A more complex than usual post for this evening… Let’s start with this picture of two American NCOs, portryaed in France between 1917 and 1918. You’ve probably noticed the watch on the wrist of the man on the right, but the most interesting element is the bracelet on the other arm.
Indeed this is not a simple bracelet: this is an ID tag (more commonly known under the “dog tag” name). Thanks to the high resolution of the original negative plate and my powerful scanner, here is a detail of this ID Tag:
We can rather clearly read the name “W.R. Gilbertson, Sioux Falls S.D.”, whereas his serial number (at the center of the tag) is not clear.
A quick reasearch on the Web allowed me to find some information about this man. If he’s the right W.R. Gilbertson, he was born in 1891 and still alive in 1920, when the census was done.
The point is that the shape of this ID tag looks more like a French one. As far as I know, the US Army WW1 ID tag was rather different, as it was a circular one. Here’s the description according to the War Department General Order No. 204, dated December 20, 1906: “An aluminum identification tag, the size of a silver half dollar and of suitable thickness, stamped with the name, rank, company, regiment, or corps of the wearer, will be worn by each officer and enlisted man of the Army whenever the field kit is worn, the tag to be suspended from the neck, underneath the clothing, by a cord or thong passed through a small hole in the tab. It is prescribed as a part of the uniform and when not worn as directed herein will be habitually kept in the possession of the owner. The tag will be issued by the Quartermaster’s Department gratuitously to enlisted men and at cost price to officers”.
That’s the reason why any input on these ID tags (which were probably unofficial ones) would be appreciated!