Edward C. Morse's Purple Heart

Physical Description
The Purple Heart is suspended on purple ribbon. The medal is made in the shape of a heart bordered with gold. Within the center of the heart is a bust of George Washington. On top of the heart is Washington’s coat of arms.
Specific History
This Purple Heart was awarded posthumously to Edward C. Morse who was killed aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the world in present use. It is the first American award made available to the common soldier. General George Washington created it as a Badge of Military Merit. The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded at the hands of the enemy. It is awarded posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.
General History
On December 7, 1941 Japanese aircraft flew over Pearl Harbor just before 8 a.m. The color detail was on deck to raise the flag at the stern at 8. The Arizona came under attack almost immediately, and by about 8:10 received a hit by an 800-kilogram bomb just forward of turret two on the starboard side. Within a few seconds the forward powder magazines exploded. This explosion gutted the forward part of the ship. The foremast and forward superstructure collapsed. Turrets one and two dropped more than twenty feet relative to their normal position. The explosion ignited furious fires in the forward part of the ship. The majority of the crew members were either killed by the explosion and fire or were trapped by the rapid sinking of the ship. 1,177 of the crew died on the ship.
Associated Date
Associated Place
United States
Physical Description
cloth (ribbon bar material)
enamel (lapel button material)
metal, gilt (medal material)
metal, gilt (pendant material)
metal, gilt (pin fastener material)
metal, gilt (suspension ribbon material)
overall: 3 1/2 in x 1 1/2 in x 1/4 in; 8.89 cm x 3.81 cm x .635 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Edward J. Morse
related event
Pearl Harbor, Attack on
World War II
The Emergence of Modern America
See more items in
Armed Forces History: Armed Forces History, Naval
The Price of Freedom: Americans at War
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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