Military Specifications for Dog Tags

Written by erin dorrance
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Military Specifications for Dog Tags
Silencers were introduced during World War II to prevent military dog tags from making a jingling noise. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Dog tags are a form of identification worn by U.S. service members. This iconic military symbol has helped the U.S. armed forces to maintain a close-to-perfect identification record of fallen troops. The ID tags were informally nicknamed "dog tags" by William Randolph Hearst in 1936. He used the dog-tag reference in a published article about how the Social Security Administration was using ID tags for human beings that resembled how people ID their dogs. The name stuck -- and so did the use of military dog tags.


During the Civil War, an estimated 75 per cent of dead troops were classified as "unidentified," according to website The U.S. armed forces spent several years establishing a system to identify wounded and fallen troops on the battlefield. In 1906, the U.S. Army authorised identification tags. Today, all U.S. service members serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are issued dog tags.

Typically, dog tags of fallen troops are given to surviving family members prior to a military funeral. Family members can choose to wear the dog tags of their loved ones or keep them in a memory box or a military shadow box.


U.S. military dog tags are oblong aluminium discs. Dog tags measures 2 inches by 1 1/8 inch. One is worn on a 24-inch neck chain; the second is attached with a 4-inch duplicate chain. One dog tag should always remain on the service member's body; the second dog tag can be removed and collected if necessary.


A military dog tag includes your last name on the first line, first name and middle initial on the second line, Social Security number on the third line, blood type on the fourth line and religion on the fifth line. If the soldier does not have a religion, the fifth line is engraved with "N/A" or "None."


The Department of the Army is developing a new dog tag that includes a microchip to include more information, such as medical and dental records. The new and improved dog tag will not replace the current dog tag but will enhance it and allow the military to move forward toward a "paperless battlefield" concept, according to the 173d Airborne Brigade. There are plans to include a GPS chip inside the computerised dog tags, which will aid in the recovery and identification of captured and fallen soldiers.

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