We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Dog Tags?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Historical Index is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Historical Index, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

In military circles, dog tags are the regulation identification tags issued to all active duty soldiers, although they are now formally called "I.D. tags" to avoid any derogatory implications. Military personnel are required to keep two sets of I.D. tags around their necks while in uniform, one on a neck-length chain and another on a shorter chain attached to the first. The longer set remains with an injured or deceased soldier, while the shorter set is sent off to the hospital or graves registration unit for processing.

The unofficial name for these I.D. tags comes from their resemblance to actual tags used for identifying dogs. Modern tags are generally made from aluminum blanks fed through a metal embossing machine. Vintage ones from the 1940s through the early 1970s had a notch on one side, but modern dog tags are completely smooth. Advances in identification technology now give military officials the ability to store all of a soldier's medical records on a small electronic chip contained in the tags.

Dog tags were not always standard military gear, however. During the Civil War, the identification of individual soldiers lost on a large battlefield was nearly impossible. Some soldiers would sew strips of cloth with personal identification to the backs of their uniforms, or else purchase special commemorative pins stamped with their name and regiment. At that time, the United States military had no established policy on the identification of soldiers, although there were several purveyors of commemorative pins who offered their services to the government.

It wasn't until 1906 that military regulations were changed to require a standard set of identification tags, and the system of wearing two separate sets of tags only became required in 1916. Dog tags issued by the quartermaster's office included the soldier's full name (in reverse order), Social Security number, military service number, blood type and religious affiliation. Older tags may also include information on a soldier's tetanus shot history.

The notch contained in sets of dog tags has long been a source of controversy. Some believed it was created to accommodate the front teeth of deceased soldiers as the tags were placed in their mouths. The notch allegedly made it easier for other soldiers to forcibly maneuver them into the proper position. Others suggested the notch held a deceased soldier's mouth open to prevent a dangerous build-up of internal gases. There was also a rumor that it indicated the position of the first nail in a deceased soldier's coffin.

Ironically, one of the leading theories debunking these battlefield myths is, in fact, a myth itself. Allegedly, the notch in standard dog tags was created to align the metallic blank in the embossing machine properly, and it promptly disappeared when more modern embossing equipment became available. In reality, the notch had nothing to do with the creation of a tag. Whenever military medics needed to transfer a soldier's dog tag information to official paperwork, they used a machine called the Addressograph Model 70. This machine had a slot for the proper placement of the tags while the embossed side was inked and pressed onto the paper. The notch ensured that the I.D. would be oriented correctly, since they would not fit into the machine in any other position.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Historical Index, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Historical Index, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.