Where Did The Term Dog Tags Come From?

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Have questions about custom dog tags been hounding you?

wolverine dog tag coinWhat are dog tags for?
Do all military personnel get dog tags?
Who got the first dog tag?
What is the history of military dog tags?

Interestingly enough, the name dog tag is an affectionate one given to the metal identification tags giving to all military personnel, simply because they look like actual dog tags, that is, they are in a similar shape.

It wasn’t until after the American Civil War that it became required practice to issue all soldiers dog tags in order to identify soldiers that had fallen in battle. Dog tags are used to avoid the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of unmarked graves or graves that read “Unknown” due to the loss of life that occurred on the battlefield. Record keeping was shoddy at best in those times, and this addition of identification made things easier.

The use of military dog tags began during WWI with smaller round metal tags than the ones we know today. Not everyone had to use them, but as time wore on, the requirement became more prevalent and then required. Tags included such information as the branch of military, first initial and surname of the person, birth date, and religion.

By WWII military dog tags included such information as officer rank or enlisted service number, blood type, if vaccinated for tetanus, the letter “T” with the date in numerals, and service branch. A right index fingerprint was etched on the reverse.

It was also during this time that a second duplicate tag was issued. This one would rest on a shorter chain and in the event of capture or death, if a soldier could not be moved or taken back, the one tag would be taken for identification. It is common practice to give the dog tag back to any surviving members of a fallen soldiers family.

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