Remembrance dog tags – Canadians who died on D-Day – June 6, 1944

Aim

To increase youth awareness of the many Canadians who died in service on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Objectives

Through this activity, youth will:

  • have a better understanding of the contributions made by Canadians who died in military service on D-Day, June 6, 1944, during the Second World War, and whose names are found on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial;
  • learn more about military “dog tags”; and
  • appreciate the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of the Canadian men and women who have died over the years while serving in the military.

Target audience

This activity is suitable for youth ages 12 to 18.

Activity sequence and expected duration [approximately 75 minutes]

(The activity can be modified to fit the amount of time available.)

  • Introductory discussion [15 minutes]
  • Research and preparation [15 minutes]
  • Presentations [30 minutes]
  • Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]
  • Possible extension activity [variable]

Materials

Introductory discussion [15 minutes]

This dog tag activity is designed to help youth “put a face on remembrance.” Canada’s efforts to protect world peace have come at a high cost. Over the years, more than 118,000 Canadians have died in military service.

In military jargon, the expression “D-Day” is fairly common. It is used to make reference to the day on which an operation commences or is due to commence. However, June 6, 1944, has been closely associated with “D-Day” ever since. Many Canadians took part in Operation Overlord, code-name of the large Allied operation to establish a bridgehead in occupied Northern France, alongside Americans, British and forces from other countries. The Navy, the Army and the Air Force trained for weeks to achieve this daring plan of attack.

In spite of careful preparation, losses were impossible to avoid. More than 350 Canadians died on that very day, which marked the beginning of the end of the dominance of German forces in Europe during the Second World War.

This remembrance dog tag activity highlights only some of the Canadians who died on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Taking a few moments to think about these individuals is a way to remember all those who served.    

Ask youth what they know about the Second World War. Are they familiar with D-Day? You may want to invite them to read the D-Day and the Battle of Normandy historical sheet as an introduction to this lesson.

What is a military dog tag?

Ask youth if they know what a military “dog tag” is. Have they ever seen one?

A dog tag is a piece of formal identification for military personnel. It must be worn when soldiers are on duty. The name “dog tag” comes from the similarity to real tags used to identify dogs. It was officially called an “identity disc” or I disc. The tag bears important information on the individual, such as the name, rank, service number, blood type and religion (to call the appropriate clergy person in case of injury or death).

Identification tags have been worn by Canadian troops since the First World War. The Canadian tags are now designed to be broken in two pieces in the event of death; one piece remains with the deceased and the other piece is sent to the Department of National Defence.

Research and preparation [15 minutes]

Using card stock paper for added strength, print the dog tags of Canadians who died on D-Day, June 6, 1944 (PDF). This document contains information on 165 individuals from across Canada who lost their lives during this pivotal Second World War operation. Those 165 individuals (out of the more than 350 who died on June 6, 1944) have been chosen because there was a personal photo available on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial page at the time the activity was developed.

  • Cut out the individual pieces. If you wish to re-use the dog tags, laminate them.
  • Make two holes in each of the dog tags and attach a piece of string or metal beaded chain.
  • Distribute the dog tags.
  • Have youth research the individual on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial website and ask them to add the service number and age of their fallen service member directly on the dog tag.
  • Youth may search the Internet to find additional personal information about their fallen service members, such as their hometowns, places of enlistment, places served, causes of death, places of burial, etc., which could be included in their presentations.

What is the Canadian Virtual War Memorial?

This site contains a registry of information about the graves and memorials of more than 118,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served valiantly and gave their lives for their country. Included on this site are the memorials of more than 1,800 men and women who died in service to Canada since the Korean War, including peacekeeping and other military operations. The site also contains digital images of photographs and personal memorabilia. The purpose of the Canadian Virtual War Memorial is to recognize and keep alive the memory of the achievements and sacrifices made by those who served Canada in the defense of freedom and so have contributed to the development of Canada as a nation.

For further research

When the student is researching an individual who died during the Second World War, you can suggest that he or she use Library and Archives Canada’s Service Files of the Second World War - War Dead, 1939-1947 online database. It should be noted, however, that not all of the military service records of the men and women who died during the Second World War are available. The digitization of service records from the Second World War is ongoing and new files will be added every two weeks. You can also encourage students to click on “How to obtain copies or consult a file” from the left-hand side menu and follow the instructions noted for Option #1, which will redirect them to the Ancestry.ca website. You and your students can create free accounts on Ancestry.ca. Although there are a few important steps to follow before accessing a military file, with some patience you will be able to access a wealth of information on the individual, which will allow you to do more extensive research and give better presentations.

Presentations [30 minutes]

Ask each student to present his or her individual who died in service.

Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]

Lead a discussion on the dog tag activity by asking questions:

  • Do the students have a better appreciation of the contributions made by Canadians who died in service?
  • Do they have a better understanding of D-Day, June 6, 1944?
  • Are there other ways of using the dog tags to honour those who have served? (For example, wearing the dog tag during remembrance ceremonies.)
  • Is it still relevant to take the time to remember Canadian men and women who died at war?

Possible extension activity [variable]

Youth may wish to vary this activity by doing research on a relative or someone from their town or region who served in uniform. If the individual is a Veteran, and if this person is available and interested in coming, he or she could be invited to share his or her personal experiences in the military with the class.

You might want to refer to the Normandy 1944 historical booklet and the Heroes Remember presents D-Day Video (12 minutes) on the Veterans Affairs Canada website for additional information.

Youth could also explore the Memorials section to learn about monuments dedicated to D-Day and the Battle of Normandy: Abbaye d'Ardenne, Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse/Putôt-en-Bessin, Juno Beach Centre, Noyers-Bocage, Bayeux Memorial.  

You may also want to point out that many of those who died on D-Day, June 6, 1944, are buried in Bény-sur-Mer, Bretteville-sur-Laize and Ranville military cemeteries, and some, whose bodies were never recovered, are commemorated on the Bayeux Memorial. These cemeteries and memorial are carefully taken care of by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This website offers a wealth of information. If your class is one of the many travelling, you may want to plan a visit to one military cemetery and pay tribute to Canadians who died in service.

 

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