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The Complete Posthumous Purple Heart Grouping


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We sometimes hear and/or see a KIA Purple Heart grouping advertized as being complete. I have spent some time thinking about what in fact would constitute a “complete” grouping for a WWII period posthumous Purple Heart. In this example I have focused on an Army award. Have also tried to focus on items that were officially government issued and received by the veteran’s next of kin (NOK). Here is a rough list of what I have come up with:


Cased Purple Heart Award to include:

- Purple Heart medal with official government engraving

- Ribbon Bar

- Lapel Pin

- Two swatches of Purple Heart ribbon material

- Enclosure card or small letter from the PQMD or Secretary of the Army


Two piece outer box for Purple Heart case

- Tissue Paper


Outer mailing container for boxed cased medal addressed to NOK


Award Documents

- Purple Heart award certificate

- Purple Heart award accolade (President Roosevelt or Truman)

- “The Purple Heart Awarded Posthumously” letter from the War Department

- Mailing tube for certificate, accolade, and letter addressed to NOK


KIA telegram notification to NOK


KIA letter from specific Service Command, Army Service Forces


KIA letter(s) from various levels of command


Letter from Quartermaster General regarding the veteran’s initial burial location


Army Service Forces letter regarding return of personal property


Burial Flag

- Burial flag information enclosure card

- Mailing box for burial flag addressed to NOK

- Casket identification tag (if remains were returned to USA)


I began to struggle here for a variety of reasons. How much of the official correspondence regarding the “disinterment and final burial” process should be included for a complete grouping? Should the letter from the Quartermaster General regarding the “Request for Disposition of Remains” be included? What about the pamphlets supplied with this form? Notice of burial location letter with photograph of cemetery? Notice letter of final interment (if overseas)? Or associated paperwork (letters, telegrams, etc) for those veteran’s who were ultimately returned to the USA? Should these items be included even though on most occasions this correspondence was received at least two years after the soldier fell and the family was notified?


I also wanted to include the officially engraved (initials of NOK) Gold Star lapel pin as it was an official issue item, even though it had to be requested. But as above, this item did not become available until 1947 long after the soldier’s death.


I also feel there are other items that are not official issue that certainly make a grouping feel complete:

- KIA letters from local, state, and federal authorities and officials

- Letters of condolence from family and friends

- Interment memorial program, prayer cards, etc

- Newspaper clippings, obituaries, etc

- Photographs of the veteran, scrapbooks, other correspondence, etc


Once I started working on the list it soon became apparent that there are a lot of items in a truly complete grouping. That said even in realization that I’ve probably overlooked some things. I’m certainly no authority so I would appreciate the thoughts of others on what should be considered a “complete” grouping. Regardless, I would assert that for a collector to acquire a grouping with all or even most of these items is a lofty goal! Looking to learn and for some discussion here so all thoughts and comments either pro or con are desired ....

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Your list is remarkably complete. Well done! With regard to the NOK pin, it was given upon application to the immediate NOK (i.e., the parents or those "in loco parentis," widow/widower) free of charge. The immediate family (children - sic! - siblings, etc.) could purchase it at cost.

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I like the list, there could be other things in it, a shirt left home, a four pocket tunic, etc. But for a list that covers a totally complete KIA group, this nails it pretty much, at least in my feeble mind.



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Very interesting topic! What about the groups where the serviceman died of wounds? Then I think you would have all that you mentioned including the telegrams notifying the NOK about his wounds, how he is progressing, and then the final telegram.


I had the honor of being able to borrow a scrapbook and documents that belonged to a family of a Marine officer who was killed on Iwo Jima. The family is Jewish and in addition to the letters of condolence, there were also several cards notifying the family that a tree had been planted in Israel in the name of their fallen son.

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  • 11 years later...

I wanted to bump this, if nothing else for further discussion. Especially now that Daves wonderful book on the topic has come out. Thanks.

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