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WWII Dog Tags Explained

Dog Tags

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.

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Comments on this post ( 2 )

  • May 24, 2022

    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

  • Jan 31, 2022

    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

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