American Cold War Veterans

For Immediate Release: Contact: Natalie Ravitz or Sarah Misailidis
August 30, 2007 (202) 224-8120


Washington, D.C. - The Department of Defense has finally agreed to a long-time request by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and is recommending that the President expand eligibility for the Purple Heart to all prisoners of war who die in captivity, regardless of the cause of death.

Currently, only POWs who die during their imprisonment of wounds inflicted by an instrument of war meet the criteria for posthumous Purple Heart recognition. Those who die of starvation, disease, or other causes during captivity do not.

In a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Under Secretary of Defense David Chu stated that the Department advised changing the Purple Heart eligibility criteria to include all POWs who die in captivity.

"I am so pleased that the Defense Department has finally agreed that Purple Heart eligibility should be expanded to include all prisoners of war who died in captivity," Senator Boxer said. "General George Washington wrote that we should honor with the Purple Heart, 'not only instances of unusual gallantry but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service.' Those brave Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice as prisoners of war should be eligible for this honor. I hope the President will act swiftly on the Defense Department's recommendation-the families of our fallen POWs deserve no less."

In December 2005, Boxer first introduced the "Honor Our Fallen Prisoners of War Act," legislation to expand eligibility of the Purple Heart to all POWs who die in captivity.

In March of this year, Senator Boxer and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) wrote to President Bush expressing their disappointment that the Administration missed a congressionally-mandated deadline for a decision on expanding eligibility. Section 556 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 required the President to submit a report to Congress on expanding eligibility for the Purple Heart to include all those who die in a prisoner of war camps-including those who cause of death is unknown.

Approximately 17,000 prisoners of war have died while in captivity since December 7, 1941 - the start of World War II. More than 8,000 Korean War servicemen and more than 1,800 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.