First time I’ve seen a video on the types, and uses of trench armor, so thought it needed to be here. https://youtu.be/kNVfe5Et9-I
That’s pretty cool. I don’t know if I would have wanted to wear that or not, seems a bit impractical.
The Japanese were probably ahead of the Allies in personal armour in WWII, certainly in the Pacific.
Development of Body Armor for Infantrymen
Almost as soon as the author entered service, he became interested in the possibility of protecting particularly vulnerable areas of the body by the development of some sort of body armor for the chest and abdomen of infantrymen,
FIGURE 283.-Col. Dwight M. Kuhns, MC, Commanding Officer, 19th Medical General Laboratory, Hollandia, New Guinea, March 1945.
just as helmets had been developed for the protection of the head. In September 1942, while still in Australia, he learned that the Japanese were testing an armored vest on their troops in New Guinea (fig. 284). Eventually, after a great deal of effort in various quarters, he was able to procure a specimen vest through the kindness of the commander of an Australian destroyer. In the meantime, Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Percy J. Carroll, MC, then Surgeon, USAFFE, had been informed of this consultant’s project and had expressed great interest in it.
The Japanese vest was an ingenious article. It was made of metal plates, set in canvas, was buttoned on in three overlapping sections, and weighed a little over 5 pounds. Tests showed that this vest, which was designed to protect only the anterior chest, could resist missiles shot from machineguns and pistols at velocities of 800 f.p.s. Metal construction was obviously essential. Tests with vests of plastic material available at that time showed that they were easily pierced and fragmented by the .45-caliber automatic pistol and the Thompson submachinegun.
From the Japanese model, the author constructed a protective vest made of six large overlapping metal plates that had been molded on a man 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 150 pounds (fig. 285). The vest covered more of the region of the collar bones, upper breast bone, flanks, and lower abdomen than the Japanese vest.
FIGURE 284.-A captured Japanese armored vest. A. The vest open. B. The vest closed.
On 25 March 1943, the author sent to Brig. Gen. Clyde C. Alexander, USASOS, SWPA, a summary of his studies on protective body armor. In this communication, he recommended that a vest “constructed along the lines of the captured Japanese vest” be produced for U.S. Army infantrymen. In June, upon request, he sent his set of Japanese body armor to the Chief Ordnance Officer, USASOS, SWPA. In December, also upon request, he submitted the vest which he had designed to the Chief Ordnance Officer, USASOS, SWPA, to be sent to the Chief of Ordnance, War Department, Washington.
In February 1944, upon request of Maj. Gen. (later Gen.) Nathan F. Twining, Commanding General, Fifteenth U.S. Air Force, the vest was submitted through channels to the Surgeon, Fifteenth U.S. Air Force. General Twining had become interested in it while he was a patient in the 118th General Hospital.
FIGURE 285.-Metal plates designed by Colonel Trimble for a protective vest.
In April, a complete set of blueprints of this vest was made in the Office of the Surgeon, Fifteenth U.S. Air Force. Also in April, at the direction of the Chief Surgeon, USASOS, SWPA, a complete report on the body armor which he had devised was submitted by this consultant to the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Washington, with an indorsement by General Denit.
On 4 August 1945, in a memorandum to General Denit, Chief Surgeon, AFWESPAC, the author summarized conferences he had had in Washington with various officers in the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Army Service Forces, and with Brig. Gen. Edward S. Greenbaum, USA, Executive Officer, Office of the Under Secretary of War. He learned during these conferences that 8,000 vests, 4,000 in a light and 4,000 in a heavier weight, were then on their way to AFPAC by ship and that an additional 100,000 of the heavier variety would become available about 1 September. A recommendation that 400,000 more be produced without further delay had not yet been acted upon.
The surrender of the Japanese on 14 August 1945 made unnecessary the use of the protective vests sent to the Pacific. It is not likely that these vests would have proved satisfactory. They were constructed as a sort of overhead apron, with a front and back, and were very awkward to put on and take off. More important, the basic idea of protective overlapping plates had been discarded entirely.6
6 The story of the development of body armor in the Pacific, with illustrations, and its subsequent development and use in the Korean War, is told in greater detail in: Medical Department, United States Army. Wound Ballistics. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962. It is unfortunate that the wearing of protective armor was not pushed as vigorously in World War II as it was in the Korean War. The use of protective armor would undoubtedly have saved many lives.-J. B. C., Jr.
Images of captured Japanese armoured vests at http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/actvssurgconvol2/chapter12figure284.jpg
Very interesting thread. I have seen a version of this WW1 German armour at the Belgian Army Museum. My understanding was that it was mainly used by pioneers, involved in disposing of unexploded bombs, shells, trench mortars and so on. In practice, probably dual purpose.
I am not convinced, as far as WW1 is concerned at least, that the arguments advanced in the “Atlantic” article (while interesting) are, overall, sound. The technology of metal “plate mail” armour is, like the plate protection option, medieval - actually earlier than the “plate” technology. Like the armour proposed in the US in WW1, protection of the arms was omitted; this would generally have consisted of the sleeves of a leather or heavy fabric undervest. This form of armour, in the Middle Ages, would have provided a degree of protection against sword or axe blows, arrows … less so against crossbow bolts, clubs or maces. Protection, in most cases, would have been improved by an arm-mounted shield, not really an option in modern warfare. Also, there is no doubt that this form of armour would have restricted movement, owing to its weight and construction.
I am not clear that, even by WW2, the balance of advantage really indicated that body armour of the sort available with the technology of the time warranted general use. Modern infantry body armour may be heavy - but we have advanced a long way in terms of materials technology in recent decades. Best regards, JR.