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William Bradley Umstead, 1895-1954
Identification Tags ("Dog Tags").
From the William B. Umstead World War I Collection
North Carolina Collection Gallery, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

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Source Description
Title:
Identification Tags ("Dog Tags").
Date:
1918.
Call Number:
CK.621.23A-B, 24A-B
North Carolina Collection Gallery, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Physical Description:

DOG TAGS, two circular aluminum tags attached to a strip of fabric; larger tag is stamped "WILLIAM B. UMSTEAD. / 1ST. LT. / I.N.A." [Infantry, National Army] on obverse, "317.M.G.BN." [Machine Gun Battalion] on reverse; smaller tag is stamped "WILLIAM B. UMSTEAD. / I.N.A." on obverse and "317.MG.BN" on reverse; @1.5" (3.8 cm), overall length with fabric tie 13" (33 cm); fair condition.

DOG TAGS, two circular aluminum tags attached to a strip of fabric; one tag is stamped "WILLIAM B. UMSTEAD. / 1ST. LT. / INF.N.A./ U.S.A." on obverse, "317.M.G.BN." (Machine Gun Battalion) on reverse; other tag is stamped with same; 1.25" (3.2 cm) and 1.5" (3.8 cm), overall length with fabric tie 13.5" (34.3 cm); fair condition.

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Notes:

Dying in battle was an ever-present fear for many soldiers. An even worse prospect was to die and be lost, to be an unidentified corpse destined for an unmarked or mass grave. To minimize those possibilities, tags were issued to American soldiers in pairs. One tag was to be removed from a dead comrade to record officially his death; the other, left with the body, ensuring that the body would remain easily identifiable until burial or if exhumed and relocated. Note that Umstead's dog tags are made of aluminum. Unlike steel, light-weight aluminum resists moisture and corrosion, making it possible to identify human remains with such tags long after they have been buried.

Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.