The Disturbing Reason Schools Tattooed Their Students In the 1950s

In the 1950s, when the Cold War was at its apex and atomic warfare appeared not only possible but likely, children willingly lined up at schools to perform their civic duty. They raised their arms, gritted their teeth, and held still while tattoo needles began piercing their flesh, leaving them with their blood type stamped on their skin. If the Soviet Union targeted areas of the United States for destruction, it would be vital to have a protocol for blood transfusions to treat radiation poisoning. Matches would need to be found quickly, and the tattoos would prove invaluable. By 1955, 60,000 children had been tattooed in Indiana and Utah, but despite their cooperation, other states failed to follow their lead. The Korean conflict had come to an end by 1953, reducing the strain put on blood supplies, and eventually the tattoo program fell out of favor. Still, there are thousands of adults today who still bear the mark of their blood type on their bodies.