Name, Rank, Serial Number and Much More.

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I’m writing this because of a recent experience I had.  A friend that is an avid antique collector handed me an old I.D. tag and said– “check this out.”  I wasn’t ready for the emotion and humility that overcame me as I held the old tarnished tag in my hand.  I realized it was much more than a piece of stamped metal– it was someone’s personal story of sacrifice,  for whom I may very well absolutely owe my own freedom too.  I stood there for a second, unable to speak.  

It was humbling to say the least. 

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The image above was taken in 1945, and shows American infantrymen lining up to drop their personal belongings (pictures and letters from loved ones back home, wallets, etc.) into boxes for safe keeping, and in accordance with regulations.  Any items (except dog tags) that could identify a soldier were strictly forbidden on special missions.  The soldiers here were stationed in Italy and preparing to embark on a night raid of German positions. Continue reading

ROGUES, SAILORS & ANCIENT MARINERS A HISTORICAL VIEW OF NAUTICAL TATTOOS

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In the early 19th century, as more and more sailors returned from distant lands, tattooing had become highly popular in the British Navy. It spread even to the British admiralty, which has for a long time included certain royals who obtained rank. Field Marshal Earl Roberts is rumored to have expressed the opinion that “every officer in the British army should be tattooed with his regimental crest.” It not only boosted morale among the ranks, but it proved useful when identifying casualties. The Prince of Wales was tattooed with a Jerusalem Cross after visiting the Holy Land in 1862. Then, his sons, the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of York (later King George V) were tattooed by the Japanese master tattooist, Hori Chiyo.

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Tattoo you.

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Although much of maritime tattooing took place on board ship, sailor to sailor– the craze spawned an industry of tattoo parlors in port cities in Britain and the United States, and indeed, around the world. Many of the proprietors of early tattoo shops were sailors who had come ashore. Famed British tattoo artist George Burchett learned his craft with an early stint in the service. By the end of the 19th century, it was estimated that ninety percent of British and American sailors had tattoos, according to some sources.

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The anchor remains the favorite tattoo of sailors, and is still one of the most popular designs worldwide– usually placed on the upper arm, just like Popeye.  Tattoos of a sailor’s ship were like a badge of honor that proudly displayed his feelings of patriotism and comradery.  Roosters tattooed on the foot were a common motif in the early days– they acted as charms to protect against drowning.  And of course, Images of naked women were a major hit too– that is until the brass issued their ‘obscene’ warning.  After that, naval applicants could have their hopes dashed by showing up with too much ‘skin’ on their skin. Tattoo artists did a booming business covering the scantily-clad hula girls with grass skirts.

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