Military Dog Tag Identification

The history of the military dog tag and the return of two lost dog tags.


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The official U.S. Army nomenclature of the "dog  tag" is "Tag, I.D., Personnel."  No one seems to know where the term "dog tag" originated, but many of the WW II draftees complained about being treated like dogs.  During my 20 years in the Army, they were always referred to as "dog tags".

Dog tags first appeared on the scene during the Civil War.  These identification tags were privately purchased from merchants, jewelers and sutlers.  At the time, no official regulation covered their size or appearance or even how to wear them for that matter.  They were made from a variety of materials including silver, copper, brass and even out of coins.

During the Spanish American War of 1898 dog tags became more uniform.  They were about the size of an American half-dollar.  The tags was made of monel metal which was a corrosion resistant nickel alloy containing copper, iron and manganese.  By 1906, the U.S. War Department made the dog tag official with General Order number 204, and identified the tag as a part of the military uniform to include how to wear it and what information would be contained on the tag.  This General Order was amended in 1917 which resulted in a second identical dog tag to be suspended with a short piece of cord directly below the first tag.  This second dog tag was only to be removed from a soldier killed in combat  for confirmation of death.  The first dog tag was to be left on the body for on site identification. 

During WW I aluminum dog tags made their appearance and were stamped U.S.A. on one side and the soldier's name along with a serial number on the other side.  These tags were the forerunners of the tag used during WW II which now look like the one's wore by our military personnel today.  The 1940 dog tag were made of two pieces of stainless steel, one slightly larger than the other to allow them to be crimped together.  This model also had a notch on one end which was used to position the tag in the engraving machine for proper embossing.  The notch was also used as the first nail position when nailing the dog tag to a crate used for transporting the remains of our deceased soldiers.  Plastic body bags and more efficient record keeping made this notch obsolete and it was completely eliminated by the late 1960's.

The information embossed on the dog tags has changed over the years.  During the Spanish American War of 1898, the soldiers name and year of service was about all the information contained on the dog tag.  Shortly thereafter, it included rank, company, unit or corps.  The serial number first showed up during WW I and replaced most of the earlier information.  Back then, dog tags were hand stamped and just having a name and serial number saved a lot of embossing time.  During the early days of WW II the dog tag displayed the soldier's name, serial number, blood type, religion, the date of his initial tetanus shot and the name and address of the next of kin.  Before the war ended in 1945 the next of kin information had been removed from the dog tag.  The tetanus shot date was also removed during the early 50's and 60's.  By 1969 the soldier's social security number replaced the army serial number.

The dog tag has changed over the times, but after more than 140 years the purpose still remains the same.
Army dog tag serial number identification. Army Dog Tag Serial Numbers Identification


Current Issue Dog tag
 

"Dog tag" issued in 1971.  Notice that the notch has been eliminated.  It is still a two piece design, crimped together.  The social security number below the name has been edited out.

If you know the owners of the dog tags below, contact us for more information.


Early WW II Dog Tag
 

Found in Fort Bliss desert training area in the early 90's.  Name: Holger Nielsen, RA number, Tetanus shot in 1941, not sure what the 420 is, (April 20?).  Next of kin's name is missing the "L" in Nielsen.  "P" designates the religion.

Issued during early part of WW II.

Returned to relatives July 2007.  Click here to read the story.


Late WW II Dog Tag
 

Found in West Germany in the late 80's.  Name: Alfio J. Giombetti, RA number, Tetanus 1943, blood type "O", and "C" designates the religion.

Issued during late part of WW II.

Returned to relatives March 2004.
This dog tag belonging to Alfio J. Giombetti has been returned to his grand-daughter in Massachusetts.  SSG Giombetti served in Germany and the Pacific theaters.  His occupation was an anti-aircraft artillery gunner crewman.  Some of his decorations include the American Theater Campaign ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Theater Camp ribbon and the Victory Medal.  SSG Giombetti passed away in 1971.



 

Herman E. Taylor
RA13680922
A
Baptist



 

Edward Katz
32820569  T-43  A
Mrs. F. Katz
1553 Ocean Ave.
Bklyn, NY              H



 

Charles H. Metzger Jr.
46023605   T46   O.
225 W. 60th. Street
Chicago, S21, ILL....

This dog tag was found near the Margraten War Cemetery by Stefan in Waubach, Netherlands.  Stefan would like to return it to the veteran or his family.  Contact Metal Detecting In The USA through the comments webpage.

Thomas I. Williams dogtag.

Thomas I Williams dogtag issued during the later part of WWII.
 
Thomas I. Williams
39601406   T43   A   P

This dog tag was found near the Margraten War Cemetery by Stefan in Waubach, Netherlands.  Stefan would like to return it to the veteran or his family.  Contact Metal Detecting In The USA through the comments webpage.
Captain E. F. Saxon Captain E. F. Saxon
H.C.F.A.  (possibly Headquarters Company Field Artillery)
GA.  (Georgia?)

This is a World War One dogtag.



 

Found in Athens, Alabama in the early 1980's. 
Cyrus Myers, B Company, 4th Volunteer Cavalry, War of 1861.
Pennsylvania Cavalry Unit





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