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Navy dog-tag acronym decoded

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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.

"VA nurses are the compassionate heart of VA's world-class health care system," stated Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake. The VA has one of the largest nursing staffs of any health care system. The department's 43,000 registered nurses, 12,000 licensed practical nurses and vocational nurses, and 9,000 nursing assistants provide comprehensive, complex and compassionate care to the nation's veterans.

Five nursing-staff members recognized by Dr. Peake with the "Secretary's Award for Excellence" include:

• Nursing assistant Shirley Cutler from East Orange, N.J.

• Nurse administrator Tina Lund from Minneapolis.

• Registered nurse Joy Edvalson from Los Angeles.

• Licensed professional nurse Lenora Scroggins from Topeka, Kan.

• Registered nurse Natalie Russell from Columbia, Mo.

• The Sarge looks forward to joining the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF) and its guests at the 23rd annual congressional awards reception from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on June 12 in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building. The annual event, held in conjunction with the foundation's Flag Week observance, honors members of Congress, members of the news media and volunteers.

The recipients of the BAVF's "Buck" Gillispie Congressional Awards are Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, and Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat. Recipients of the Carlton Sherwood Media Award are Jane Watrel, NBC Channel 4, and Victor Morton of The Washington TImes. The George Alexander Memorial Volunteer Award will be presented to Connie Telesco, of Pitney Bowes Inc., and Ben Rogers, retired VA chief of prosthetics. The Corporate Volunteer Award will be presented to Health Net Federal Services.

A joint color guard will set the stage for the awards ceremony, and the Marine Corps Brass Quintet will entertain guests with a medley of patriotic music.

Two days later, the BAVF holds it Flag Week picnic in Silver Spring. Flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol will be presented to many guests.

This year's June 14 picnic will honor Maryland Delegate Sheila E. Hixson, Montgomery Democrat and chairman of the House of Delegates' Ways and Means Committee and a friend of America's veterans.

Join us for an afternoon of fun and patriotism. There will be plenty of refreshments, and as usual, Lakis will prepare his famous New York hot dogs, Washington style, and guests will be serenaded with the sound of oldies but goodies and patriotic music. Bring your swimsuits and something to sit on — blankets, towels or folding chairs — and be sure to take them home with you.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org

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