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dogtags. Metal identification tags worn on a chain around the neck by members of the armed forces.

Identification tags for the armed forces of the U.S. came into prominence in the Civil War. The first metal “identity discs” were issued in 1906, and by 1913 the Army made ID tags mandatory. In 1916, a second tag was added, and by 1917 all combat troops had aluminum ID tags hanging from their necks on either a rope or chain. Still used today, they come in twos so that one can be buried with the soldier and one can be sent home to the family. By World War II, the circular disc was replaced by the oblong shape familiar to us now, generally referred to as “dog tags.”reference 1 I have been unable to discover the origin of this appellation. Metal dog licenses in the form of metal tags were common even in the early part of the twentieth century, so the resemblance is certainly a contributing factor in the origin of the term. I imagine that the nickname deliberately mocks both death and authority. Perhaps the origin is tied to dogface, which is a reclaimed term for an infantryman.

1. Wooley, Richard W. . 1988. A Short History of Identification Tags. Quartermaster Professional Bulletin. Accessed May 30 2006 from http:// short_history_of_ identification_tags.htm.

About the illustration: Your basic service person's identification tags. Photograph © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.
cf: dogface Last updated: July 5, 2008
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