The 100 year anniversary of the official use of military personal identity tags, affectionately known as Dog Tags, recently passed without fanfare. Interestingly, though, we are in a war where the Dog Tag is once again a highly personal item to warriors in every service and their families. Each Dog Tag carries its own human interest story, and is much more than a piece of metal with words and numbers imprinted on it. Receiving it, hanging it around the neck, and feeling it is at once a silent statement of commitment. The tag itself individualizes the human being who wears it within a huge and faceless organization.
Proper Wear of WW2 Tag, courtesy of US Army Quartermaster Museum
A person of immense knowledge on the history of the American Identification Tag is Paul F. Braddock. His book, Dog Tags: A History of the American Military Identification Tag 1861-2002, should be a field manual for his knowledge on different tags, their timeline, and images of variances. When I first bought his book and began reading it, I thought my subject had been covered. And while he is very thorough, it is a different focus on the Tag than mine. I am grateful he took the time to be so thorough and give facts on Tags throughout our history, and thus acknowledge him in the first pages of my book.
With that said, my focus is on the history of the identification tag from a personal viewpoint sharing stories of those who have worn the tags, and those who have loved ones who have worn the tags. It is about identification that takes you on a journey - enjoy the journey!
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