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Too Many Purple Hearts?

March 2024
1min read


In “Half a Million Purple Hearts” (December/January 2001 issue), the authors, D. M. Giangreco and Kathryn Moore, in effect refute their own thesis. They say that the fact that the United States ordered 9,000 new Purple Hearts during the bombing of Kosovo “had nothing to do with imminent combat,” that the medals “were ordered for the simplest of bureaucratic reasons”: The United States “had to replenish its own inventory.” I would emphasize that a half-million Purple Hearts on hand when World War II ended does not prove that the military or President Truman believed that half a million American lives would have been lost in an invasion of Japan. The military is notorious for ordering far more equipment than it needs.

Historians have demonstrated that the largest pre-Hiroshima estimates of casualties by military planners for the invasion of Japan (southern Kyushu, November 1945; northwestern Kyushu, highly unlikely; and Honshu, March 1946, probably unlikely) were 46,000 dead, 170,000 wounded, and 4,000 missing. Moreover, at a June 18, 1945, meeting at the White House, General Marshall informed President Truman, “There is reason to believe that the first 30 days in Kyushu should not exceed the price we have paid for Luzon [31,000 casualties].”

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