1940’s US Servicemen and Tattoos – WWII Ink

American sailors aboard the battleship USS New Jersey during World War II in 1944.

American sailors aboard the battleship USS New Jersey during World War II in 1944.

Many aren’t aware that the relationship between tattoos and our US servicemen in the 1940’s would have a lot more to do with the World War than one might think. In fact, tattoos played a huge role on both sides of enemy lines for a variety of different reasons. Below you’re going to discover some important facts about World War II tattoos, US servicemen, and why both roles have been so important. After you’ve had a chance to browse through the information provided here, you’ll have a better understanding about tattoos in general, their relationship with US servicemen, and why they’ve become somewhat of an American Heritage.

* Becoming a Real US Soldier

Before going to war in the 1940s, many individuals wouldn’t think of getting a tattoo. However, after arriving and being involved in a number of different battles, Army, Navy, Marine, and even Air Force pilots would eventually use tattoos for unit and rank recognition. In addition, they were used in order to identify that particular individual as being a real US soldier. Quite frankly, after many of the soldiers came home from battle in World War II, almost all of them would have some form of tattoo for some specific reason, and some of those reasons have to do with masculinity.

* The Mark of Masculinity

You see, just as a uniform is decorated with rank and accomplishments, a US soldier would feel that it was within their rights to create permanent marks that established who they were and what they did. Of course, this would also establish the mark of masculinity. When other soldiers would see these identifying marks, they would understand the pain, suffering, anguish, determination, commitment, and will to overcome any circumstance, in an identifying tattoo. Well, it’s important to understand that this was also true on both sides of enemy lines. When prisoners were captured, they were also marked in order to be identified in a much different way.

* Branded Prisoners Of War

Tattoos were used by the Germans in order to identify those that have been captured. Many of the tattoos used will be identifying marks from specific prisoner camps or specific types of prisoners. Many of the tattoos used would be numbers or letters. This will determine the race or nationality of an individual, and in many cases, that particular individuals rank.

* What Do People Think Of World War II Tattoos Today

Today is not much different when it comes to tattoos and their relationship to the military. Many of the individuals in the armed forces will still use tattoos as identifying marks of rank, courage, masculinity, and stature. However, if you’ve ever had the chance of talking to past veterans about World War II tattoos, you’ll probably hear stories of camaraderie, drunken exploits, ritualistic commitments, and a number of individuals getting tattoos of scandalous pinup girls, the US Flag, and a number of versions of the American Bald Eagle.

As you can see, a World War II tattoo in the 1940’s played a huge role when it came to US servicemen. To be honest, the role of a tattoo in the US military today is not much different. However, the next time you see someone with an older faded green tattoo of the American Flag, a not so good looking pinup girl, or the American Bald Eagle, just remember that there are a number of memories associated with that mark, and one of them is the ultimate freedom of expression.

Comments 5

  1. It would be neat to see some pictures of the varying tattoos denoting squadrons and battalions. Neat blog!

  2. Today is December 27, 2012. I had a tattoo put on my left arm at the age 17. I am 57 years old and my tattoo is getting wrinkles as I age. I wish I never put one on. But now we see women covered with them and it is just sickening to see beautiful women ruining their bodies with ink. If only they knew exactly how they were going to look in 30 to 40 years from now, They may have another thought about getting one… I made a mistake and will live with a small regret. These women who cover their entire body with ink, will regret it when they look in the mirrior some day.. Tattoo’s are ugly………………………

    1. The industry and technology are light years ahead of when you had your tattoos done. So the tattoos of the young women you’re describing will stay looking beautiful. And you may not approve of them or find them aesthetically pleasing but you have no right to say what’s right or wrong when it comes to what someone else does with their own body to feel more comfortable in their own skin. its none of your business.

      And as someone with a lot of tattoos myself I always get that question “what about when you’re 80?!”. When I’m 80 I’ll be more concerned about being able to go to the bathroom by myself or being able to walk. My skin having some color in it will be WAY down my list of concerns.

  3. quiero un tatuaje con diseño de CORAZON del que se hacian lo marines Y le ponian el nombre de la novia favor enviarme algunas muestras

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