- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Enjoy your columns. Maybe you or one of your readers can help me.

My World War II dog tags issued to me in 1945 when I entered the Navy are inscribed USNI instead of USN or USNR. I have unsuccessfully tried to learn what the “I” stands for, and I feel I’m running out of time to find out.

So far the Navy, VA, Defense Department, National Archives, and many Navy personnel I have asked — from my superiors and peers at Great Lakes boot camp in 1945 to recently retired admirals — have told me the same thing: They don’t know. All they know about is the USN or USNR inscription. The Navy documents for dog-tag markings I have learned about don’t cover it, but they don’t go back that far.

Some guess it’s for U.S. Naval Institute, but I never had anything to do with that organization, and am not sure it even existed in 1945. I was drafted as an S1/c radar tech striker after passing the “Eddy Test” to make that happen; maybe that’ll give someone a clue.

Ludwig B.

Oakton, Va.

Dear Ludwig:

My buddy at the Department of Defense provided the following answer on your dog-tag query:

It should be USN-I or “U.S. Regular Navy-Inductee.” In short, he was drafted into the regular Navy.

From December 1942 to December 1945, all males from age 18 to 37 were prohibited from voluntary enlistment into the armed forces, and had to be “inducted” into military service by their draft boards. Draft boards were given monthly quotas from the Army and Navy that they were supposed to fill from their pool of Category 1A candidates.

Upon receiving their induction notice from the president, “selectees” would report to their local Induction center for entry into military service. There they would state their preference for the Army or Navy, and their draft board would then allocate them to one of those month’s quotas. If they could, draft boards usually honored a selectee’s preference for which service they wanted to serve in, but they were not bound to it. It was rare, but I have talked to World War II draftees who wanted to be in the Navy, but their board allocated them to the Army, and vice versa.

Most World War II Navy enlisted men were drafted into the Naval Reserve under the “V-6 Program,” or “Naval Enlisted Reserve — General Duties.” But Ludwig’s draft board allocated him to a regular Navy billet under their Navy quota for that month. The only times the U.S. Navy has ever drafted anyone was for a short time late in World War I and this period during World War II.

Shaft notes

• The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) marked National Nurses Week by honoring six of its top professionals.

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