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1943 Flyers armored vests


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#1 jblodg

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 11:53 AM

I recently obtained two 1943 issue Flyers armored vests which appear to be scarce.

From the history of WWII personal armor  - - - "Due to the effectiveness of German defensive fire, crews of the USAAF bombers sustained high casualty rates. 75% of those killed or wounded were as a result of being hit by low velocity fragments; therefore the ability to provide protection as encouraged by 8th AF Surgeon. Col. Malcolm Grow developed alongside the British Wilkinson Sword Co. a solution in the form of an armored vest. Made of two pieces the vest comprised a front and back and featured several 2" square manganese steel plates encased in pockets and covered in heavy duck material.  After a 1942 trial the first sets were delivered for operational use in March 1943.  The first 600 sets were produced in England and samples were sent to the USA so that production could begin there with a priority. The US manufactured vests were covered with dark green material.  The vests were issued to gunners, navigators, bombardiers and radio operators.  The flyer's vest M-1 was undeniably heavy and cumbersome, however it successfully saved lives.  The casualty rates of men not wearing flak protection were 36% killed and 69% wounded.  With use of the armored vest protection casualties were dramatically reduced with only 18% killed and 13% wounded.  An impressive 69% of the vests that were struck resulted in their wearers being unscathed.  Flyers soon overcame their reluctance to wear the heavy vests and quickly learned to don them only when under fire to avoid unnecessary exhaustion knowing they could jettison the entire system by a quick release action in case of an emergency (red pull tab as seen on the vest).

The first photo is most likely on the 600 or trial vests that were made by the British for the U.S. Flyers.  It is unmarked and has the heavy duck material and manganese steel plates in the front section.   The 2nd vest is marked as an M1 with an M2 back and is covered with the dark green material as identified as the first U.S. Manufactured vests.

Pilots and Co-pilots normally wore these type of vests that only had the armor on the front.  Interesting pieces for research and addition to any early WWII flyer equipment.

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#2 jblodg

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 11:53 AM

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#3 jblodg

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 11:54 AM

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#4 jblodg

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 11:55 AM

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#5 jblodg

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 11:55 AM

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#6 jonesy1275

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 12:18 PM

Nice one. I have both the British and US made examples.

 

http://www.usmilitar...m1m2-flak-vest/



#7 littlebuddy

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 12:29 PM

The first one looks awfully like the British made type BUT I don't think it's of the first 600 that were issued ,as I think these were marked differently . Your example looks to have an extra "Tab" which I think was for attaching the clip for the walk round bottle .

LB

#8 jblodg

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 01:36 PM

Do you know What is the difference in the Markings are?   Where is that extra tab located?  The limited research that I did indicated that the U.S. received the British made examples to try them out but then shortly began the U.S. manufacture with the Dark Green Material.  Always a chance that the crews in England used the British vest but wondering how you could tell the difference.   Do you have a source - comparison photos for the marking and design information.  Thanks for the information.  



#9 jonesy1275

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 01:40 PM

Here's a very thorough thread on the vests.

 

http://www.usmilitar...saaf-flak-vest/



#10 jblodg

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 02:45 PM

Thanks for the thread.  Great information but did leave much of the same questions.   J



#11 dustin

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 05:57 PM

The last link covers the flak vests in great detail from the experimental Bitish to standard US models. The only thing Not discussed in that link is the extra added tab for walk-around bottles. I would suggest actually READING that link because if your still asking the questions as in your post #8 that tells me you just glossed over it.  



#12 jblodg

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 07:27 PM

Dustin,  I apologize if I offended anyone in my response.  I certainly did not mean to disrespect any of the researchers.  The thread was great as I said so I did read it over very carefully.  I hesitate to say this but I can see others who indicate that the issues related to the British or Wilkinson vests are not totally clear.   I most likely missed that again and if I did I would appreciate a bit of patience.  Thanks



#13 dustin

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Posted 12 October 2016 - 03:46 PM

Well maybe I should had worded that differently and did not intend for that to come across as it did. It is a bit of a conveluted thread so you do have to read it carefully. One of the questions you had asked....."Always a chance that the crews in England used the British vest but wondering how you could tell the difference?" that is mentioned in the thread. They are quite distinctive noted by the quick release cords at the shoulders British versus American.

This inquiry...."The limited research that I did indicated that the U.S. received the British made examples to try them out but then shortly began the U.S. manufacture with the Dark Green Material" This is discussed there with documentation pertaining to the fact which outlines it pretty well.




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