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Tag, Identification, Personnel

AKA - "Dog Tags"


Identification Tags and Dog Tags is what DogTagsRus is all about.  We offer a full line of dog tags for sale in our on-line catalog.  Prices vary with features and options.  Please review our catalog for current offerings and prices.

Standard GENUINE ISSUE military dog tag sets, custom imprinted with your information containing; 2-tags, 2-chains and 2-silencers.

$6.00 per set

Purchase on-line



Dog Tags have a long and interesting history.  The subject of military dog tags fills Gigabytes of information on dozens of web sites.  Much research and work has been done in documenting the history of the dog tag and all of it's associated information.  DogTagsRus, will highlight some of that information here but will focus on information that we have obtained through our own research.  As with any project that attempts to document history we might have some information that is erroneous - if you find anything here that is incorrect please inform us so that we may investigate as we strive to have the most accurate information possible.

Through out the history of warfare there has been a need to identify the warrior or soldier on the battle field.  Identification tags or dog tags have been a fairly recent answer to field identification of individual soldiers.  There are recorded accounts of identification tags from the Civil War and WW I, but it was not until WW II that the United States Government officially adopted rules and regulations about identification tags and pressed into service a reasonable facsimile of the identification tags in use today.

Dog Tags have had come in many shapes and sizes over the years.  There have been round dog tags, notched dog tags, current dog tags.

One man we met at a gun show had this to say in an e-mail.

We met at the Gun Show in Mesquite and seeing Kobie making dog tags on his vintage Addressograph machine brought back memories for me. 

I operated the Addressograph dog tag machine as one of my many duties on board the USS Prairie AD-15.  I was stationed on that ship from 1968-1970.  The Prairie was a destroyer tender.  A tender is a floating repair ship.  We had a large and well equipped machine shop, a foundry, welding shop, valve shop, pattern shop, instrument shop,  torpedo shop, and so on.  We had a large inventory of supplies and materials and could repair almost anything.  It was good duty.  The Prairie has a web site, but I can't get to it right now, but I will send you the address.  It is worth a look.

The dog tag machine was located in the Engraving Shop, where we had two large pantographs on which we made brass and plastic signs and name tags.  We also had a metal-photo room where we could transfer a photo negative to a metal sheet and put a positive print on the metal.  Sign making made easy.  We also polished brass castings for ship's plaques.  Each departing officer got a ship's plaque with his name and time served on the ship. 

We stayed pretty busy most of the time.  We were based in San Diego, but spent time in Taiwan,  Japan,  and the Philippine Islands.

Richard Montgomery
27 July 2004

Link to the USS PRAIRIE AD-15.

Below is listed select technical excerpts from the military specification that addresses the current issue military dog tags.  The information is reprinted here verbatim from the actual military specification.

Pertinent documents and numbers:

MIL-T-842E 1968
MIL-T-842F 1983
MIL-T-842F-1 1986


Official Nomenclature: Tag, Identification, Personnel

Abstract.  The abstract should go here # # #

Salient Characteristics. The identification tag shall be constructed from corrosion-resisting steel with a natural finish conforming A, HR, or CR, finish No. 1 of ASTM A 766. At any point on the flat more than 1/8 inch from the beaded edge, the finished tag shall have a maximum hardness of 179 on the Diamond Pyramid hardness scale when tested in accordance with ASTM E 92 or 88 on the Rockwell 15 T Scale when tested in accordance with ASTM E 18. The tag shall be 2.000 (+.005, -.020) inches long by 1.125 (+.003, -.025) inches wide with rounded edges (.75
RAD). The tag shall have a .141 +/-.005 inch diameter hole with the center of the whole located .156 +/-.005 inch from one edge. The thickness of the tag shall be .016 +/-.001 inch, and the thickness of the bead around the edge and hole shall be .0315 (+.0225, -.0025) inch.

1.1 Scope. This document covers one type of metal identification tag used by personnel of the Armed Forces.

2.1 Government documents, drawings, and publications.


     4-1-485 Tag, Identification, Personnel

3.2.1 Steel.  Corrosion-resisting. Corrosion-resisting steel shall conform to class 304, condition A, HR or CR or QQ-S-766.

3.3.1 Flatness. Each finished tag shall be flat across the length and width and shall be capable of being passed through the hopper and slide feed gage if applicable. Hopper and slide feed gage will be made available by the Government.

3.3.2 Hardness. When tested as specified in 4.4.4 and at any point on the flat more than 1/8 inch from the beaded edge, the finished tag shall have a maximum hardness of 179 on the Diamond Pyramid hardness scale or 88 on the Rockwell 15 T scale.

3.4 Finish. All identification tags shall have a natural finish.

6.1 Intended use. Tags covered by this document are intended to be used by military personnel for identification purposes.

Click on the Photo to the Left to see a copy of the Government engineering drawing

Official Drawing Title:

Reprints of this drawing are available for purchase in our catalog.


Information about the Social Security Dog Tag

The publisher William Randolph Hearst was a fervent enemy of President Roosevelt and the New Deal. All the newspapers in the Hearst chain were expected to regularly publish unfavorable stories about New Deal programs. On the eve of the 1936 presidential election Hearst sought to undermine support for Social Security with allegations that workers would be required to wear "dog-tags" with their Social Security number and would be forced to fill-out questionnaires probing for personal information. In fact, neither allegation was true. However, the "dog-tag" story did have a basis in fact.

When considering ways to assign Social Security numbers, one proposal was to issue metal nameplates, not unlike military "dog-tags." Commissioner Altmeyer vetoed this idea as soon as he heard about it. This did not, however, stop the Hearst syndicate from reporting it as fact. During the early discussion of the metal nameplate idea, one company eager for this potential government business (the Addressograph Corp.) went so far as to prepare a sample I.D. tag in Commissioner Altmeyer's name. Altmeyer kept this sample "dog-tag" in his desk drawer throughout his career with SSA, and he donated it to SSA after his retirement. So the one and only Social Security "dog-tag" ever issued is now on display in the History Room at SSA headquarters in Baltimore.

Article and Photo - Reprinted from the SSA website.

photo of dogtag

Commissioner Altmeyer 's infamous "dog-tag"

A Short History of Identification Tags
Captain Richard W. Wooley
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin-December 1988

Note: At the time this article was written the term Graves Registration was used for what is now call Mortuary Affairs.

Arlington National Cemetery is not the only resting place for "Unknown Soldiers." Countless American soldiers have died defending their way of life throughout the history of this nation; many of their graves are marked with a single word, "unknown."

The Civil War provided the first recorded incident of American soldiers making an effort to ensure that their identities would be known should they die on the battlefield. Their methods were varied, and all were taken on a soldier's own initiative. In 1863, prior to the battle of Mine's Run in northern Virginia, General Meade's troops wrote their names and unit designations on paper tags and pinned them to their clothing. Many soldiers took great care to mark all their personal belongings. Some troops fashioned their own "ID" (identification) tags out of pieces of wood, boring a hole in one end so that they could be worn on a string around the neck.

The commercial sector saw the demand for an identification method and provided products. Harper's 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 vendors who followed troops also offered ornate identification disks for sale just prior to battles. Still, despite the fact that fear of being listed among 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. (42% of the Civil War dead remain unidentified.)

The first official advocacy of issuing identification tags took place in 1899. Chaplain Charles C. Pierce, who was tasked to establish the Quartermaster Office of Identification in the Philippines, recommended inclusion of an "identity disc" in the combat field kit as the answer to the need for standard identification. The Army Regulations of 1913 made identification tags mandatory, and by 1917, all combat soldiers wore aluminum discs on chains around their necks. By World War II, the circular disc was replaced by the oblong shape familiar to us today, generally referred to as "dog tags."

Since then, some myths have arisen in connection with the purpose of the identification tags. One of the more common myths involves the reason for the notch on the tag issued between 1941 and the early 1970's. Battlefield rumor held that the notched end of the tag was placed between the front teeth of battlefield casualties to hold the jaws in place. No official record of American soldiers being issued these instructions exists; the only purpose of "the notch" was to hold the blank tag in place on the embossing machine. The machine used at this time doesn't require a notch to hold he blank in place, hence, today's tags are smooth on all sides.

Thee sole purpose of the identification tag is stated by its designation. Tags found around the neck of a casualty, and only those tags found around the neck, stay with the remains at all times tags found any place besides around the neck are made note of in the Record of Personal Effects of Deceased Personnel, and placed in an effects bag.  They are not removed unless there is a need to temporarily inter the remains. If there is only one tag present, another is made to match the first. If the remains are unidentified, two tags marked "unidentified" are made. One tag is interred with the individual, the other placed on a wire ring in the sequence of the temporary cemetery plot. This enables Graves Registration personnel to make positive identification of remains during disinterment procedures; when the remains are disinterred, the tag on the wire ring is removed and placed with the matching tag around the neck.

The Department of the Army has developed and is currently testing a new tag, which will hold 80% of a soldier's medical and dental data on a microchip. Known as the Individually Carried Record, it is not intended to replace the present tag, but rather to augment it as part of the "paperless battlefield" concept. This development is in keeping with the Army's dedication to positively identify each and every fallen soldier.

The Armed Forces make every possible effort to eradicate discrepancies and remove doubts about casualties, not least those doubts that families may hold concerning the demise of their loved ones. In recent years, a near perfect record of identifying service members who have died in the line of duty has been achieved, a far cry from the 58% rate of identification that stood during the Civil War. The ID tag has, been and remains a major part of the reason for this record. Are you wearing your ID tags today? Too many military personnel, particularly those who are part of the peacetime force stationed in CONUS (Continental United States), forget how vital those tags can be, forget that as soldiers they are always on the line. Wearing your ID tags is one of the easiest actions you can make towards achieving total readiness, so take those tags out of your dresser and put them around your neck. Remember -the simple information contained on that small aluminum tag can speak for you if you can't speak for yourself; it could mean the difference between a positive identification and an uncertain future for those who survive you, should your identity be "...known only to God."

At the time this article was written CPT Richard W. Wooley was Chief of Individual Training. Graves Registration Department (now the Mortuary Affairs Center), U.S. Army Quartermaster School, Fort Lee, Virginia.

Other Sources of Military Dog Tag History

See our RESOURCES page for web links to other Dog Tag History sites.


Reference Material on Military Identification Tags

Bradock, Paul F. "Armed Forces Identification Tags." Mil Collector & Historian 24 (Winter 1972): pp 112-114. Per.

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