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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 14, April 2, 2006, Article 23

WWII SUPPLY OF PURPLE HEARTS LASTED HALF A CENTURY

I came across an interesting 2003 article noting that nearly
half a million Purple Heart medals had been struck but remained
unissued at the end of World War II.  The stockpile had been
created in anticipation of massive losses in a ground invasion
of Japan.  The U.S. government still had 120,000 unissued Purple
Hearts as of 2003, and the remainders of that massive hoard are
likely still being awarded today.

"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."

"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.

"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."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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