Remembrance Dog Tags – Fallen Canadians in the Korean War

Aim

To increase youth awareness of Canadians who served in the Korean War and died in service.

Objectives

Youth will:

  • better understand the contributions of Canadians who died in military service during the Korean War and whose names are found in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial;
  • learn more about military identity discs, known as ‘dog tags’; and
  • develop an awareness of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of Canadians who gave their lives in military service over the years.

Target Audience

This activity is for ages 12 to 18.

Sequence of Activities and Anticipated Time Frame: [75 minutes]

(This activity can be modified to fit available class time.)

  • Introductory Class Discussion [15 minutes]
  • Research and Preparation [15 minutes]
  • Presentations [30 minutes]
  • Wrap-up Class Discussion [15 minutes]

Class Materials

Introductory Class Discussion [10 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.

Canadian participation in the Korean War, from 1950 to 1953, marked a new stage in Canada’s proud military history. It was the beginning of Canadian troops being deployed around the world in truce teams, peace commissions and emergency forces. More than 26,000 Canadians joined the United Nations mission in Korea, working to restore peace and stability to the area. Sadly, 516 brave Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice. By remembering those who died in service, we recognize the tradition of freedom they fought to preserve and we ensure their sacrifice is never forgotten.

This learning activity highlights 190 of the 516 Canadians who lost their lives in service during the Korean War. These individuals were chosen because their commemorative page included a personal photo at the time of the research. 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 Korean War. You may want to invite them to read the Canada Remember the Korean War 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 emergency).

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]

Print the Remembrance dog tags of Canadians who died during the Korean War (PDF). Using card stock paper might help add strength. This document contains information on 190 individuals from across Canada who died in service during the war. In the lower left corner of each dog tag, two letters indicate the province of birth or enlistment of the deceased person.

  • Cut out the individual pieces. If you wish to re-use the dog tags, you may 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 out more personal information about their fallen soldier, such as their hometown, place of enlistment, places served, cause of death, place of burial, etc., which could be included in their presentation. Because the students are researching an individual who died after the Second World War, official sources like Library and Archives Canada are generally not very accessible due to privacy legislation. A minimum number of years must have passed before those documents are made public on government websites. However, students can still use search engines to find relevant information and search the websites of local newspapers, which may have digitized articles about the individual.

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 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.

Presentations [30 minutes]

Have each student present ‘his’ or ‘her’ fallen Canadian to the class.

Wrap-Up Class Discussion [15 minutes]

Lead a class discussion around the dog tag activity by asking questions such as:

  • Do youth have a better appreciation of the contributions of Canadians in uniform who died in service?
  • Are there other ways to use the dog tags to honour those who served? (For example, wearing the dog tags at a remembrance ceremony, etc.)
  • Is it still relevant, in today’s society, to take the time to remember Canadians who died at war decades ago?
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