By Buddy Blouin

Across the various branches of the military, you’ll find similarities and differences in their actions, cultures, uniforms, and more. But it doesn’t matter how you serve, everyone in the military community is well aware of the use and meaning behind the dog tag necklace. Used off and on since 1899, the men’s dog tag necklace has evolved over time. Currently, dog tags are worn by both men and women as they proudly serve our nation. Decorative dog tag necklaces can make a great gift for Veterans and active duty members as a way to mark an occasion or as a way to show respect for their sacrifice.

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What Does a Dog Tag Necklace Mean?

Today, it’s common to find a personalized dog tag necklace as a wonderful gift, but have you ever thought about what they truly mean? A dog tag necklace is going to mean different things to different people, but they all provide honor to those who served or are still serving.

Personalized dog tags are available for civilians and military members alike, but the history of this iconic piece of military equipment is important to keep in mind. Remember, the dog tag necklace chain is mainly worn in the field for the purpose of identification after a casualty.

Even for those not serving, a dog tag necklace can be a tribute to someone lost due to sacrifice. This makes dog tag chains a very reverent, personal piece for all.

The History of Their Use

The history of dog tag necklaces goes back as far as the American Civil War. However, they weren’t always referred to by this name. It is believed that these ID tags were given a bit of a negative connotation by either William Randolph Hearst or World War II draftees.

Regardless of who coined the term, or how it came to be, the dog tag necklace became synonymous with serving in the U.S. military and underwent many evolutions over the years.

In 1899, the first request for a dog tag necklace for service members was made by Army Chaplain Charles C. Pierce following the Spanish-American war. The Army officially mandated the use of aluminum disc-shaped ID tags in December 1906.

Worn under the field uniform, these tags included the Soldier's name, rank, company, and regiment. In July 1916, the mandate was modified to require a second suspended disc for burial service record keeping. Enlisted men received the tags, while Officers had to purchase them.

The Navy adopted the use of dog tag necklaces in May 1917, and by then, all U.S. warfighters were required to wear them. A dog tag necklace included size specifications and Army-issued serial numbers, which even included religion designations, during World War I.

The Great War would be the last to feature such marking, but WWI also brought forth other variations. Navy dog tags differed from the Army's, made of Monel metal with "U.S.N." etched into the surface using a specific process.

Enlisted dog tag necklaces included birth and enlistment dates, while Officers had their appointment dates. Additionally, the etched print of the right index finger could be found on the back for added security.

After World War I, the Navy ID tags were not used until reinstated in May 1941 and would then feature mechanical stamping instead of etching. Marines had been wearing ID tags since late 1916, combining elements from both styles used by the Army and Navy.

During World War II, dog tags became an official part of the uniform, taking on the rounded rectangular shape made of nickel-copper alloy. The emergency notification and "T" for tetanus vaccination features were unique during the time and were removed by the end of WWII.

Navy tags during World War II excluded fingerprints but adopted the second chain like the Army. All military dog tag necklaces had a notch (a result of the stamping process) which later disappeared as technology improved over time.

Regulations varied on whether to keep the tags together or separate them. In 1969, the Army switched from serial numbers to Social Security numbers and later to Defense Department identification numbers in 2015 for enhanced security.

Today, dog tags remain a symbol of honoring all those who served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Despite advances in technology for identifying remains, the dog tag necklace is still used in modern conflicts.

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Personalize Your Dog Tag Necklace

From honoring a loved one to showing someone how much you care, Digital Print Deals offers the perfect custom dog tag necklace for your needs. The surgical steel tags can even be plated with an 18k gold finish and allow for multiple lines of engravement.

If you’re looking to keep things more traditional for your dog tag necklace, that’s perfectly fine, but you can add photos for even more customization and flare! Great for anyone in the military community, check out the shop, which also features many other thoughtful necklace pendant gift options.

Read Next: Which Branch of the Military Should I Join? What to Consider

This article is the result of a paid collaboration with Digital Print Deals.




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