Are dog tags given to family? Let’s Explore

Slight Differences

During World War I, Navy tags were a bit different than Armys. Made of monel — a group of nickel alloys — they had the letters “U.S.N.” etched on them using a specific process involving printers ink, heat and nitric acid. If you were enlisted, the etching included your date of birth and enlistment, while officers included their date of appointment. The biggest difference was the etched print of each sailors right index finger on the back, which was meant to safeguard against fraud, an accident or misuse.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the ID tags werent used in between World War I and World War II. They were reinstated in May 1941, but by then, the etching process was replaced with mechanical stamping.

Meanwhile, the Marines had been required to wear ID tags since late 1916. Theirs were a mix of the Army and Navy styles.

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Civil War Concerns

Unofficially, identification tags came about during the Civil War because soldiers were afraid no one would be able to identify them if they died. They were terrified of being buried in unmarked graves, so they found various ways to prevent that. Some marked their clothing with stencils or pinned-on paper tags. Others used old coins or bits of round lead or copper. According to the Marine Corps, some men carved their names into chunks of wood strung around their necks.

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.

By the end of the Civil War, more than 40% of the Union Army’s dead were unidentified. To bring that into perspective, consider this: Of the more than 17,000 troops buried in Vicksburg National Cemetery, the largest Union cemetery in the U.S., nearly 13,000 of those graves are marked as unknown.

The outcome of the war showed that concerns about identification were valid, and the practice of making identification disks caught on.

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