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Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 08:33 AM

An Introduction to IJA dog tag specifications and regulations (1894-1945)
1 Attachment(s)
An Introduction to IJA dog tag specifications and regulations (1894-1945)

This is my latest long article for the forum. Please refrain from commenting until the whole work is uploaded. Association members are welcome to post photos of their tags for IDing here later in the thread. Other members without direct uploading rights are requested to open an independent thread instead of posting photos here, as I would not like to see this thread pock-marked with dead photo links later.

Ever since writing about army pay books, I have had the intention to cover the other item of personal identification, the dog tags. Three years ago, I even mentioned on the forum that one day I would write on that subject, so I owed forum members an article already for quite some time. However, the subject involved a lot of tedious directory compiling and that had discouraged me from taking up the challenge earlier. The directories are an integral part of the story, because to a non-Japanese person, tags are virtually double encrypted in how they are stamped. Firstly, it is stamped in Japanese and secondly, even the early tags employ abbreviated Japanese, akin to English acronyms, not to mention WW2 tags that use outright codes, numbers that cannot be deciphered without a code list. Unless I made a directory that decoded those Japanese acronyms into English, there was not much point in writing about the subject. But finally, I told myself that life was getting a too short to keep procrastinating about doing what must get done, so I gritted my teeth and dove into the Japanese National Archives. For the pre-1940 tags all the decoding directories that existed have been translated into English for your benefit.

For the post-1940 tags that employ unit designations expressed by 3 to 5 digit code numbers under a kanji character, (called Tsushogo codes, “Tsusho” means nickname and “go” means designation) creating a directory would have been an undertaking of phone book proportions. Instead, I chose to provide links to the various directories that already exist in Japanese, which were made by the Ministry of Welfare in the 40s and 60s to assist repatriation of ex-soldiers. Some of these lists have already been introduced on this forum and on others, but I also break some totally fresh ground here that many collectors should appreciate. Instead of just lists that run through the numbers, I will also introduce lists organized by theater of operations, compiled in the 60s, which should be more comprehensive and accurate than those made in haste in 1946. These “by theater” lists should be particularly helpful to collectors that specialize in a certain island campaign, etc and may be cross referenced against the “by number” list. Granted, it is still not in English, but I have done 80% of the decoding for you. Once you get the unit designation in Japanese, it is just a matter of straightforward translation.

In order to show how the real things were stamped, I borrowed numerous photos I found on this forum and added some others I found on the net. I would like to acknowledge here those whose forum photos I took the liberty of using. I thank in advance, Alex, Chris, David, Paul, Stu, helmhunter and kaigun air, and belatedly and humbly ask for your permission.

The Key Points, the 4W1H of ID tag regulations
IJA dog tags were first introduced on 22 June, 1894 by Army Ordinance No.63 as “Specifications and Issuing Procedures for ID tags”, immediately before the Sino-Japanese War, which broke out only a month later. At that time, this regulation discussed the following 9 aspects.

1. Who were to be issued tags for free
2. Who had to purchase their own tags
3. How the tags were to be worn
4. How to keep track of who got assigned which number
5. What to do with outdated tags improvised by units prior to the regulation
6. Specifications for the disc and cord
7. What information to be stamped and where
8. Who had to assign numbers to the tags
9. Which budget to use for preparing the tags

Of these attributes the first 7 changed over time, so I will show how each of these items evolved. However, before putting points 8 and 9 totally aside, let me simply say that it was the responsibility of the headquarters of each unit to assign numbers to their members. Later when replacement units supplied soldiers to field units, numbers given by the replacement units served as personal numbers and the designation of the replacement unit was inserted between the field unit designation and the personal numbers. Budget coverage ceased to be mentioned from the 1924 regulation change, but until that time, it was the army trust account that got charged for the cost.
For the other 7 points, let’s take a look at each and see how each point evolved over the years.

Item 1: Ranks subject to issue of ID tags

At time of introduction on June 22, 1894
“The purpose of an ID tag is to identify those soldiers and civilians serving the military upon death or injury, and is to be issued to master sergeants (特務曹長), NCOs and enlisted men upon mobilization by the unit they are attached to.” The general idea was that tags were issued only to individuals going to war ( homeland units were initially not given tags).

March 29, 1917
“Master sergeants (特務曹長)” earned the privilege to move out the barracks and ceased to be issued tags and were now required to purchase their own as per officers. This was considered a NCO rank at the time, but in 1932 they were switched to warrant officers and the rank was discontinued.

November 14, 1917
The garrison hospital for replacements of the Taiwan Garrison and Rusu Reserve units (Rusu units were skeleton units of approx. one third of full unit size left behind by divisions or regiments at home base after they vacate the base due to deployment overseas. They induct new recruits and train them as replacements for their parent unit in the field) were excluded from issuance. Civilians in army service, who could be issued tags, were limited to those equivalent to EM and NCOs. EM and NCOs as replacements were now issued tags.

April 12th, 1924
The above exclusions for replacements of the Taiwan Garrison and Rusu Reserve units were reversed, and now simply all NCOs and below were issued tags.

October 27, 1943
The final regulation said, “The purpose of an ID tag is to identify those soldiers and civilians serving the military upon death or injury, and are to be issued to officers and below upon mobilization. It is also to be issued to officers and below, who are assigned as replacements to a field unit”. From this time, even officers were now issued tags.

Item 2: Those who had to pay for their own tags

At time of introduction on June 22, 1894
Officers and their equivalents (相当官), warrant officers (准士官) and civilians in army service (軍属) shall provide ID tags at their personal expense. Paymasters and such did not hold officer ranks until 1932 and referred to as “officer equivalents”.

November 14, 1917 update
Civilians in service of the army equivalent to EM and NCOs were now issued tags.

October 27, 1943
Even officers were now issued dog tags, so private purchase of tags are no longer an issue from this point.

Officer tags were always engraved by chisel, as the huge range of kanji used in names made it totally impractical to prepare stamping dies.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 08:41 AM

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Item 3: Manner of wear of ID tags

At time of introduction on June 22, 1894
The tag was to be hung from the neck at the chest with a cord under the undershirt. For the first 23 years of its existence, the tags were not worn diagonally in the WW2 style, although the cord length had been the same throughout.

November 14, 1917 update
The tag was now to be worn with the cord diagonally from the right shoulder to the left flank under the undershirt. The 1943 spec change did not alter the manner of wear, so the 1917 rule on this point applied until 1945. Officers, however, took more liberty in the manner of wear of their tags and many sewed theirs onto their canvas sword belts during WW2.

Item 4: Master Log of tag numbers

At time of introduction on June 22, 1894
When issuing tags, the tag number should be recorded in the field roster (戦時名簿)

November 14, 1917 update
When issuing tags, the tag number should be recorded in the new format field roster (戦時イロハ名簿)

October 27, 1943
The name of the roster had evolved into戦時イロハ留守擔當者名簿

Although the self-proclaimed purpose of the tags had always been the identification of the dead and wounded, IJA tags only had tenuous claim to such attributes in reality. In the beginning, even the tag’s numbers were only like seat numbers in a theater, pre-numbered to the standard headcount allocation of a company. So if a soldier died, someone else just took that seat and number. Then the roster was the only link between a soldier’s name and his tag number, so whether one could identify the name of a soldier through his ID tag hinged on this document. Although I call it a roster, it is actually one sheet per soldier, in which the soldier’s war record was entered along with information similar to those in the front pages of the pay book. The sheet was first created as one entered training camp, and when those troops moved out, it went with them. Unfortunately most units that carried out suicide Banzai attacks burned all such records in advance, so the majority of those tags have lost their function of identifying the soldier forever. However, after the surrender, in October of 1945, the Ministry of the Army belatedly reversed its earlier instructions to burn the rosters and issued a memo ordering troops in the field to return with the papers. So some did survive like those for soldiers drafted from Okinawa, as well as for Gunma Prefecture units that served in China and Ibaraki Prefecture units returning from Burma, China and the New Britain Islands.

Item 5: Run-out of previously improvised tags

At time of introduction on June 22, 1894
“If units have already provided their own tags, these may be allowed concurrent use despite being of nonconforming specifications.”

From November 14, 1917
Tags stamped prior to the issuance of the 1917 stamping guideline could still be put into service

From April 12th, 1924
Tags stamped prior to the issuance of the 1924 revised stamping guideline and which no longer complied with those new guidelines were to have the outdated entries crossed out with 2 lines and had the updated stamping made beside it.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 08:48 AM

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Item 6: Specifications of ID tags

At time of introduction on June 22, 1894

The design and specification of the ID tags are to be as shown in the attached sheet
Tag material: Brass
Tag length: 1 Sun 5 Bu (45mm)
Tag width: 1 Sun 1 Bu (33mm)
Tag thickness: 3 Rin (1mm)

Cord material: White woven tape
Cord length: 3 Shaku 6 Sun (1090mm)
Cord width: 2 Bu (6mm)
Dimensions were initially in the Japanese Shaku and Sun measuring units and later in metric millimeters, but was only the yardstick that changed not the dimensions .

1897 feasibility study for name stamping and alternative materials
The army discussed the feasibility of stamping the actual names of the soldiers directly unto the tags to expedite identification of the individual, but this was regarded as not feasible, though desirable. At the same time, wood and bamboo as alternatives for tag material was rejected as unsuitable in the memo of December 11, 1897

October 27, 1943 (Amy Ordinance No.90, superceding Ordinance No.44 of 1917)
Since changing the manner of wear to a diagonal one in 1917, nothing had physically changed on the tags for 26 years, but in 1943, now facing material shortages of war, they had to revisit the issue of alternative materials for the metal tags, which they had once rejected back in the 1897 study.
Tag material description was now changed to “Brass or similar material”.
The alternative materials for the tags were already identified in an earlier spec notice issued on March 25th of that year as “Aluminum” or “Soft steal sheeting” This spec sheet was extremely detailed about the material characteristics of the disc, so I will cover those points below.

ID Tag Spec details issued on 25th March, 1943
Alloy Material
a. For brass, the alloy mix norm should be copper 67% and Zinc 33%
b. For aluminum alloy, the purity of aluminum to be 93% or more
a. Brass: 90 grams
b. Aluminum alloy: 32 grams
c. Soft steal sheeting: 100 grams

Plating (applicable only for steal sheeting)
Durable brass plating is to be applied. Durability to be tested by 5 hours of immersion in 5% salt water followed by 5 hours of exposure to air. No excessive corrosion to be observed during or after.

Corrosion Proofing of Aluminum
Rubber, varnish, or epoxy coating is to be baked onto the pressed disc.

Allowance is made for variance in copper and zinc content ratios when recycled brass is used.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:09 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Note: Earlier versions of the above spec sheet did exist, but the 25th March 1943 issue is the only one that seemed to have survived. The revisions log, however, does mention a 21st May, 1941 revision, as well as a 25th July, 1927 and a 5th July, 1919 version, so the addition of steel sheeting and aluminum may also have happened around 1941. This explains the existence of tags that appear to be steel in photos, yet have Tsushogo numerical unit codes that gradually prevailed between 1940 and 1942. If steel came into use only in 1943, all such tags should show this late war coding instead.

Item 7: Stamping of unit designations

June 22, 1894
At the time of introduction of ID tags, the composition of the IJA was simple enough, so that how to stamp the three lines on the disc could be simply demonstrated by a single example illustration of a tag for an infantry regiment, doubling also as a spec diagram. Other services were merely to follow the same principle.
The following comments were the only instructions given in the diagram.

-Warrant officers and above and civilians in army service were to have only their rank and name stamped.

- (Example) ID tags for an infantry regiment would have”歩” for Infantry regiment (or”後歩”for infantry reserve regiment or”歩補” replacement infantry
 regiment) above the regiment number.

-The number in the center of the tag was the company number, if preceded by a “中” or when one belonged to the battalion HQ, one may stamp “大” and   follow it with a battalion number. However, in case of indicating regimental HQ, this number would be omitted.

-The third and last line was the personnel number preceded by “番”, and in the case of an Infantry company, this number will run typically from 1 to 218,   for regimental HQ from 1 to 7, and for battalion HQ 1 to 69. Thus at this time, these numbers were merely allocated within the standard headcount     allocation of the soldier’s home unit.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:19 AM

2 Attachment(s)
November 14, 1917 update
The vast number and variety of formations mobilized by WW1 made the simple follow-the-example stamping guide in the 1894 regulation insufficient. For this reason the 1917 revision introduced “Guidelines for stamping characters into ID tags, Army Secret Ordinance No. 271”, a new regulation, separate from “Revised Specifications and Issuing Procedures for ID tags , Army Ordinance No.44” which was an update of regulations on specs, issuance and wear that had existed since 1894. This 1917 version of the Specs and Procedure regulations remained long unchanged, only to see the next revision as late as a quarter of a century later, in 1943. On the other hand, the stamping guidelines would continue to evolve as the army continued to modernize and grow and finally even had to conceal, in wartime, the true identity of the unit from the enemy, not to give away the battle order. But for now, the point was still to be as brief as possible with the stamping, yet keep the unit’s name easily identifiable.

The new stamping regulations of 1917 differentiated between three categories of ID tags, those for “mobilized troops”, those for “homeland reserves and replacements” and lastly those for “Officers”, and set out stamping format instructions for each category.

For mobilized troops, a listing of abbreviated stampings of unit designations, called Ryakufugo (略符号) was established. For replacement personnel, the first line of stampings showed where he was assigned to and his original replacement unit was to be stamped above the personnel number of the third line.

It was also this regulation that established the unique manner in which numbers above 10 were to be stamped. The correct Japanese way to write 15 and 20 is 十五 and二十 respectively, where 十 has the same meaning as the Roman numeral X. However, 十 was not to be used for stamping ID tag numbers, so 15 was simply to be stamped 一五 (1 and 5) like in Western Arabic numerals. 20 was to be stamped as 二〇 (2 and 0) by employing 〇 which otherwise did not exist in Japanese style writing. The advantage of this method becomes clear when one has to stamp numbers above 20. So the correct way to write 25 in Japanese is 二十五(same principle as XXV), but the simplified method of stamping would read二五, which was one character less to stamp. Space savings became even more clear when stamping numbers like 2745, which in correct Japanese would have been ”二千七百四十五”, but through the expedient method, could now be shortened to “二七四五” , knocking out 3 characters that stood for 1000, 100, and 10.  

Guidelines for stamping characters into ID tags, Army Secret Ordinance No. 271 (issued on 14th November, 1917)

I. Stamping guideline for tags of mobilized troops

ID tags for NCOs and below of mobilized troops (excluding the garrison hospital for replacements of the Taiwan Garrison and Rusu留守Reserve units) were to be pre-stamped according to the following guidelines and stocked by the unit responsible for keeping supplies.

A. “Unit designation (first line)” was to be stamped in abbreviated form (略符号Ryakufugo) as given in the attached “List 1”, along with numbers of the unit, if any.

B. “HQ Company designation (second line)” was to be stamped according to the following rule only when the unit consisted of headquarters, companies (logistic train units for regimental MG units included), columns (縦列) and groups (班).

i) Regiments composed of several battalions, and HQ companies (material depots for rail regiments were treated as battalion HQ) were to be stamped and regimental HQ to be denoted only by “聯”. Battalion HQ and company to be denoted by “大” and “中” respectively, followed by the unit’s number (for example, 12th company would be stamped as “中一二”) and machine gun units were to be indicated by a “機” and regimental logistic train units(連隊段列) by a “聯段”.

ii) Units composed of HQ and companies, columns (縦列) and groups (班). Headquarters were to be indicated by “本” only. Company or group to be indicated respectively as “中” (stretcher or ambulance companies within medic units were to be indicated respectively by “擔” and “車” in lieu of “中”) or “班” followed by unit number. Infantry ammunition columns, Artillery ammunition columns, ammunition columns, rations supply columns, gas warfare columns were indicated respectively by “歩弾” “砲弾” “弾” “糧” and “瓦” followed by its unit number, if any.  

C. “Number番 “(third line). Each respective HQ, company, column, group or unit should stamp consecutive numbers based on the standard NCO and EM headcount allocations (including those assigned over and above the standard count). As an example, 115 should be stamped as “一一五 ”(not as百十五)

II. Stamping guidelines for tags of Homeland Reserve troops
ID tags for Rusu Reserve units (留守部隊), including the Garrison hospital for replacements of the Taiwan Garrison as well as those for replacement personnel drawn from schools, etc based on article 30, clause 3 of the Wartime Replacement Code were to have, as the first line, the designation of the unit requesting this replacement, and in the third line, consecutive numbers, starting from 1. Preceding the numbers should be the abbreviated name of the institution supplying the replacement in accordance with the forgoing guidelines for stamping (as an example, those from the 1st Field Artillery Regiment replacement unit, First Tokyo Medical Hospital or Army officer’s academy would be stamped “野砲一補”,“東一病” and “陸士” respectively above the serial number.

III. Stamping guideline for tags of Officers
ID tags of warrant officers and above, probationary officers, probationary intendants, probationary medical personnel, probationary pharmacists, probationary veterinarians and civilians in the service of the army were required to stamp their unit designations and their rank and name, according to the foregoing guidelines.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:20 AM

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Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:24 AM

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1917 list

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:26 AM

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Additions in November 1918

Minor additions to the 1917 Ryakufugo Listing became necessary in November 1918
This was due to the Permanent Infantry Regiments being equipped with the Light 75mm, so-called “Japanese Mortars”. This resulted in the establishment of a “Special Mortar Unit” in infantry regiments along with a “Special Ammunition Column” in the Transport Battalions.

Furthermore Cavalry Companies were discontinued as a divisional component and were replaced by Cavalry Regiments.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:28 AM

2 Attachment(s)
From April 12th, 1924
The 1917 Ryakufugo code list for abbreviated stamping of unit designations was updated to reflect newly formed units such as air units and motor vehicle units. Furthermore a second and third list also got newly added for abbreviations to be used for the second line stamping of subunit information, and the source of replacement personnel that could be added above the personnel numbers in the third line.
In addition, the numbering system for personnel numbers in the third row was changed from this time to truly personal numbers unique to that individual. Until 1924 the personnel number was merely a serial number out of the standard headcount for his unit. So in case of a company, typically the range of numbers was from 1 to roughly 200. If soldier “15” were to fall, his replacement would have taken over that number. However as of this 1924 change, replacements coming in after the mobilization of the unit were to be assigned consecutive numbers above and beyond the pre-mobilization headcount numbers.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:35 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Revised Guidelines for stamping characters into ID tags, Army Secret Ordinance No. 85 (issued on 12th April, 1924)

Article 1
Unless otherwise specified, ID tags of NCO ranks and below of mobilized troops were to be stamped in accordance with the following points. (Pre-stamped stock of such tags was to be prepared in advance by the units responsible for stocking supplies).

1. Main unit designations (first line) to be stamped based on List 1.

2. Sub-unit designations (second line) to be stamped based on List 2 provided that the unit was organized to possess a Company HQ.

3. Personnel Numbers were to be consecutive numbers based on the unit’s standard headcount, including any additional headcount assignments. For units structured to possess components such as a Company HQ, these numbers were to be assigned within each component. Units structured differently were to assign these numbers within each such unit. These numbers were to be stamped below the character “番 (number)”. These numbers were assigned personally to whom the ID tag was issued, and those, who later transfer (excluding those replacements covered in the next Article 2) into the unit after mobilization out of home grounds were to be assigned consecutive numbers above and beyond those already assigned.

Article 2
ID tags for NCOs and below of Rusu Reserve units (including the garrison hospital for replacements at the Taiwan Garrison) as well as for other replacement personnel of NCO rank and below were to get stamped according to the following rules.

1. The main unit designation in the first line was to be the Ryakufugo of the unit requesting the replacement as selected from List 1 along with its unit number.

2. The personnel number was to be a consecutive series assigned within each replacement unit before which the designation of the unit supplying the replacement was to be stamped based on List 3

Article 3
ID tags for warrant officers and above, probationary officers, probationary intendants, probationary medical personnel, probationary pharmacists, probationary nursing staff (this was newly added from this 1924 revision), probationary veterinarians and civilians in the service of the army were required to stamp their unit designations from List 1 upon mobilization, followed by their rank and name.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:38 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Article 4
Numerals to be used in stamping ID tags were to be limited to “一, 二, 三, 四, 五, 六, 七, 八, 九, 〇”

Article 5
Units newly formed during wartime were to have ID tags stamped in an appropriate manner in line with the guidelines provided herein.

1. The 1917 regulation, number 271 is hereby discontinued and superceded.
2. Those tags that had been stamped based on previous guidelines, and which no longer complied with these new rules, were to have their characters crossed out by double lines and re-stamped in the correct manner.
3. Timing for pre-stamping and stocking up on tags as well as updating of stamping discussed above will be advised separately.
Here the 1924 lists 1 to 3

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:40 AM

2 Attachment(s)
list 1 continued

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:42 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Remainder of list 1 and list 2

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:43 AM

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List 3

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:47 AM

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Wartime Coding of Unit Designations

The Mafia style unit naming
The 1924 stamping guidelines were in effect throughout the Manchurian Incident of 1931, but as the China Incident broke out in 1937, the army started to feel the need to conceal its order of battle from the enemy. So on September 1, 1937, Army Secret Ordinance 1014 decreed that while troops in Japan may continue to use their official unit designations, troops deployed outside Japan should refrain from using them and instead use the family name of its commanders and call themselves the Tanaka unit, Suzuki unit, etc. However, the frequent switching of commanders in wartime soon doomed this system and caused utter confusion, so this practice had to be abandoned.

The Advent of the Tsushogo Codes
The new alternative was announced on 10th September 1940. This idea consisted of giving self-sufficient operational units such as Divisions and Independent Mixed Brigades a code name consisting of one kanji character called Heidan Mojifu (兵団文字符, Corps Character Code ) and each component belonging to these units were to be given code numbers of 3 to 5 digits called Tsusho Bango (通称番号, Alias Numbers). Thus the combination of “Heidan Mojifu” and “Tsusho Bango” represented the full coded address. This combination was called Tsushogo (通称号). Prior to this, already on 29th July, 1940, Army Secret Ordinance 1533 spelled out when to use the conventional official designations and when to use Tsushogo. The general idea was to use Tsushogo on all things that got exposed to the public outside the army. However, internal army records of a permanent nature were to continue using the full designations. These exceptions to Tsushogo use included rosters, personal war records, award related documents, Yasukuni Shrine enshrinement lists, etc. Because of some grey areas, they also specified that Pay Books, diligence and good conduct citations (excluding orders) and documentation for court cases should use Tsushogo. All else was automatically to switch over to Tsushogo, and this included ID tags. As such, there were no revisions issued for the 1924 stamping guidelines and no grace period for old tags. Ordinance 1533 served as a blanket order for the switch across the board.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:50 AM

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Having laid the groundwork in the manner above, codes were assigned in the following sequence.

10th July 1940
Homeland units in Japan were assigned Tsushogo consisting of compass directions like
西部West,中部 Center and東部 East and North 北部followed by number. Thus the 1st Regiment of the Imperial Guards was now simply, “East 2nd Unit”.

14th November 1940
Units stationed in Manchuria were all given 満州 or 満(Manchuria) as prefix followed by numbers. This was in anticipation of hostilities with Soviet Russia

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:52 AM

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9th October 1941
Units stationed in China were given Tsushogo codes as a result of extended hostilities in there.

From 1942
The need to rapidly field new units required timely expedient procedures for issuing new Tsushogo, so simplified means of churning out new codes came into effect.

Prolonged use of codes eventually spoiled its concealment effect, as documents fell into enemy hands, etc. So “Operation Ichigo一号作戦” initiated by the 12th army in China in April 1944, temporarily assigned new codes for the operation. Out of similar needs, the Southern Army also employed new coding as of 26th February.

20th April 1945
The Tsushogo code system became due for a complete overhaul and streamlining to avoid confusion, so “Wartime Tsushogo Regulations for Army Units” was released as Army Secret Ordinance 143. The main points of this change were as follows.
1. For China and Southern Theaters of Operation, the supreme commanders of the army corps were given the authority to designate extra Heidan Mojifu to be used in the public sphere.
2. Homeland units were all given unique serial numbers to avoid future confusion whereas some different units used to have overlapping numbers.
3. All the Tsushogo-related rules that were developed and released in a fragmented manner were now brought together as one ordinance.

After the war it was learned from the former enemies that Tsushogo was effective in concealing unit identity only in the first two months of a new unit. So the confusion and inconvenience it caused the Japanese Army throughout the war was hard to justify in the end.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 09:58 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Blood Types and ID tags

Unlike the common practice observed in other modern armies, blood type was never an official stamping requirement on IJA tags. Nonetheless examples do exist with A, B, AB or O stamps. This was an initiative at the divisional level and was a practice occasionally observed in late 1944. As an example, the 5th Infantry Division issued orders on 4th October 1944, to conduct blood typing of its officers and men to prepare for anticipated blood transfusions in the near future. Those who never had blood type tested and those who claimed to know their blood type yet suspect (the order reminds that testing done by homeland replacement units in the past had often proved to be incorrect). The resulting blood type information was to be recorded in the blood type list kept at the infirmary of each unit and additionally either stamped onto the ID tags or written under the shirt collar, besides informing the individual.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 10:21 AM

Tsushogo Lists (List of Lists)

There are actually many lists now on the internet. Here are a few handy ones that you should be able to easily convert into English using the translator, if you don’t want to deal with Japanese.

Lists for Dummies

1.Code list for all Infantry Regiments


2 . Aviation related codes, paratroops and all


3. Codes for units in the battle for Okinawa


All the following are from the Japanese National Archives, which are scans of old documents. All archive documents require installation of a browser plug-in called DjVu and here is where you get the English and other language version free.


It is also possible to browse without the viewer. However, in that case, you will need to wait forever for jpeg images to load. It is virtually impossible to go through the long lists without the viewer. DjVu allows you to scroll through the pages rapidly (this goes even quicker if you save the file to your PC first.)

Here are now the “By Number” Lists
Most lists show only numbers without the Heidan Mojufu, so it is best to cross refer with other lists that show this kanji.

By Number Lists

1. 1001 to 7416…………………………………………….50 pages 1946


2. 7420 to 15692………………………………………….50 pages

3. 15693 to 28303………………………………………….50 pages

4. 28304 to 38703…………………………………………..18 pages

5. East, West, Central, North , Korea and Taiwan Prefixed Codes(1 to 1000)……..17 pages 1945
This is in English, made for the Occupation,


6. Manchuria Prefixed Codes(1 to 999)……………………………………………………………….41 pages 1945
This is in English, made for the Occupation,


By Theater Lists

Next “by theater of operations” lists.

1. Manchuria......... 50 pages 1963
Units with Kanji codes: 満 (徳、速、羽、路、監、鋭、真鶴、勾玉、不屈、城、岩、公、英邁、英武、奮戦、奏、遠謀、英断、真心、強、 祐、不抜、丈夫、奮励、迫、藤、英機、不動,富獄、敏、陣、凪、弘、奮迅、遠征、光、宰、松風、不撓、鋭峰 、奮進、不朽、奮躍、築、邁進、展、宣武、衣、扶翼、福寿) The codes in the brackets are the new 1944 codes.


2. Korea and Northern Island......... 49 pages 1963
Units with Kanji codes:朝(津、展、摧、先、高嶺、要、達、)満(岩、城、光、守、真心、花、徳、達、鋭、赫、敏、強 、監、錦、国、勲、奥、拓、鋭敏、轟、攘、鉾、輜、睦、幡、宗、捷、建、断、鋒、、睦、偕、築 、)


3. Northern China Units Part 1........6 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes: 甲、春、島、曙、伸長、至武、桜、呂、栄


4. Northern China Units Part 2........12 pages 1963
  Units with Kanji codes:捋、造、国、塁、固、至隆、乙、技、仁、鷺、北、龍、成、至殻、


5. Northern China Units Part 3........7pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:秀嶺、弾、桐、幹、谷、至剛、至鋭、至巌、戊、響、登、至誠、統


6. China Units under Theater Command………9 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:栄、幸、鏡、極、鯨、秋水、呂


7. Central China Units Part 1…………….12 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:登、矛、鳶、専、隊、恵、震天、震雷、至堅、肇、矢石、乙、呂。


8. Central China Units Part 2……………6 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:守、槍、進撃、操、至旋、馳駆、登、


9. Central China Units Part 3……………11 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:統、振起、峯、至猛、至勇、至潔、悟、征、福、善、登、桜、甲、波、呂、呂武、


10. Central China Units Part 4……………16 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:呂、広、友、飾、沖、桜、栄、統、波、尚統、開、桧、至強、至烈、秋霜、震動、至威、


11. Burma Units Part 1…………………….7 pages 1961
Units with Kanji code:森


12. Burma Units Part 2…………………….11 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:安、林、祭、烈、弓、策、兵、貫、昆、菊、狼、龍、厳


13. Thailand and French Indochina…………9 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:直、義、淀、原、冬、体、威、信、図、勇、討、社、育


14. Philippines Units……………….34 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:威、鉄、駿、虎、旭、勤、撃、盟、鎧、尚、玉、垣、泉、豹、拠、抜、星、萩、菅、杉、振武


15. East New Guinea Units………………16 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:明、猛、朝、河、基、沖、剛、力、月、暁、沼、忠、夏、隆、


16. West New Guinea Units………………6 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:勢、輝、照、東、雪、巡


17. Malaysia, Borneo Units……………….12 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:岡、獄、教、練、鍛、定、基、信、烈、威、静、灘、貫、敢斗、義、森


18. Sumatra Units……………………………5 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:富、盤


19.Okinawa Units…………………………………10 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:球、石、山、豊、碧、駒、


21.Taiwan Units………………………………………………17 pages 1961
Units with Kanji codes:台、陽、武、剣、蓬、敢、命、興、律、八幡、磐石、破竹、雷神、


Other lists

There are several hundred list files in the archives by Armies, Divisions, etc here are only a few examples.

1.14th Army component codes (Phillipines)


2.1941 list of Heidan Mojifu and Tsushobango allocation ranges for troops in China


3. Order of Battle for China and Tsushogo Codes 50pgs


4. Order of Battle for China and Tsushogo Codes 2 17pgs


Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 10:28 AM

Just got reminded by Gary that a photo with blood type was his, so I add that as credit with my thanks.

Hope everyone found this thread better than anything they have read on the subject of dog tags so far.

GeorgeP 08-16-2015 10:47 AM

Priceless information, Nick, thank you for all of the work you put into it!

2 questions if you don't mind:

1) Unless I missed something in your information, would soldiers wear their replacement unit tags to garrison and get an updated tag once there? I have a couple of these tags with the large replacement soldier numbers and replacement kanji designations (example: West 46 instead of the company number in the middle) on the tag captured from places like Bougainville and other battlefields.

2) Can you please address katakana/hiragana found sometimes within the middle column of some tags? (see your post #18 for the "ran" tag. It has what looks like "tsu mu" above the blood type.)

Of course, no rush on a response. I know you put a ton of time into this.

Thanks again, great stuff!


Stu W 08-16-2015 11:12 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Another outstanding contribution! Thank you Nick. Although I have sold off all but one of my dog tags, and fondly recall owning a couple you have pictured, I still find your article of great interest.

I mentioned I have one left and will add it in here with the information I currently have for it. Perhaps you could comment.

Here is the information ...

1st Amphibious Brigade, 1st Mobile Battalion. The code kanji is "kakeru" (run, gallop). The 1st Mobile Battalion was on Eniwetok although I believe one Company went to Peleliu. Many members of the 1st Amphibious Brigade came out of an Independent Garrison Battalion up in Manchuria. Thanks to Tom and a couple others for what I have so far.


Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 12:09 PM

Stu, the info you have is correct. There is no English version, but surprisingly a German version exists.
Just became aware that the list links seem to have died when I cut and pasted them. Will have to fix them after figuring out how that happened.

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 12:33 PM

George, I virtually wrote this thread for you, following up on the exchange we had some time ago, so I am pleased to answer your questions.
1. The tags they got at the replacement units were all they got. No mention of getting replacements at the destination unit. So there would have been no company designation on those, but later Tsushogo did often indicate company and battalion designations.
2. つむ, I guess indicates he was in the Radio (無線、Musen) Company of the Signals (通信隊、Tsushin). In that case, つゆ would have indicated the phone company (有線、Yusen).
There are no provisions for Hiragana and Katakana stampings in regulations and they must be field improvised codes easily recognized by insiders, but discreet against outsiders.

GeorgeP 08-16-2015 12:51 PM

Thank you, Nick, I really appreciate all that you bring to this forum. This thread has connected several dots for me and has answered a lot of questions. Thanks again!


JapanX 08-16-2015 01:24 PM


Originally Posted by Nick Komiya (Post 7049752)
... this thread better than anything they have read on the subject of dog tags so far.

It certainly is thumbsup

Nick Komiya 08-16-2015 02:09 PM

All the long archive links got cut short during the upload. There must be some kind of limit here to the length of link addresses. I don't have the energy left to deal with the problem now, so if you need those links, e-mail me and I will send a word file with the live full links to you.

Jareth 08-16-2015 07:42 PM

Invaluable info here! Groundbreaking research that will hopefully unlock the dog tag codes!

imperialjapan 08-17-2015 01:48 AM

Thanks again, Nick, for such selfless work. Fantastic information!

RussellM 08-17-2015 02:24 AM

Nick, I couldn't agree more with the comments already posted.

Your commitment to sharing with us the phenomenal research you've undertaken on this subject, and so many others, is simply astounding, and greatly appreciated!



Rod G 08-17-2015 08:58 AM


As someone who's tried putting the story together using bits and pieces from the world wide web there is nothing like it anywhere else. This latest effort is the perfect companion piece to the Guntai Techo article.

Bravo Nick!!!


Nick Komiya 08-18-2015 02:03 PM

Looks like the list links are all working. They show up shortened, but they are complete. That is a relief.

Striking 9th 08-19-2015 06:23 PM

Thanks as always for your very hard work Nick. Great information as always.

Nick Komiya 09-01-2015 06:07 AM

I see now on the E-Stand a dog tag that has had the numbers chiseled in using something like a screw driver. Please be aware that such improvised tags are mostly fakes using original blanks that have been around in great numbers for years (Nakata used to sell blanks too). Dog tags were generally not stamped under circumstances that required such time-consuming field improvisations. They were not done in the field, but done before leaving Japan, and tag numbers up to the standard company size of about 200 were all pre-stamped in sizable lots in advance. Using a screwdriver to stamp these in quantity is simply unthinkably time-consuming, while with stamping dies it went much faster. Also replacements received their tags already at the replacement unit in Japan before being deployed, so there really was no excuse for field-made tags. Remember that these tags do not have a person's name on them, so they were not made for a certain individual, but rather pre-stamped with consecutive numbers like theater tickets with seat numbers and then handed out. So for instance, if one had to stamp serial numbers 10 to 19, I imagine one will stamp 10 tags with the same "1" and then add the 0 to 9 to each rather than stamp one complete tag at a time.

Nick Komiya 09-03-2015 10:32 AM

There are legitimate examples of hand carved EM tags done by hand in officer tag fashion, which spilled over into another thread, so I will provide the link here to keep all tag issues consolidated under this roof.

kaigunair 09-13-2015 10:54 PM



Incredible information Nick and thanks for all the time and effort you put into it.

(makes me glad I kept that particular tag and its companion too smilewink).

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