Friday, August 8, 2014

Joseph Sauer's WWII Dog Tag

This is a follow-up to this past Wednesday's semi-wordless post. Many bloggers have a Wordless Wednesday post in which they just put up a picture. That is what I did except the picture actually had words in it so it was only kind of a Wordless Wednesday.

This is the image I posted. It is the WWII dog tag of my great grandmother's brother, Joseph A. Sauer.


This year marks the 100th anniversary, or centenary, of the start of WWI, or what at the time was called The Great War. WWI began on July 28, 1914 and lasted until November 11, 1918. You will see that there will be many events and programs this year reflecting on WWI. 

Joseph served in WWII though which started on September 1, 1939 and lasted until September 2, 1945. Joseph was kind of old to be a soldier at that time. He was born on May 6, 1902 in Manhattan. He enlisted on September 9, 1942 at the age of 40. He died on December 23, 1968, long after WWII. He is interred in Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn, NY. 

Joseph's brother-in-law, my great-grandpa Charles A. Henry, who was just a few years older than Joseph, served in WWI. Charles was born March 26, 1896. He enlisted on September 9, 1918. Joseph at that time would have only been 16; narrowly escaped the age requirement for enlisting in WWI.

Here is a photo of Charles A. Henry in his WWI uniform.


Although I love that WWI photo of my great-grandpa, I find something so poignant about Joseph's WWII dog tag. The purpose of the dog tag was to identify the dead. And although Joseph survived WWII, he knew when he was issued that item what its purpose was. It must have served as a constant reminder of the risk he was taking. 

Although the item does not reveal much genealogical information it does tell an important family story about service to ones country. It does list the name and address of the individual's next of kin, though. That much is genealogical. In this case, the unmarried Joseph's next of kin was his widowed mother. If his father was alive at the time, it would have listed him.

I don't know if you can see it but in the lower right hand corner there is a small stamped "O." This was Joseph's blood type. It was placed there to inform medic should the soldier need a blood transfusion. At this time they did not know about the Rh factor; the + or - that now accompanies a letter when you are told your blood type. I am also "O"; "O+" like my father.

In my opinion, the dog tag is the most personal of all items ever issued by the government. These items were there throughout all the battles and service the soldier endured. I am not sure what Joseph did in the war. I have never been able to find his WWII Enlistment Record. And I am not entirely sure how my father came to own this tag that belonged to his great uncle but it shakes me to my core to think about what this tag might have "seen" regardless of what war it was issued for or what service Joseph gave his country.


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