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Dorothy Fletcher’s seventh grade classroom seemed as good a place as any for her to die.
It was 1962 and the risk of war with the Soviet Union was high. At any moment, she felt, an atomic bomb could drop on Jacksonville, Florida, considered ‘ground zero’ because of its naval bases, and poof – 12-year-old Fletcher and her classmates would be obliterated.
Dog - Tag
But at least she wore her military-style dog tag.
In the early 1950s, school districts nationwide outfitted students like Fletcher with such dog tags with the unspoken purpose that they would help identify the children's charred remains after a nuclear explosion. It was the era of ‘duck and cover’ and children were on the front lines.
Time - Americans - Shadow - Bomb - Proof
At this time, Americans lived under the shadow of the atomic bomb and constantly had to be prepared for the worst. Proof of this was hanging from around their children’s necks.
For Fletcher, her dog tag is a bizarre childhood artifact of typical life in 1950s/1960s America. She and many of her peers in Jacksonville didn’t understand the full ramifications of wearing these necklaces and regular ‘duck and cover’ drills until years later.
Fletcher - Parents - Metal - Dog - Tag
Fletcher’s parents bought her the inexpensive metal dog tag – stamped with her name, address, father’s name, date of birth, phone number and religion for final rites – when she was eight. Although this purchase was voluntary, parents were encouraged by the school district to get the markers for their children.
‘It didn’t seem like such a strange thing because we all wore one,’ she said.
New - York - City - Department - Education
New York City Department of Education was the first to issue the dog tags in February of 1952, spending $159,000, today $1,469,730, to provide them to 2.5million students, according to historian JoAnne Brown.
By April of that year almost every child in the city from kindergarten to fourth grade had a tag...
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