By Ron Asby
In August, it seems like nothing is really important of note other than getting out of the Georgia heat. Sitting out on the veranda with a funeral home fan and sipping sweet tea is stereotypical of the South of old to beat the heat.
There are actually two very important events that occurred historically in August.
On Aug. 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced news of Japan’s surrender in a press conference at the White House: “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when Fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.” Jubilant Americans declared Aug. 14 “Victory over Japan Day,” or “VJ Day.”
The war in the Pacific was one of the bloodiest and hard fought campaigns the world had ever seen. In nearly four years of combat, U.S. casualties were 111,606 killed in action, 253,142 wounded and 21,580 prisoners of war. Japan’s casualties were 1,740,000 killed in action, 94,000 wounded, 41,440 prisoners of war and 393,400 civilian deaths.
Did you know that Aug. 7 is Purple Heart Day in the United States? Purple Heart Day commemorates the creation of the Purple Heart on Aug. 7, 1792 by Gen. George Washington, commanderinchief of the Continental Army. Only three known soldiers were awarded this honor during the Revolutionary War: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell Jr.
The medal was originally designated the Badge for Military Merit. The badge was to be presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action” and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge. The honoree’s name and regiment were also to be inscribed in a Book of Merit.
The Book of Merit was lost, and the decoration was largely forgotten until 1927, when Gen. Charles P. Summerall, the U.S. Army chief of staff, sent an unsuccessful draft bill to Congress to “revive the Badge of Military Merit.” In 1931, Summerall’s successor, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, took up the cause, hoping to reinstate the medal in time for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. On Feb. 22, 1932, Washington’s 200th birthday, the U.S. War Department announced the creation of the Order of the Purple Heart. Purple Heart medals were to be awarded to those wounded or killed while serving in the United States Armed Forces as a result of enemy action on or after April 5, 1917. The United States officially joined the World War I on April 6, 1917.
The Purple Heart is a heartshaped purple medal with a gold border. The front has a profile of George Washington, with the inscription “for military merit” on the back. The medal is attached to a piece of purple silk with a silver border.
Since World War I, about 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded. Look around; you just might see one of these heroes sitting on the veranda with a funeral home fan and a glass of sweet tea. Thank them for their service.
God Bless America!
Commander Ron Asby
Donations can be mailed to North Cobb Post 304, 4220 S. Main St., Acworth, GA 30101 or
via the Donate tab on the Post website, www.post304.org.