The Purple Heart decoration was originally authorized by the Army on February 22, 1932, the two hundredth anniversary of George Washington's birth and was based on a decoration established by Washington and awarded only three times in 1783. General Douglas MacArthur, Army Chief of Staff, was influential in reestablishing the long dormant award. When it was reestablished it was awarded retroactively to those who received the Meritorious Service Citation and also to those who were entitled to wear a wound chevron as a result of World War One or other service. After 1932 the award was to be given for performance of any singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service. In other words the original concept of the award was that it was for various types of military merit and not limited to casualties. On September 19, 1942 it was decided that the Purple Heart would be awarded exclusively to all personnel killed or wounded by enemy action. Other forms of military merit would be recognized by the newly authorized Legion of Merit. A January 21, 1943 executive order extended the decoration to Navy and Marine personnel.
The Congress authorized the Prisoner of War Medal in 1986. At its adoption it was awarded retroactive for service during which the service person became a prisoner of war after the date of April 5, 1917. World War Two veterans thus are eligible for this somewhat belated decoration.