US Dog Tags : Past, Present and Future
Arlington National Cemetary is not the only resting place for "Unknown Soldiers." Countless American soldiers have died defending our way of life throughout the history of this great nation; many of their graves are marked with a single word,"unknown"
The American Civil War (1861-1865) provided the first recorded incident of American soldiers making an effort to ensure that their identities would be known should they be killed on the battlefield. Their methods varied, and all were taken on by the soldier's own initiative. (42% of all Civil War dead remain unknown) In 1863, before the battle of Mine's Run in northern Virginia, troops wrote their names and units on paper tags and pinned them to their clothing. Many soldiers took great care in marking all of their personal belongings. Some troops made their own id tags out of wood, boring a hole in an end so that they could be worn on a string.
The commercial sector saw the demand for an identificatuion method and provided products. Harpers Weekly Magazine advertised "Soldier's Pins" which could be mail ordered. Made of silver or gold, these pins were inscribed with an individual's name and unit designation. Private vendos who fallowed troops also offered id tags for sale just prior to battles.
Soldiers also fasioned tags out of coins by scraping one side smooth and engaving or stamping name and unit.
an example of the one type of disk available for private vendors
A 18 x 35 mm German silver pin
A "id" tag made from a coin
Despite the fact that fear of being listed amoung the unknowns was a real concern among the rank and file, no reference to an official issue of identification tags by the Federal Government exists from the Civil War.
Above a Spanish-American War dog tag from 1898
it contained unit, company and individual number
The first official advocacy of issuing id tags took place in 1899. Chaplain Charles C. Pierce recommended that a "identity disc"be included in the standard combat field kit, tough the first official introduction of one tag didn't happen until December of 1906.The Army Regulations of 1913 made a identification tag mandatory. In July of 1916 a second tag was added, and by 1917 all combat troops wore aluminum discs on rope or chain. In February of 1918 the official introduction of Serial Numbers started.
An aluminum WWI set with Serial Number on back
Two-time winner of the Metal of Honer USMC SgtMaj Dan Daly's WWI
USMC Lt.Gen Holland Smith's brass tag
An example of the stamping set used on early tag sets.
Next in the evolution of dog tags came what is known as the Navy/Marine style of tag (as seen above) a more oblong shape with more uniform printing. First made of brass and then a "Monel" metal ( a patented corrosion-resistant alloy of nickel and copper, melded with small amounts of iron and manganese ) proved to be more corrosion resistant. In October of 1938 the start of tests for a new identification tags started, and by 1940 it was adopted.
The M-1940 "notched" dog tag
By the early 70's the "notch" was removed to the present day tag.
The United States Armed Forces is currently developing and testing a new tag , which will hold 80% of a soldiers medical and dentail records on a mircochip known by several names ( The Individually Carried Record, Meditag , The Tactical Medical Coordination System, Personal Information Carriers known as PIC,)it is not intended to replace the present tag, but rather to augment it as part of the "paperless battlefield" concept.
The yellow TacMedCS being tested by the Marines usesradio frequency technology, electronics and global-positioning systems to pin-point wounded.
The black rubber encased PIC is currently under DoD testing.
The above MEDITAG is under consideration by foreign goverments.
We've come a long way from tieing pieces of wood around our necks.