Body Armor

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
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: 22 Oct 1941 Delayed bomb set by the Soviets detonates in Romanian headquarters, killing 67 people including the Romanian commander and other Romanian and German officers. More 
22 Oct 1943 German industrial and population center of Kassel targeted by 569 RAF bombers that dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs, causing heavy damage in a firestorm.
Visit the 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 pages:

1951 Photo of B-29 Superfortress Pilot in Flight Crew Body Armor
1951 Photo of B-29 Superfortress Pilot in Flight Crew Body Armor.

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