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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 204

PostPosted: Fri 24 May, 2019 12:44 pm    Post subject: Body Armor of the Korean War         Reply with quote

This interesting article popped up today on Military.com:

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/05/24/us-body-armor-found-remains-korean-war-dead-dmz.html

...It is striking how similar this armor is to the Wisby coats of plates and other armors from the Middle Ages, and that sentiment is even echoed in this Wiki article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flak_jacket

Admittedly, I do not have a terribly large knowledge base about military body armor from that point in time. My honest feeling is that a lot of this stuff was considered rather sensitive at the time, because it was a new technology (even if it was a rehashing of old technology). Because of that, its existence was occluded and it is surprising to us when we see it today. As an example, I was profoundly surprised (Kull Wahad!) when I learned that late-war P-51s were occasionally fitted with tail-warning radars. This knowledge came to me just a few days ago. So, when it comes to infantry equipment (which was still rapidly evolving at the time - we had just entered into the age of the widespread semi-automatic rifle and were starting to get into true assault rifles), it does not surprise me that when I see equipment like this... I'm truly surprised by what I see. The knowledge is now out there, but I think it's far from common.

I presume what I'm looking at is an M1952, because there appears to be corrosion on metal plates. This was a handy blog post in reading about Korean War kit:

http://chainlinkandconcrete.blogspot.com/2016...and-m.html

A more brief article can be found here:

https://olive-drab.com/od_soldiers_gear_body_armor_korea.php

And here:

https://qmmuseum.lee.army.mil/korea/armored_vest.htm

...What these posts do not cover is the construction of the armors, so the image on the Military.com article is particularly interesting. Furthermore, what really strikes me about modern body armors is that, despite the high-tech materials, we have yet to catch up with the sophistication of the Late Medieval suspension systems. I've read many articles about modern body armor and how it is NOT helping when it comes to back injuries. All the weight is being put on the shoulders it seems, and that's been a design problem seen in issued armor since WWI. All-in-all, it's very cool to see, however. It may be worth the while of designers to revert back to the smaller brigandine-style plates in order to get closer-fitting armor that can better ride on the hips of the soldier. More layers doesn't generally hurt, either.
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Karl G




Location: Australia
Joined: 25 Apr 2016

Posts: 66

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2019 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting post. I wore and shot at bodyarmour so have a bit of experience with it. Happy

One thing regards that armour it its not bullet proof and didnt really come from the development of small arms fire. Its a flak jacket, good for stopping ranged ballistic fragments aka small peices of exploding shells, mortars, grenades etc. Not bullets. Also it mostly developed due to development high explosive ordnance on weapons platforms, usually airel gunners or ship crew getting hit with small incidental fragments.

The earliest type were the doron plates and sewn plates I believe of manganese steel. They were too heavy at 20lbs and didn't stop bullets so they quit the plates and stuck with woven nylon for just flak and low powered projectiles. This is still the general rule today with ' covert bullet proof vests' or 'soft body armour ' classes ( handguns, lower powered rifles, shotgun pellets etc).

To stop steel cored military rifle bullets you usually need much thicker and heavier "hard plates", usually steel or kevlar inserts, slipped in and out of front and back pockets on the soft armour. These are too heavy to be used for large areas. Basically you have decent protection for centred vital shots of about 10-12" square and softer armour every where else around the torso.

They have tried a few times to improve this 'mini' breastplate concept. A couple decent versions of alternative or scale disc armour which passed ballistic tests but failed long term durability and budget constraints, they were 5x as expensive. Time will tell if this is the path they go down in the future.

As to the weight , by itself it is not too much of a concern at present. Its only a lesser % of the soldiers total equipment load . The military accepts addtional armour has limited returns at the present. Hardplate is many times heavier than medieval plate, even a full breast plate would be prohibitive. Also all the other stuff that kills soldiers, heavy machine guns, anti material weapons or close hit from explosive ordnance will defeat anything you can wear anyway. Until they can really make a breakthrough, the military is going not to sacrifice mobility.

Regards carrying equipment, everything competes for the hips, Armies spend a lot of time and grey hairs trying to fit everything onto the modern infanrty soldiers body. Its the big difference from historical soldiers- nowadays you have reams of tech kit, 7-14 days worth in the field(including food) using several combined systems, often whilst fighting wearing the whole lot.

Generally/:
1. Patrol kit. Generally what you patrol and fight in and keeps you alive for 24 hours, Usually a chest rig or shoulder webbing/harness setup (with pouches on the hips).,Has your ammo, combat med kit, 24 hours food/water, nav gear etc, about 30 litres capacity total.
2. The main field pack, up to 100 litres or more capacity, all your other gear, long term rations, keeps you alive for 7-14 days in the field or more. You march in this to location, would usually prefer to dump it to fight in, but may have to fight wearing it.
3. Body armour/plate carrier which may sometimes be integrated with no.1
4. Other sundry kit, weapons etc or if you are unlucky the anti-armour gear, mortar barrels, etc.

The two main ways to deal with the biggest problem the field pack are with an expedition style pack( like modern hiking pack, the weight is distributed between shoulders and hip belt which can carry the heaviest loads.The issue is its difficult to wear anything else on the hips then) and 'short back' style packs where they only have shoulder straps but the bottom of the pack rests on the pouches of the patrol belt on the hips for 'some support'.

Its a lot of straps competing for real estate around the shoulders and hips.The shoulders take the load vertically, so you can stack straps on top of one another. The hip belt supports by horizontal compression, stacking belts there is not efficient and far less comfortable. Support priority is always given to the heavier items, the main pack or patrol belt harness which comprise 90% of the load. Anything else is 'bolted on' where it can fit.

To fix or add one system like armour carry is not just about the armour, its about seeing if its worth modifying the whole system, which will also mean the entire supply chain, contracts behind every item along with soldier training for something that may only weigh 10-15% of the whole.

As mentioned the next step in armour will need to be a massive breakthrough in materials in my opinion. Changing how the same thing is worn now, is too low return for all the hassle.
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Gregg Sobocinski




Location: Michigan
Joined: 21 Sep 2007
Likes: 5 pages
Reading list: 12 books

Posts: 142

PostPosted: Tue 28 May, 2019 5:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I appreciate that thorough response to the original post, Karl. There are a lot of practical considerations you cover that are overlooked when we think about body armor from the last 400 years.
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Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Thu 30 May, 2019 9:30 am    Post subject: Re: Body Armor of the Korean War         Reply with quote

Michael Beeching wrote:
This interesting article popped up today on Military.com:
Furthermore, what really strikes me about modern body armors is that, despite the high-tech materials, we have yet to catch up with the sophistication of the Late Medieval suspension systems.
I've read many articles about modern body armor and how it is NOT helping when it comes to back injuries. All the weight is being put on the shoulders it seems, and that's been a design problem seen in issued armor since WWI.
All-in-all, it's very cool to see, however.
It may be worth the while of designers to revert back to the smaller brigandine-style plates in order to get closer-fitting armor that can better ride on the hips of the soldier. More layers doesn't generally hurt, either.


Most modern body armor is based on classic Indian char-aina, four minor armour, in set up.
As for useing smaller plates, there a problem with over lapping plates due to the thickness an the added weight.
So can we attach the small plates together? yes but how do you insure that the small plates are not pushed in to the wearers body?


WW1 Franco-British Cuirass of small plates wired together.
I wouldn't trust them to stop a bullet, would you?

Do you build the armour with plates in Kevlar pockets? that could work but leaves gaps plate to plate.

Half the problem is modern body armour stopped in 1919 and took a holiday for the next 20 years.
(Really read Bashford Dean: Helmets and Body Armor in Modern Warfare archive and you ask where did all that progress go?)


1919 British body armour

The WW2 British Army experimental body armour in April 1942.

and a 1942 Russian SN-42 vest.
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