Operation Tat-Type: When Children Were Tattooed With Their Blood Type

The paranoia during the early years of the Cold War was so great that many American school children were made to wear dog tags to enable identification of bodies in the aftermath of an atomic attack. Later, another bizarre initiative was promoted: Tattooing children with their blood type. The purpose was to facilitate rapid blood transfusions in the event of an atomic bomb attack. However, the proposal to brand people with their blood type had a more disturbing purpose. The idea was not that people could receive the blood they needed, but rather become donors who could be identified from their branding and plucked off the streets to save others. This program was known as Operation Tat-Type. While the tattoos were permanent, the tattooing program itself was short-lived. The Korean conflict came to an end in 1953, reducing the need for blood. Besides, standard medical practice requires cross-matching before blood transfusion was carried out, which nullified the entire purpose of pre-typing. In the end, some 60,000 children got tattooed with their blood type by the end of 1955. Many of them, now in their 60s and 70s, still carry a barely legible, distorted mark on their bodies.