A.E.F. Identification, Part one
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:21 AM
This is the first of a multi part topic on A.E.F. Identification. Part two will cover Identity Bracelets; Enlisted Men’s pay Booklets and other forms of official and non official enlisted men’s ID. Part three will cover Officer’s Identity Booklets, Officer’s Record Booklets and Pilot Identity Cards etc. If any forum member has any of these items and wishes to contribute photos or information, please contact me via a private message.
This posting was inspired by the much longer thread devoted to U.S. dog tags from all branches and eras, located elsewhere on the forum, if you want to have a look at it just search “dog tags” and it will pop up. Being a true World War I nerd, I became interested in the variety of tags shown in that posting and decided that the WW I era Identity Tags needed to be explained in more detail and that they deserved a section of their own. In researching and compiling the photos for this subject I borrowed liberally from other forum members and have tried to give credit to those whose photos I have used. Some of which I saved for reference purposes before I ever envisioned this topic. I apologize to any forum member whose photos were used and not properly credited. I would also like to thank the following forum members who went out of their way to provide research and a number of the photos that were used to illustrate this posting; Teufelhunde, Mars & Thunder, Dragoon, Bobgee and New Romantic; however any and all errors would be my fault.
All forum members are heartily encourage to add additional photos of their WW I dog tags that match of differ from those shown below, especially those of the U. S. Navy and U.S.M.C. (which I’m afraid I did not do justice to) or any other branch of service that show unusual or interesting markings. I also look forward to hearing from members who can add additional information or correct any errors that I may have included in the text of this post.
Thanks to all who contribute, WW I nerd.
Please add to this post by putting up any pre WW I and WW I Army, Navy, Marine Corps Red Cross or Y.M.C.A. dog tags as well as any period photos of the men and women wearing them!
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:26 AM
U.S. Army, Navy & Marine Corps
1906 to 1918
Identity tags, better known as “dog tags” are much more than just another piece of the soldier’s uniform. Since their inception in 1906 the ubiquitous metal tag has become synonymous with the American service man and for over a hundred years “Swabbies”, “Blue Jackets”, “Aviators”, “Flyboys”, “Doughboys”, “Yanks”, “Dog Faces”, “G.Is”, “Leathernecks”, “Jar heads” and “Grunts” have all worn them, suspended from a linen tape, leather thong, shoe string, cotton cord, or metal chain around their neck. Although the appearance of the Identity Tags has changed over the years their purpose has remained exactly the same; to identify the dead and wounded heroes who have fallen all over the world from Saipan to Sadr City; Monte Cassino to Mogadishu; Cantingy to Kasserine Pass; Inchon to the Ia Drang Valley; the Hurtgen Forest to Hue City and from Beirut to Baghdad and beyond.
Countless American soldiers have died defending our freedom and our way of life. They are buried in military cemetery’s here in the United States and where they fell in battle, in foreign countries across the globe and far too many of their graves are marked by the single word “Unknown”. This was because their was no way for the body to be properly identified.
During the Civil War American soldiers first began to use a variety of methods to insure that their identity would be known if they were killed in combat. It was noted that some men, prior to battle pinned pieces of paper on their uniforms that had their name and unit written on it and others carefully marked all of their personal belongings, while some carved wooden tags and wore them on a cord around their neck. This was all done in an attempt to not be listed among the “unknowns”, or unidentified casualties. It did not take long for private vendors to offer what became known as “Soldiers Pins” that were sold to, and worn by both “Johnny Reb” and “Billy Yank”. Despite their every effort, to this day over forty percent of the American Civil War dead remain unidentified.
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:27 AM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:28 AM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:29 AM
Photo no. 03: This keystone shaped tag hails from the Spanish American War and belonged to a member of the 14th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. This type of ID Tag is indicative of those made locally for State Militia Units. (Courtesy of forum member mars & thunder)
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:33 AM
]“So simple a method…”[/i]
The 1906 Identity Tag
It was not until 1899 that the U.S. Army first began to consider that an official identity tag should be issued to the troops in the field. A captain in the Quartermaster Corps, Captain Charles C. Pierce, whose duty was to establish the Quartermaster Office of Identification in the Philippines, recommended that the inclusion of an “Identity Disc” in the soldiers issued combat field kit would aide with the identification of the dead.
The wheels of change turned slowly in the American Army of the early twentieth century and it was not until December 20, 1906 that a single aluminum identity (ID) tag was prescribed for wear by the Department of the Army. The following year, in the annual Quartermaster General’s report the Army’s new ID Tag was described,
“By General Orders, No. 204, War Department, 1906, this Department is charged with the duty of providing for sale to officers and gratuitous issue to enlisted men aluminum identification tags, the size of a silver half-dollar, of suitable thickness, to be suspended from the neck underneath the clothing by means of tape. Seventy-five thousand of these tags have been procured from the Ordnance Department at a cost of $750, and request for purchase of 50,000 additional have been made upon the chief of Ordnance. Each tag is to be stamped with the name, rank, company, regiment or corps, of the wearer, and steel dies for stamping the tags are furnished by the Ordnance Department to each organization commander.”
The brand new 1906 Identity Tag was a round aluminum disc, thirty one millimeters in diameter, it had a single hole near one edge to accommodate the one yard long, khaki linen neck tape that was issued with each tag to suspend it from the neck. The ID Tags were authorized for both officers and enlisted men and were issued free of charge to the enlisted men and at the cost price of one cent per set to the officers. Each tag was inscribed with the soldiers name, his rank and his unit designation. The ID tags were quickly christened “Dog tags” by the soldiers, based on the metal license tag that was attached to a leather collar worn around a dog’s neck. This excerpt from the 1907 journal of the “Association of Military Surgeon Generals of the United States” gave a hearty endorsement to the Army’s new method for identifying its killed and wounded,
“The identification tags recently adopted for the United States Army have been made and are ready for issue. They consist of an aluminum disk the exact shape and dimensions of a silver half dollar perforated with a small aperture near the periphery through which a piece of linen tape is to be passed and worn as shown in the accompanying illustration. The name, rank, regiment or corps, etc. are to be stamped upon these disks which will render the long rows of unknown dead such as are seen at Gettysburg, Antietam and other battlefields practically impossible in another war, should one occur.”
Photo no. 04: This photograph from the November 1907 issue of “Popular Mechanics” magazine shows the Army’s new 1906 ID Tag and the correct manner in which it was to be marked. It is interesting that the brief description of the tag went on to say,
“It is strange that so simple a method of identifying killed and wounded soldiers should not have been adopted before this date.” (Courtesy of forum member new romantic)
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:34 AM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:36 AM
The 1910 Identity Tag
Photo no. 06: These soldiers lounging in their squad tent all appear to be wearing 1911 Service Breeches and 1916 Flannel Shirts. The man seated on the bunk is wearing a single 1910 style dog tag on the outside of his shirt.
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:38 AM
At some point between 1910 and 1916 each soldier’s service number which was also known as a roster number because it appeared next to his name on the company’s roster sheet was added to each ID Tag. This became the individual soldier’s official identifying number. The smaller 1906 size tags continued to be issued and were worn until all existing supplies were used up and presumably for some time after 1910 a mixture of both size dog tags would have been seen among the ranks of any company, battery or troop.
Photo no. 07: Although this tag belonged to a WW I National Guardsman it is stamped per the 1910 regulations and bears the soldier’s name, his company roster number of 160 and his Branch, Corps or Department designation, in this case Company D, 161st Infantry Regiment, 41st Division. (Courtesy of forum member teufelhund)
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:44 AM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:49 AM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:52 AM
“Two identification tags will be worn…”
The 1910/16 Identity Tags
Photo no. 10: These two infantry men wait patiently for their commanding officer to conduct a foot and equipment inspection. Both men have placed their 1910/16 dog tags outside of their clothing for better visibility during the inspection. The men were issued one set of ID Tags free of charge; however, if the tags were lost due to the negligence of the soldier, he would be charged two cents for their replacement.
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:53 AM
“When equipped for field duty two identification tags will be worn under the shirt, one tag to be suspended from a cord or thong around the neck, the second tag to be suspended from the first one by a short piece of string or tape.”
Photo no. 11: Here another group of soldiers assigned to KP duty circa 1917, pose for an unknown photographer and are wearing a wide variety of military clothing including three vastly different undershirts and a pair of blue denim overalls. The soldier in back, wearing the cook’s hat has a pair of ID Tags hung around his neck that appear to be comprised of two smaller size 1906 tags.
Posted 28 April 2009 - 11:55 AM
A. Two 1906 thirty one millimeter discs, each with one hole.
B. Two 1916 thirty one millimeter discs each with two holes.
C. Two 1910/16 thirty five millimeter discs, each with a single hole
D. One large 1910/16 disc and one 1906 small disc each with one hole.
E. One large 1910/16 disc with one hole and one 1916 small disc with two holes.
This was because there was no need to replace an older tag as long as the information it contained was still correct. Therefore, the size of the tag(s) issued depended on which size or model tag happened to be on hand at the time a soldier needed to update or replace a lost or out of date set of tags. The supplementary disc contained the same information as the primary disc and was fabricated with only one hole. The 1916 regulations amended when the dog tags were to be worn. It specified that the ID Tags were to be in permanent possession of the owner at all times, in other words, they now had to be worn twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for all occasions which included field, camp and garrison duty.
Photo no. 12: These photos illustrate the possible combinations of Army ID Tags that were worn between 1916 and 1918. The four main pairings that were possible were made up of the 1910/16 primary and secondary tags as well as the 1917 temporary square tag that was pressed into service. From top to bottom:
A. Two large sized 1910/16 secondary ID Tags stamped to 1st Lieutenant, Samuel Johnson, Air Service.
B. This pair of tags is stamped correctly, per the June 1918 specifications for all A.E.F. troops and is comprised of one smaller sized 1916 primary tag, with two holes, combined with one large sized 1910/16 secondary tag suspended from it. Both tags are correctly marked with only the Doughboy’s name, serial number and the initials “U.S.A.” without any additions or embellishments.
C. This set of dog tags belonged to 2nd Lieutenant Clarence R. Wilsey and is made up of two small sized 1916 primary tags, both without any additional embellishments. The smaller size of the secondary tags often resulted in the stamped information being crowded together.
D. The last set consists of one 1917 square, makeshift tag attached to a round 1916 primary tag. Both tags bear the man’s name, unit designation, initials “U.S.A.” and serial number. (Courtesy Bay State Militaria)
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:00 PM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:01 PM
The 1910/16 Identity Tags were the dog tags worn by the millions of men and boys who went to fight in France as part of the A.E.F. When America declared war hundreds of thousands of young men flooded into the Army and were sent to training camps all across the nation. This massive influx of patriotic recruits, Federalized National Guardsmen and later, drafted conscripts overwhelmed the Army’s supply system and created a shortage of almost every article of equipment that had to be issued to the thousands of training soldiers. This shortage included the round aluminum ID Tags, whose current demand far exceeded the existing supply. In order to fill the gap overseas, General Order No. 21, GHQ, A.E.F., dated August 3, 1917 authorized the use of a makeshift square aluminum ID tag. The square, temporary tag was approximately thirty five by thirty five millimeters and had one hole. The stop-gap tags were simpler and faster to fabricate and were meant to take the place of the larger round secondary tag which was in short supply and as such, it was always hung from a round 1916, primary dog tag with two holes. As a result, many early members of the A.E.F. possessed a mismatched set of ID Tags comprised of a single round disc and an improvised, square tag.
Photo no. 14: In mid 1917 it was necessary to use a temporary square ID Tag combined with a 1916 style round tag because there were not enough of the regulation discs available to supply all of the volunteers and draftees rapidly swelling the ranks of the U.S. Army. The makeshift tags were used only by members of the A.E.F. until the military suppliers were able to catch up with their demand for regulation dog tags. (Courtesy of forum member teufelhund)
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:02 PM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:04 PM
“Our army serial numbers…”
Changes, March 1918
On February 15, 1918 to better keep track of the large numbers of men that were flooding into the Army, it was determined that each member of the military would be assigned a serial number, which would replace the company roster number that had worked efficiently to identify the men in the much smaller peace time Army. Now that the Army ranks had swelled into the millions the two or three digit roster number stamped onto the front of each mans ID Tag was deemed to no longer be efficient. The new serial or service number replaced the old roster number and no two men would ever be assigned the same number again, thus alleviating some of the confusion caused by the smaller roster numbers. The service numbers began with the number one and ran sequentially, and by February of 1919 they had nearly reached the six million mark. At the time that the Army adopted the military serial numbers most of the Doughboys currently serving still wore a set of ID Tags marked with the now obsolete roster number. When the new serial numbers began to be issued, they were simply stamped under the existing two or three digit roster number or onto the reverse of the existing dog tag which for the most part were still blank.
Photo no. 16: This soldier stationed along the border in 1916 wears an early M1912 Pistol Belt without the eagle snap found on later models that was used to secure the pistol magazine pouch. His first aid pouch has been marked on the front flap with his three digit company roster number in black. The numeral “102”, stenciled onto the flap of his first aid pouch matched the number stamped on his dog tags, which in turn matched the number that appeared next to his name on the company’s roster sheet. The number was used to identify him as soldier number 102 in the company and it was used to identify his equipment during inspections and also prevented it from being mistakenly taken or used by another soldier.
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:05 PM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:06 PM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:08 PM
“We were given our first set of personal identification tags (dog tags). Something was wrong with them, and they were later replaced. There were 2 of them, plain aluminum discs, stamped on one side with our names and our numbers on the company roster, on the other with our army serial numbers. Our numbers were in the range 753,700 to 753,900 indicating that we were well within the second half million of enlistments.”
Another soldier, a drafted recruit training for the 77th Division, in a letter home, briefly described some of the military gear he was issued while training, which included his new set of military dog tags,
“We have every thing even tents and identification tags we are to wear always. They are metal and bear our name and number.”
The issued ID Tags were primarily used to identify the dead and wounded in battle but they were also useful for other more ordinary identification purposes. A Doughboy who made up part of a replacement or “Depot” Division, waiting to ship out from the docks at Hoboken, New Jersey and would eventually wind up in the “Big Red One’s” 28th Infantry Regiment, filed this report in his diary as the time came to board the transport ship that would carry him to France,
“There were two gangplanks up which single file the khaki colored lines were slowly moving. At the bottom of each plank, a desk had been set up, and at this desk were officers with lists of the men in each company. Captain Hoopes in our case or the captain of each company, stood nearby to identify his men as they slowly passed by. Each man had to pull out his ‘dog-tags’ to show that he was what he represented himself to be. This tag was made of aluminum, and on it was stamped with the man’s name, rank, army serial number and organization to which he belonged. It took a long time to work your way along foot by foot, first you would get out from under the shed and it was a thrill to look up at the big ship you were to cross the Atlantic in, then step by step you went across the pier. As each man was passed you went a little closer. Finally it was your turn, all atwitter you gave your name and wondered if by any chance it had been left off the list. When it was found and your ‘dog-tag’ looked at to the satisfaction of the embarkation officer, you heaved a sigh, whether of sadness or satisfaction, and you stepped up the gang plank, bound for WHAT?”
Photo no. 19: A large portion of the American service men headed overseas in the summer of 1918 wore a pair of 1910/16 style dog tags marked per the March 1918 regulations, much like the secondary tag shown below that bears the man’s name, his Branch, Corps or Department designation and the new serial number which usually appeared on the back of each tag. (Courtesy of forum member teufelhund)
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:15 PM
“Carving alterations with my pocket knife…”
Keeping the ID Tags Up To Date
Once the men were in possession of their two ID Tags, each individual soldier was responsible for keeping his personal pair of dog tags up to date. They had to alter, re-stamp or replace each tag whenever they were promoted, transferred or otherwise permanently reassigned to another organization. To aid the men with keeping their personal dog tags up to date, each company was issued one M1910 ID Tag Stamping Kit. The dog tag stamping kit contained steel dies bearing numbers, letters and punctuation marks, a small hammer, an anvil, blank aluminum discs instructions, a jig to hold the aluminum tag, a special steel template, that was used to properly format the required information as well as a sample disc to use as a guide to correctly mark the tags. All this equipment was packed into a compact, olive drab painted, wooden case. One Doughboy who started his army career as a buck private in the 77th Division and rose through the ranks from private, to corporal and then to sergeant, eventually earning a commission and was promoted to the rank of 2nd lieutenant, after which he was reassigned to the 2nd Division’s, 23rd Infantry regiment. The newly minted junior lieutenant left a detailed list of what he wore and carried in combat during the assault on the St. Mihiel salient in September 1918. In it he recorded how he had altered his original pair of ID Tags along the way,
“Should I take my overcoat? No! Positively not! I simply could not be impeded by a coat that was sure to get heavy, sure to be hampering, and likely to catch on the barb wire. I wrote my name in indelible pencil inside the coat, wrapped my blanket in it and tied the bundle. My mussette bag, one of the popular French satchels of canvas and leather with two fastening straps and a broad webbed shoulder strap, I set aside. It contained my field glasses, my shaving kit, some handkerchiefs, some letters from home, my Sam Browne belt and my leather puttees.
What I did keep was easy to carry. I had a privately made silver identification tag on my left wrist along with my wristwatch; about my neck, on the very piece of tape on which they hung when I left Camp Upton, were my two issue identification tags of aluminum. By carving them with my pocket knife I had kept them up to date. One side read 2448602-2nd Lt. the other, Louis F Ranlett Pvt.– Co.B– Corp. Sgt. 308 Inf.
[Note each letter highlighted in red brown should have a forward slash (/) through it indicating that it had been scratched off of the tag, nerd]
I wore a money belt that contained my letter of credit, heavy woolen underwear, hand knitted woolen socks, an issue woolen shirt, the heavy woolen sleeveless sweater that my mother had knitted, my old enlisted mans uniform, wrap leggings, field boots. Except for my gold shoulder bars there was no distinguishing my uniform from that of a private. On my left shoulder was sewn the blue diamond shaped piece of cloth that distinguished every member of the 3rd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, I Company.
[If anyone is interested in the early insignia worn by the 2nd Division (before the Indian Head) please post a request and I will post it, nerd]
Many soldiers of the Civil War were saved from death by Bibles that turned bullets from their hearts. I carried my khaki covered Testament, but not in my left breast pocket, my steel mirror was there. In other pockets were my small silk flag, my notebook with a list of names of the men in my platoon, a box of matches, my money, a knife, an indelible pencil. My whistle dangled from my breast pocket. The satchel of my gasmask was strapped at the alert beneath my chin. My pistol belt carried my canteen, the automatic pistol, four extra loaded magazines and my first aid packet. My raincoat hung awkwardly from it at one side. My pack held nothing but my mess kit, two cans of beans and two cans of meat. My steel helmet topped off.”
Photo no. 20: One M1910 ID Tag Marking Kit was carried with each company’s HQ detachment. It was used to alter, update and to make replacement tags whenever necessary. This particular compact wooden case is missing the printed instruction sheet that was normally found on the inside of the lid. Arranged outside of the box is the anvil, hammer, formatting template and a handful of the steel stamping dies. (Courtesy Advance Guard Militaria)
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:16 PM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 12:17 PM
The June 1918 Changes
In the early months of 1918, just a few months after the Doughboys entered the trenches the ID Tags they wore were stamped with each individual soldier’s Branch, Corps or Department designation and many soldier’s had developed the habit of marking their tags with their individual rank, army job description and other unnecessary information. By June 1918, GHQ had determined that the unit designation could be of use to enemy intelligence officers and deemed it to be a security risk and high command generated a general order that directed that all unit designations would be eliminated and replaced by the initials “U.S.A.” before the troops entered into the “Zone of Advance”. It further demanded that all enlisted rank and other unauthorized information was to be removed. After the issue of this order many Doughboys drew a new set of ID Tags, stamped without any rank and with the initials of the United States of America, instead of their individual unit. But, in many cases, for whatever reason the dog tag marking outfit or blank tags were not available, so in order to comply with the latest order, the troops at the front had to modify their old tags by stamping over or otherwise defacing the now forbidden information before they could move into the front line.
Photo no. 22: Both of these ID Tags have been formatted to the out of date March 1918 regulations and have been field modified to update them to the current June 1918 regulation that required all unit, organization and enlisted men’s rank to be removed. Both have had their unit designations obliterated to prevent the information, now deemed a security risk, from falling into enemy hands. The first tag has been stamped over using the letter “X” die from the dog tag marking outfit and the unit on the second tag has been completely carved away, most likely with a pocket knife or bayonet. (Courtesy of forum member F 106 pilot & unknown forum member)
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