSC's down to campaign medals. I went through the cases and found two numbered DSC's and several wrap broach DFC's and Air Medals. I suspect that this situation is still true today.

    Terry

  4. #4

    Default Re: New Old Stock Purple Hearts Awarded in the Present, Internet Article

    Steve-

    No problem, I am glad that you shared such a meaningful group with us. I regard the Purple Heart with as much admiration and respect as I do the Medal of Honor...


    Major-

    That is fascinating and serves as proof and validation to this topic of this posting. Thanks for sharing the story!
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  5. #5

    Default Re: New Old Stock Purple Hearts Awarded in the Present, Internet Article

    Quote by Steven M View Post
    Steve-

    No problem, I am glad that you shared such a meaningful group with us. I regard the Purple Heart with as much admiration and respect as I do the Medal of Honor...

    Thanks Steve, glad you enjoyed seeing my Uncle Buddy's Purple Heart. I did not mean to highjack your Info thread. I missed this reply. Happy New Year, I hope it's a good one for all.
    I agree, the Purple Heart is synonymous with "Honor" to your country....especially in my Uncle's case, he received it for the ultimate honor to your country, giving his 26 year old life.
    He also chose to stay on after 25 missions, and the 28 or 29th mission was his...and the crews last. Maybe not wise, and pushing his luck, but very honorable also.

    Here are two nice pics of him I took out of the frame and scanned. In the crew pic he is kneeling on left.
    I have looked at this crew photo for close to 50 years now, and never get tired of looking at it when I do. Everything about this picture has always fascinated me, and also has made me very proud to have had such a patriot and warrior in our family. (Also very proud of my Father & his Dad, my Grandfathers service, although they were not too much in the "warrior" category)
    The other crew members in this photo look to be real characters, especially the look of the tall fellow in back, and the Captain right next to my Uncle Buddy. I have other photos also, but this one is my favorite.

    Regard, Steve "Dr.Ruby" ...You need to click picture a couple times to enlarge it.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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