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why do soldiers wear two dog tags

There are many explanations for the Notch on the WWII / Korean Conflict dog tags. The notch refers to the V cut out on the short side of the dog tag across from the hole. The most popular explanation for the notch is to place the tag securely in the teeth on a fallen soldier s body. This may have been done but that was not the original purpose of the notch. There s a great story told about a soldier who was kicking the tag into the teeth of a dead soldier and actually woke him up! Another popular belief is that the notch was used in the old Graphotype dog tag stamping machines in order to line up a blank dog tag for proper tag alignment during tag stamping. We have used both electric and hand crank machines from the WWII era, and have never figured out how a notch would help in the alignment of the tag.

The best explanation is the notch s use by the Medical Corp submitted by Alan Batens. The Model 70 Addressograph was a pistol-type imprinting machine used by the Medical Department during WWII. Its function was to transfer the wounded soldier s identification information directly from his dog tags to his medical records (see above graphic). The notch in the dog tag would align and hold the tag securely in the Addressograph. First the dog tag was inserted into the imprinting machine. After the medical document was aligned in the Addressograph, the trigger on the imprinting machine was pulled and the information on the dog tag was transferred to the medical document through the ribbon of carbon paper located inside the Addressograph.

The red arrows in the picture above, are showing the carbon marks from the use of the Addressograph to transfer data from a soldier s dog tags to the Report of Burial. Many thanks to Alan S Batens for providing the above explanation and the following pictures. Be sure to check out his very thorough web site, The Combat Medic at:
Today, the notched tag is no longer used by the US government and has been replaced by one tag placed on a short chain, 5. 5 long, commonly referred to as the Toe Tag. It was during the Civil War that soldiers first found the need for some kind of identification on their bodies during combat. In the days of the Civil War, 1861-1865, some soldiers going into combat improvised their own identification, pinning slips of paper with name and home address to the backs of their coats, stenciling identification on their knapsacks or scratching it in the soft lead backing of the Army belt buckle.

Record keeping was haphazard under wartime conditions and grave locations were often lost. After the conclusion of the Civil War the U. S. Army located and exhumed the remains of 300,000 Union veterans buried in the South, then reinterred these remains in a national cemetery. Nationwide, 54% of the number reinterred were classified as Unknown. At 75% of the Civil War dead are listed as unidentified. At Salisbury National Cemetery, North Carolina, 99% of the 12,126 Federal soldiers interred are listed as unidentified.

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