WWII Dog Tags Explained
The dog tag; few military items are as widely recognized and known to people, both military and civilians, as the dog tag. There are lots of myths about them and their origins, but that’s the subject of a different dog tag article. But the primary purpose of the dog tag was to help identify soldiers who had been wounded or killed in battle.
In this article, we want to show you how to read a WWII dog tag. Why? Because many of you had relatives who fought in World War II and hopefully you are fortunate enough to still have them around. Research shows that only about 300,000 of the 16 million who served in WWII are still alive.
But if the WWII veteran in your life has passed, deciphering their dog tags can help you get a sharper image of their military service and how to read WWII dog tags is a great place to start in recreating a veteran’s military service.
Part of understanding how to read WWII dog tags is knowing that dog tags during this period evolved and had several iterations starting in 1940. The first edition of WWII dog tags included a service member’s name, blood type, serial number, the name of their next of kin and the address, city and state of their next of kin. If you’re trying to figure out how to read WWII dog tags, all of this information can be a bit much to process.
In late 1941, the next version of dog tags began to be issued. These dog tags included a service member’s religious denomination as well as whether or not the service member had been inoculated for tetanus. This dog tag was issued until 1943.
Then in mid-1943, the services removed the next of kin and inoculation information. If you look at a dog tag from 1943 to 1944, it will include the service member’s name, serial number, blood type and religious preference. That’s how to read a WWII dog tag from this period.
Finally, in 1944, the dog tag went through its final change for WWII. The services up until 1946 decided to list the last name first, followed by the first name and middle initial. Making it easier to identify the casualty.
Dog tags have changed since 1946 and today they include different information, but if you find a dog tag which includes information as it is listed above, odds are great you’ve come across a piece of American history that should be treasured because it once belonged to one of the members of the Greatest Generation.
Using the above information, you can learn how to read WWII dog tags and teach others how to read WWII dog tags so these pieces of American history can be protected.
Comments on this post ( 8 )
Flavio, you might have some luck by writing to:
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records (USMC)
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132
Include as much information about your father as you know. SSAN, DOB, dates of service, hometown, etc. If you run into any snags, involve your congressional rep. They can help.
— Steve at USAMM
I have my dads dog tag from WW2. It has his last name first name initial, A, Cand the last line a T 7-43. He did join the Marines in Jan-Feb 1042.I believe he fought in Guadalcanal and then got wounded at Saipan. He died when I was 11 months old in 1954. How can I get his complete war records from the Marine Corps?
Thank you for any help
— Flavio Rael
Susan, you might be correct. He was likely positive, but you might want to reach out to a public affairs officer at a local VA medical center or reach out to the VA national office (public affairs) and inquire about what Type-A might mean. They should be able to confirm. Thanks for writing. Hope this helps. Steve
— Steve from USAMM
My father was in the navy in WWll. He is now deceased. My sister and I are trying to remember his blood type. how does the tag show neg or pos types. His has “Type-A. We thought he had negative but this looks like positive
— Susan Graham
Glad to hear we were able to help you crack the code on the dog tags. That’s great news.
As for getting a pair of tags for your other grandpa, that might be a challenge. Tags are ordinarily issued to the soldier, much like a uniform, so if the tags are to be found, they would be or would have been in your grandfather’s possessions. Unfortunately, the U.S. government won’t reissue them, but it sounds like you want originals anyway.
You can order your grandpa’s service records and see what he’s earned while serving and also get a snap shot of where he served, for how long, etc. We wrote a blog post about that and if you find it it tells you how to request the records and replacement medals. Good luck and let us know if we can be of help.
I have one of my Grandfather’s Dog Tags from WWII. The info in this article helped me to decipher the last piece of info that I never knew on the tag (T42), I’m assuming that it means he got his tetanus shot in 1942. I’m wanting to find a way to see if I can get a set of tags of my other grandfather, if anyone knows how I may do this, I would really appreciate it.
— Jason Reid
It is a P38 can opener, in use since 1942. I have one on my car keys today. Used them throughout my career from 1986-2013. Very handy.
— George Scott
I have my father’s WWII dog tags. I would like to know what the hinged item is that hangs with the dog tags. It looks the same as the picture in this article.
— Michele Gluckman