From Robert J. Novak, Derby Historical Society
- On August 7, 1782, General George Washington, from his Newburgh, NY, headquarters, devised a General Order. The Order read “The General directs that whenever any singular meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a Heart, in purple cloth silk... to be considered as a permanent one”. The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration for the United States Army and the first ever made available to enlisted men. The award was discontinued after the Revolutionary War.
- On January 7, 1931, Army Chief of Staff General Douglass MacArthur began an effort to have the Purple Heart decoration revived as part of the bicentennial observances of the birth of George Washington.
- On February 22, 1931, the United States War Department announced the Purple Heart had been revived as a military decoration, to be awarded to soldiers who receive “A wound which necessitates treatment by a medical officer and which is received in action with an enemy, may in the judgment of the commander authorized to make the award be construed as resulting from a singularly meritorious act of essential service”. The decoration was initially made retroactive to eligible soldiers who served in World War I.
- Not content with allowing their wounded veterans to merely receive their Purple Hearts in the mail, recipients from the Connecticut cities and towns of Derby, Ansonia, Seymour, and Shelton, were awarded their decorations in an elaborate ceremony at Community Field in Ansonia. The exercises were part of the communities’ Washington bicentennial celebration in September of 1932.
- Following the award ceremony, the Purple Heart recipients formed an organization called the Purple Heart Association, on September 21, 1932. Seeking to form a national organization, the local group called themselves “George Washington Chapter, No. 1”, and designated their officers as the national officers of the Purple Heart Association.
- The State of Connecticut incorporated the organization on September 30, 1932.
- By October of 1933, the Purple Heart Association had grown to ten chapters in six states, with more chapters in the process of organizing. The first national convention of the Purple Heart Association was held in Derby, Connecticut, on October 6 and 7, 1933. Derby’s Sterling Opera House, which at the time also served as that municipality’s City Hall, served as the convention hall.