Body armor is nothing new in the military. Far back in history, shields or armored suits have been used to protect fragile human flesh from blows and penetration by weapons. With the development of firearms and explosives the threat became less from direct contact weapons and more from high speed, small projectiles and fragments, i.e. bullets or shrapnel.
Ordnance Department 1918 test of body armor in France.
Body armor development began with an active program in World War I, both by the U.S. and the British, as well as other countries on all sides of the conflict. The photo above shows the results of U.S. Army Ordnance Department tests of body armor at Fort de la Peigney, Langres, France in 1918. Heavy weight body armor was subjected to pistol, rifle and machine gun fire. The armor withstood the bullets, but was too heavy for practical field use.
Today in WW II: 17 Oct 1941 USS Kearny [DD-432] torpedoed but not sunk by German submarine U-568, near Iceland, killing 11 sailors, the first American military casualties of WW II. More ↓
17 Oct 1943 At Gothenburg, about 10,000 seriously wounded and sick German and British POWs, about half from each side, make up the first British-German prisoner exchange of WW II [17-21 Oct].
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.
Body Armor (Flak Jackets) in the U.S. Military
Body armor today is primarily in the form of flak jackets (also called flak vests) made of modern composite materials that are light weight but stronger and more effective than metals. Modern body armor development, like so many other technologies, came of age in the context of World War II. The first plastic materials, the use of multiple layers of fabrics instead of metal plates, and other innovations began at that time.
Details of the story of U.S. Military Body Armor and its evolution into the Flak Vests and Body Armor of today, are in these Olive-Drab.com pages:
1951 Photo of B-29 Superfortress Pilot in Flight Crew Body Armor.
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