Understanding the History of Id Tags

10 October 2016

Army regulation 670-1 requires that soldiers carry a military-issued identification card at all times, whether in or out of uniform. It also mandates that soldiers traveling or living overseas wear dog tags at all times (even in civilian clothing), and states that every soldier in uniform must include them as part of their duty uniforms. Soldiers conducting routine daily activities may be at risk of becoming a casualty; if a soldier loses consciousness or is unable to communicate, dog tags are read to gain important information.

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Dog tags contain information that can notify responders whether the service member has allergies, indicates his blood type and displays his name and Social Security number so the service member can be properly identified. History In the military, sad, but true, for centuries, in times of war, it is very likely that military personnel will lose their lives, and a proper burial will need to take place. However, if the Soldier, Marine, Airman, Sailor is not identified, this process may take longer. Sometimes to fully understand the importance of something, we must learn and know the history.

Since the civil war of 1861-1865 the identification of military personnel has been an issue. Many of the service members affiliated with this war would pin slips of paper with their name and address to the backs of their coats, they’d stencil their information on their knapsacks and they’d scratch their vital information on the soft lead on the back of their Army belt buckle. The civil war had countless casualties whose headstones read ‘unknown’, because record keeping wasn’t an easy task and many grave locations were lost due to wartime conditions.

Congress, in 1862 passed an act that would establish national cemeteries for those that have fallen in war. From 1862 -1906, different forms of identification systems were presented. Finally, in 1906, the circular aluminum disc was presented and in 1913, these ID tags were made mandatory and were to be worn around the neck like a tag a dog would wear. The second tag was added in 1916. The nickname ‘dog tags’ was adopted during WWII when the round disc was replaced with the rectangular tag with a notch.

At the end of 1944, silencers were placed on the tags, and by the late 1950s, the notched dog tag was discontinued and replaced with the dog tags of today that do not have notches. Still today, when someone joins the military, he or she is aware that there may be a chance of going to war, and that the most meaningful sacrifice he or she could ever make and is willing to make, may become a reality. Just like in the days of old, upon enlisting, one is issued a set of dog tags. This is the most important item ever issued and should not be handled carelessly.

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