Why Are They Called Dog Tags?

We all know what dog tags are those little oval disks on a chain that service members wear to identify themselves in combat. But have you ever wondered how and when that tradition started, and why they‘re called dog tags?

According to the Army Historical Foundation, the term “dog tag” was first coined by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. He had heard the newly formed Social Security Administration was considering giving out nameplates for personal identification.

Those who could afford it bought engraved metal tags from nongovernment sellers and sutlers vendors who followed the armies during the war. Historical resources show that in 1862, a New Yorker named John Kennedy offered to make thousands of engraved disks for soldiers, but the War Department declined. It took a few years, but in December 1906, the Army put out a general order requiring aluminum disc-shaped ID tags be worn by soldiers.

The half-dollar size tags were stamped with a soldier’s name, rank, company and regiment or corps, and they were attached to a cord or chain that went around the neck. Exact size specifications were put in place, and the tags also included each man’s Army-issued serial number.

Where did the name dog tag come from?

Among the first instances of the identification tags being called “dog tags” comes from the Prussian Army in 1870. It comes from the term “hundemarken” which was similar to what each dog in the then Prussian capital of Berlin required. The American adaptation of the name dates to just before WWII.

What does dog tag stand for?

: an identification tag (as for military personnel or pets)

What does it mean when a soldier gives you his dog tags?

Dog tags are uniform items covered by military regulations. They must be issued by a specific office in the military and they must carry certain vital information about the person such as SSN, religion, and name. They are meant to identify Soldiers who are killed and whose body has been damaged beyond recognition.

Why do dog tags have two tags?

The U.S. Army changed regulations on

One of the most gruesome rumors to ever circulate throughout the military ranks is still alive today. Ask some of the older men and women in uniform about dog tags, and specifically, notched dog tags and you will get horrid tales of about how war dead are treated. Fortunately, the tales are untrue and U.S. casualties are treated with respect and dignity.

If a soldier was a casualty, the dog tag was removed from his body and it was placed into a handheld, gun-like tool called the Addressograph Model 70.

In the days long before military dog tags were even a thought, U.S. Army officers at the attack on Confederate fortifications at Cold Harbor, Virginia, noticed troops sewing their names into their jackets. After more than three years of bloody fighting, everyone knew how dangerous the coming battle would be.

Units used circular discs and “soldier pins” in an effort to identify and record the names of the men in their ranks — but only one per person. None of these efforts were uniform, however, and tens of thousands of soldiers killed in action were buried in mass graves or marked as unknowns.

In the Vietnam era, combat troops started to lace their second tag in their boots, the way United States Marines wear them today.

Military dog tags are of great importance in the identification of soldiers in the army. The main purpose of the military dog tags is to identify soldiers that are wounded or killed while they are in action. These dog tags are allotted to the soldiers as a replacement of the plastic printed identity cards because of their resistance to harsh weather conditions and durability. Generally, each soldier is allotted two dog tags. One of them is worn at the neck as a chain and the other is kept inside the shoes of the soldier.

Modern Military Dog Tags

By the beginning of World War I, the “dog tag” as we know it began to take shape. Soldiers deploying to fight in the trenches of WWI were given two coin-like metal discs, each marked with their name. They wore them into combat and, if they were killed, one coin stayed on their remains.The other marked their coffin.In World War II, identification tags started to look more like today’s standard-issue dog tags. They were metal and rectangular, with a notch in a lower corner. The soldier’s information was imprinted on the metal tag. That notch was used to align the metal plate on the machine that embossed the information.The notch became the center of U.S. military troops’ first myth around their dog tags. Common belief held that a medic would take one of the fallen soldier’s tags and put it in his mouth, using the notch to line up the tag with his front teeth. Then, the medic or doctor would kick his jaw shut over the tag to ensure it stayed in place, according to the myth.During the Korean War, the second tag was put on a much shorter chain, attached to the main chain, for a similar reason. But it wouldn’t be put in the mouth of the deceased. Instead, it was used as a toe tag. In the Vietnam era, combat troops started to lace their second tag in their boots, the way United States Marines wear them today.Notched dog tags were phased out by the 1970s, when the machines that required notches were replaced with more advanced embossing machines. Aluminum tags gave way to stainless steel.Today, dog tags aren’t as necessary for identification purposes, given the advances in DNA technology, along with more detailed recordkeeping by the U.S. military. Identifying remains is a more detailed process than simply relying on the service member’s dog tags.But still, dog tags remain an important symbol of military service, one that connects today’s troops to the traditions of the past.

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