• Purple Hearts

    Purple Hearts

    Few sacrifices are more heartbreaking than battlefield deaths. Because of that, the U.S. War Department and local communities do what they can to support the families left behind. Click below to learn more.
  • 1
During World War II, the United States suffered 407,316 military deaths.

The process of handling and reporting these losses to family members was a monumental task that followed the same basic pattern throughout the conflict.

Generally, the War Department would notify the family of their loss with a Western Union telegram. If the death was not confirmed, families received a telegram informing them that the serviceman in question was Missing in Action. Then, later, as the death was confirmed, the family would receive a final telegram informing them their loved one was killed.

Receiving either of those telegrams was the greatest fear of any family who had relatives serving with our Armed Forces. One can just imagine the grief family members felt when they received one or both of these sad and terrible telegrams.

After the telegrams, the family received a Purple Heart medal that was engraved on the back with their loved one's name. Service members who were wounded in action received the same Purple Heart medal, but without a name engraved on the back.

Many times the family would also receive a letter from the US War Department, the soldier’s commanding officer or the unit chaplain trying to briefly explain the circumstances of their loved one's death.

Later, families received a paper certificate from the US Government commemorating their loved one's death. The certificate included the name, army number and date of death. There were two basic types of these documents. Some families received only one certificate, while others received both documents.

After members of the communities found out about the death of one of their residents, families sometimes received letters of condolences from local agencies, businesses, newspapers, and other organizations. These condolence letters were different in each community.

Our museum is proud to have a comprehensive collection of killed in action Purple Heart medals, related telegrams and paperwork. We believe this memorabilia is an important part of memorializing the sacrifices made by our service members during World War II and all other wars in which this country has been involved. It is a fitting tribute to all the members of our Armed Forces from past to present.