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Historical Society gift triggers research

January 28, 2013

By Verne Jackson

The Pushmataha County Historical Society research volunteers are becoming familiar with their new microfilm scanner and are answering most requests for information we may have on film. The backlog of requests was getting quite large while we were without a means of scanning the film and then printing the information. Most of this is done on Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. when our researchers are on duty. Our other days of operation are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

We have a new RSVP Volunteer who is very interested in helping with research. Mrs. Francine Locke Bray, related to the original Locke family of this area, moved back to our area this past Fall and is now helping the Historical Society.

We recently received some papers, pictures and other things from a long past family. Included in the gift were a set of W.W.I round aluminum Identification tags. Having never seen this type of ID tag before, I started researching and below is a brief summery of what I found.

The Civil war was the first recorded incident of American soldiers making an effort to insure their identities would be known if they should die on the battlefield. In 1863 General Meade’s troops wrote their names and unit designation on paper tags that were pinned on their clothes. Some troops fashioned “ID” tags out of wood with a hole for a way to hang the tag around their necks. Even with these methods of identification, approximately 42% of Civil War soldiers are still unidentified.

With this start up of ID means, the commercial sector saw a demand for an ID and provided that product to be sold to the troops. Harper’s Weekly Magazine advertised mail order “Soldier Pins” made of silver and gold. Machine stamped tags were also made of brass or lead with a hole and usually had an Eagle or a shield along with such phrases as “War for the Union” or “Liberty, Union and Equality” on one side. The other side had the soldier’s name and unit, and sometimes a list of battles he had participated in.

In a December 1906 General Order the War Department calls for “an aluminum ID Tag, the size of a Silver Half-Dollar and of suitable thickness.” Then in July 1916 the Army changed the regulations to require “All soldiers will be issued two ID Tags, one to remain on the body and the second to the person in charge of burial for record keeping.” In 1918 the Army started the Serial Number System due to so many having the same or similar names. The person’s name and serial number was imprinted on one side of the tag (Serial Number 1 was assigned to Arthur B. Crane of Chicago in his fifth enlistment period).

In 1969 the Army started to transition (Servicemen were issued both a serial number and a social security number) to the Social Security Number as the Official Identification. By WWII the round disk tag was replaced by the oblong shape familiar today and generally referred to as “Dog Tags.”

One of the common myths of the oblong shape had to do with the notch in one end of the tags that were issued between 1941 and the 1970’s. Battlefield rumor held that the notched end was placed between the front teeth of casualties to hold the jaw in place. No official record of American soldiers being issued these instructions exist. The only known purpose for the notch was to hold the blank dog tag in place on the stamping machine.

Later machines did not require a notch to hold the blank tag in place resulting in later tags being smooth on all sides. The official metal necklace was not introduced until 1943. Previously the ID tag was worn on a necklace of cotton, plastic, nylon, rayon, ect. Today’s ID Tags, using today’s technology, will hold about 80% of a person’s medical and dental information. There is also a tag being tested by the Marine Corp using radio frequency, electronics and GPS systems to better pinpoint the wounded.

 

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