Military Dog Tags: Top 10 Cool Facts

dog tags

It seems as of late, dog tags have become fashionable.

So I am standing at a public urinal and this “kid” wearing a military surplus Army coat, boots that probably haven’t been polished since 1981 and a set of dog tags jingling around his neck is in the stall next to me.

Giggling under my breath, I thought of Sergeant Ramirez screaming at this kid as Army barbers shave off his man-bun asking him if the dog tags were properly engraved so his Mother would know what happened to her son during basic training.

The drill sergeant would have “man-bun boy” weeping with home sickness within 5 minutes of arrival.

man bun

Dog tags were not designed for fashion.

In today’s post, I am going to give you the top 10 cool facts about military dog tags. And I really hope Sergeant Ramirez reads this.

#1: What They Are Used For

Military dog tags are required so your body or remains can be identified if you are killed or seriously injured in battle.

#2: The Civil War

While the United States Army did not have dog tags during the Civil War, the idea came to mind. Many soldiers had been through the cleanup of dead bodies and recognized the problem that many of these men could not be identified.

Johnny from Georgia wanted his family to know, so he pinned a piece of paper with his name and unit to his uniform in case he was killed.

Other soldier would carve small pieces of wood with the information, make a hole through 1 end and tie them around their neck.

They improvised so they could be identified.

#3: The Notch On Dog Tags

There is a story that goes around that the notch on all dog tags is used to “prop” the jaw open of a deceased soldier. The jaw is then kicked to firmly embed the tag on the soldier so it is not lost and he/she can be easily identified.

If someone tells you that, scream foul!

It is bullshit! The notch is made from the machine that cuts and stamps these tags. It is how it is held during the automation process.

This is a story used as a prank to “gross” people out. Don’t fall for it.

#4: When The Actual Dog Tags Were First Used

We can say that the first use of dog tags were by the Germans during World War 1. Called Hundemarken, they held as much information as possible about the wearer for medical reasons and identification.

The United States Army began issuing dog tags to personnel in 1906 during the 1st World War.

#5: Why Are They Called Dog Tags?

It is because the system was based on the same system used to identify dogs. This also came from the Germans.

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#6: What Information Is On A Dog Tag?

A Dog Tag holds pertinent information about the soldier…

  • Name
  • Social Security Number
  • Blood Type
  • and Religion

It was also discovered, especially during Vietnam, that dog tags could actually be the cause of death. The 2 metal pieces jingling could bring awareness to the enemy. Special “rubberized” silencers were developed to go around each tag to keep them for hitting each other and making noise.

#7: But Isn’t The Government (Military) Supposed To Separate From Religion?

It has always been controversial about putting religious preference on dog tags. After all, many believe that the military should be separated from religion.

In the first days, a soldier had only 3 choices in this area…

  1. P = Protestant
  2. C = Catholic
  3. and H = Jewish

Now a soldier can add nearly anything.

  • N = N preference
  • A = Atheist
  • or you can have nearly any other designation. Some must be written entirely… Jedi, Satanist, etc…

#8: Another Myth?

Every soldier is issued 2 dog tags. In case of death, one stays with the body and the other is used in the process of informing loved ones.

The myth says that there are 2 chains and the long one has 365 beads and the other, 52. This was supposedly done so a soldier could track days and weeks if captured.

Highly doubtful because the military is so against a soldier getting captured.

#9: Past, Current And Future Dog Tags

The notched dog tags of the past were M1940 that had stamped text and were primarily made from either aluminum or a copper/nickel alloy.

The current dog tags have the notch eliminated and are made from stainless steel. They are M1967’s and the text is embossed which is raised text like on a credit card.

In the future, he US Army is developing and testing several new dog tags known by various names including the Soldier Data Tag, Individually Carried Record, Meditag, and the Personal Information Carrier. Using RFID(radio frequency identification), microchip or USB technology these dog tags will hold a soldier’s medical and dental records. These will not replace the current dog tag but will be worn in addition to the current dog tags.

#10: Collectors

It has become a great collection item. Nearly every country issues a type of dog tag to their military personnel. Many types, shapes and sizes are made and can make a cool collection.

If you are in to collecting items like these, you can find many on eBay here.

Final Thoughts

Just as one last piece of advice… Your dog tags are a major part in readiness. Many soldiers have been found neglecting to hang them around their neck and you must remember that any time or any place, that tag may be needed and if it is in your drawer and not on your neck, what good is it?

Please share this information with others and have a great day.



About The Author

Greg Boudonck is a full time freelance writer and the author of over 50 books. He served in the United States Army in the early 1980’s and enjoys writing about military subjects. You can see Greg’s books on Amazon by searching his name and you can also visit his website at

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