Archive for the Dog Tag Category

US Army Dog Tag Necklaces

US army Dog Tag Necklaces

Picture credit: Wikipedia

The US Civil War was the first war in which US soldiers found the need to identify themselves in case of their death knowing as they did that they had a high chance of dying and that it could be days, weeks or months until their bodies were recovered. On both sides in the American Civil Ware soldiers used paper pinned to their tunics to identify themselves and who their families were and where they were.

The US started using dog tag style identification officially in 1906: the first major war in which it was used then was the First World War where other forces including Britain and her commonwealth were already using dog tags.

The First World War American Dog Tags necklaces were aluminium already but were at that time round, they included the regiment or corps of the wearer and only one tag was worn rather than two at first.  It was in 1918 that the serial number system was first created and from then onwards a dog tag included a serial number to make positive identification much easier as each number was unique.

During World War Two there were three main different types of dog tag necklaces used in the US Army, which were now the familiar rounded rectangular shape.  The first design was used from 1941 through to July 1943. The details on the first included as well as name, serial number, tetanus date and blood type, the name and address including city and state of their next of kin followed by their religious preference. The latter two designs had no next of kin information, either name or address, and the third version from March 1944 onwards changed the name order from first name initial and surname to surname, first name, initial.

For the Korean war the main change to the dog tag necklaces was that the US Army now gave a code as a prefix to the service number showing what type of solider wearers were. O was for officers, RA regular army, NG was National Guard and ER enlisted reserve with US for an enlisted draftee.

The Vietnam War is probably the war dog tags are most associated with despite their long history. Many films about the US in the Vietnam War include dog tag necklaces either to add authenticity or as some part of the story. The dog tag had a few details added by or during the Vietnam War; an army area was included for the first time to show which area a soldier was from. From 1968 onwards a social security number as well as a serial number was included, dog tags would sometimes use the serial and social security number and sometimes one or the other until June 1969 when all dog tags used the social security number only. The way religions were included was also different during the Vietnam War, before there were four codes for Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or no preference. During the Vietnam War religions would be written out and often gave more detail including specific denominations such as Baptist. Since June 1969 US Army Dog Tag necklaces haven’t changed and still use the social security number of the wearer rather than a serial number.

Dog Tags a perfect collectable for those with an interest in military history

Dog tags of a U.S. Army soldier who served in World War II

Picture credit: Wikipedia

For those with a passion for collecting and also a passion for history including military history a collection that fits both interests is actually not that easy to find. Many people collect models of vehicles or soldiers or books about military history but there is nothing like actually holding a piece of history. For most people buying old military vehicles or even uniforms is going to be too expensive to even get one good example, with other very collectable items such as medals or epaulettes for example prices are still high and the size of a collection will always be limited. Dog tag necklaces though are much more common and much cheaper as for around a hundred years they have been issued out to every soldier in the US Army and to many others around the world. It was in fact the Prussians, during the Franco Prussian war of 1870-1871, that first used dog tag necklaces and a form of identification for soldiers was also used during the American Civil war a few years later, though to begin with these were pieces of paper pinned to the soldiers tunics.

Dog Tags were of course issued to every person in the armed forces of a country and then kept with them during their time as a soldier: this means that there are still many dog tag necklaces around and being usually aluminum they remain in good condition. A dog tag necklace having been with a solider while they were at war and carrying their details makes them a highly interesting artifact to have. Although dog tags have become fashion items that are reproduced, original pieces have a very different historical value and each is associated with a specific soldier and so while interesting also deserves a degree of respect.

Dog Tags even just from the US Army vary greatly from the early ones used during the first world war to the developments by the Second World War and then the archetypal design used during the Vietnam war and featured in every film about that war since. Dog Tags are used by hundreds of countries around the world though in some form and they have been used in Britain, Canada and France just as long as in the US and as mentioned have been used in Germany for longer still going back to before the unification of the German states. Prussia is just one now defunct nation that used dog tags and so to have what could be seen a complete collection would involve perhaps thousands of different dog tag necklaces.

Collections are usually mounted in display cases or on velvet covered backing material; they are a collection that you may well want to have on display and being metal they won’t get bleached by light or easily damaged meaning they may be ideal for mounting and keeping on a wall. Collecting dog tags may take you around the world looking for pieces and exchanging with collectors in other countries is common so always buy duplicates of designs you have if possible.


Dog Tag Necklace

Gold Dog Tag Necklace

Dog tags first appeared on the battle field during the Civil War. American soldiers wanted to ensure that their identities would be known should they die in battle. In the mid 1800’s, most soldier’s took the initiative to create the first forms of identification. Many fashioned their own “ID” out of pieces of wood and took great care to mark all their personal belongings. A hole was punched in one end so that they could be worn on a string around the neck.

“Soldier’s Pins” were made of silver or gold and were inscribed with an individual’s name and unit designation. Private vendors offered these “Identification disks” for sale just prior to battles. Many feared being listed among the unknowns. The Federal Government still had not issued an official identification tag. 42% of the Civil War dead remain unidentified.

In1899, the first official issuing of identification tags took place. Army Regulations of 1913 made identification tags mandatory, and by 1917, all combat soldiers wore aluminum discs on chains around their necks.

By the beginning of World War II, the circular disc was replaced by the oblong dog tag as we know it today.

A common myth associated with the dog tag was the purpose of the notch on dog tags issued between 1941 and the early 1970’s. Battlefield rumor held that the notched end of the tag was placed between the front teeth of battlefield casualties to hold the jaws in place. There are no official records indicating these instructions in the American military. The purpose of the notch was to hold the blank tag steady on the embossing machine. Modern machinery today does not require a notch.

Post-World War II tags are worn on a bead chain, with an attached short loop for the second tag. They bore name (surname, followed by initials); service number; service; blood type; and religion, if desired by the individual.