So could carpet bombing and free-fire zones

Study: Better armor could have saved Marines


Most torso wounds that killed Marines in Iraq might have been prevented or minimized by improved body armor, a Pentagon study found.

The unreleased study last summer by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner looked at 93 fatal wounds from the start of the war in March 2003 through June 2005. It concluded that 74 were bullet or shrapnel wounds to shoulders or areas of the torso not protected by ceramic armor plating.

The findings underscore the difficulty facing the Army and Marine Corps in providing the optimum level of body armor protection in a war against an insurgency whose tactics are constantly changing.

I’d be quite curious to know what the body armor issue has to do with the insurgency’s “constantly changing” tactics. This is simply another example of the idiotic military reporting that we’re stuck with. Articles like this, which seem to have been written and edited by folks with virtually no understanding whatsoever of the military, are a contributing factor to a lot of negative opinions that people have about the military and what it’s doing.

Critics, I know you’re out there. Please don’t be shy. Use the comments section to explain how the insurgency has altered tactics to take advantage of weaknesses in our body armor. I am challenging you to speak up. If you don’t, I will assume you have nothing useful to say about it. Really.

Here’s some more

Autopsy reports and photographic records were analyzed to help the military determine possible body armor redesign. A military advocacy group, Soldiers for Truth, posted an article about the study on its Web site this week. On Friday evening, The New York Times reported in its online edition that the study for the first time shows the cost in lives lost from inadequate armor.

The study found that of 39 fatal torso wounds in which the bullet or shrapnel entered the Marine’s body outside of the ceramic armor plate that protects the chest and back, 31 were close to the plate’s edge.

“Either a larger plate or superior protection around the plate would have had the potential to alter the final outcome,” the report concluded. [emphasis mine]

The paragraph starts out explaining that the military is doing what it should be doing: investigating real-world results, forming lessons learned, and looking at applying those lessons to the future. But then it degenerates into playing the body count-and-blame game.

Since we don’t have the numbers or distances available, I’m going to have to just make up some numbers. Let’s say that enlarging the ceramic plate by 10% would have covered 21 of those 31 “close” hits. Then you do the study again, and in addition to the 10 “close” hits from the first study, you have six more.

At that point, no doubt, we’d be getting “Sixteen Marines dead due to armor deficiencies”. We could encase the Marines in a suit of solid ceramic armor plating, and we’d get “Eye-holes in Pentagon’s New Armor Vulnerable to Gunfire” headlines. It’s a stupid media game and you know it.

armsdown.jpgThere are limits. You need to be able to put your arms down. Otherwise laying there like a slug might be your only defense.

Long-time readers of MO will know that I’ve been critical of the armor situation in the past. And I’ll continue to be critical in the future until absolute perfection is attained and US troops in combat zones are totally protected from every possible threat. But these stupid headlines and sensationalizing of a military study intended to improve our capability doesn’t help anyone.

Well, let me correct myself right here. Sensationalizing this story, making it sound like negligence or inability to cope with enemy tactics is killing troops does help some. They’re called the “enemies of America”. And not all of them are not American. So many in the media seem so focused on the “good old days” of media glory that they appear unable to report on military matters in a meaningful way.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Legacy Media only seems to know three things about the military: My Lai, the Pentagon Papers, and the words “Tet Offensive”.


  1. Thank God for writers eh. They keep tryin to dig up an angle that will sink the prez. Wait till they get a load of the Russian and Chinese projects to develop rounds and bullets to defeat the current armor plates. I gotta go find that article again, but while we are scurryin round to acquire a bullet to vaporize fundamuslimists who are normally unwrapped in protection, they are specifically targeting penetrator bullets for the US body armor. The bullet proof troop is an illusion. However I know I am preaching to the faithful here, but when they elect me King, if a reporter wants to write on body armor, the requirement will be they actually wear the stuff and 50 lbs of other crap (bullets beans, bandaids etc) and jog in a sauna for 12 hours before they are allowed to have an opinion.

  2. As much as I agree that upgrading body armor isn’t going to stop casualties, I also think its high time they started looking at some OLDER armor designs to see what worked in the past. Case in point, someone Pointed out that recreating scale mail (which has been done in the form of the Dragon Scale armor), chain mail, and the Longinus Segmentus (Roman Legion segmented body armor) using modern matierials might be the solution to the body armor issue. The Roman armor was designed to be worn 24/7, practically lived in, by the soldiers that wore it. Replacing the steel in this armor with ceramic or other materials and then covered it in kevlar to minimize spalling, and you have a flexable armor system. Take a hit, replace the segment. The US military really needs to look at what the Chinese and co. are doing. If you look at the new Chinese AR round, its profile and ballistics are actually very similar to the 6.5 Grendal from Alexander Arms.

  3. There was a follow up article-I’m sure by someone else-in my local paper (Tacoma News Tribune, yesterday or today that quoted a couple of soldiers saying that they didn’t want any more armor-increasing what they already had would make it too hard to move. Now, if you can increase the protection with bulk and weight that is less than or equal to what is already in use, then you’ve got something.

  4. supporting our troops to death again are we? Maybe you could find the actual article: here are some excerts: ‘A DefenseWatch investigation begun last summer (See Is America’s Best Getting America’s Best series in DW archives) determined that the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick (SSC-Natick, Massachusetts), has known for at least several years that its in-house designed Interceptor body armor was not nearly as effective as other civilian body armor products already in production.’ ‘Many war fighters told DefenseWatch they used their own money to buy superior body armor systems available on the open market despite DOD claims that the Interceptor body armor is the best money can buy. ‘ ‘Those warriors reported the Interceptor body armor is frequently ill-fitting, falls apart with rugged use, decreases in protective capability with age, and leaves the wearer vulnerable to side and shoulder wounds that could prove fatal. The findings of the August 29 report supports every contention the agitated war fighters made. So did evidence introduced in several civilian court cases brought against all three of the Interceptor body armor manufacturers in unrelated lawsuits by disgruntled employees, civilian police agencies and the US Justice Department.’ you guys are covering for george again? your pathetic. Link to the ‘soldiers for the truth’ below.

  5. Roman armor? I think that would violate something. Just imagine thousands of GI’s in skirts…. that would be a priceless picture. On the serious side, your idea has some merit in concept. I believe there is something called Dragon armor that is based on scale mail.

  6. It’s much easier to criticise a decision than it is to make one. Most armed forces don’t even GET body armour. Who’s being pathetic, now?

  7. You know, I think criticising poor equipment/body armour/etc. would be healthy if everything wasn’t always automatically ‘Bush’s fault’. Yes, it really is quite pathetic.

  8. No nicholas, whats pathetic is the bush administration’s repeated failure to get the best equiptment to our troops in the field. body armor. whats so f–king tough about that? but hey, you go to war with the army you have. not the army you could have had with 2 years lead time. and 2 3/4 years in the field. and an unlimited budget. go click on my link and read the actual article. and when are you signing up nicolas? easy enough to make excuses when your a REMF. pathetic.

  9. Good on you Aaron,you tell them how it is and not as they would like it to be. REMF prez as well.

  10. Aaron, sadly ‘Soldiers for the Truth’ is really more of a motto then a rule over at Defensewatch. They’re not really interested in the facts all the tine. ‘Those warriors reported the Interceptor body armor is frequently ill-fitting, falls apart with rugged use, decreases in protective capability with age, and leaves the wearer vulnerable to side and shoulder wounds that could prove fatal.’ Wow, that’d be true for EVERY armor, depending on which Joe used it and how long it’s used. Further, it probably ignores the DAPS which prevent side and shoulder wounds from happening. I’m betting Aaron, you’ve never worn the armor. Why not find the video from that 101 Cav guy who took a Draganov round last spring square in the chest and popped up to fight, well after closing the door to his humvee. He treated his attacker after he put a few rounds into him. Oh-it’s ‘you’re’, not ‘your’.

  11. While this type of after action analysis should definitely be done, the headlines were spun to make it extra news worthy. First, the flipside. How many were not killed because they had the world class armor? Second, given that the armor does cover a significant portion of body mass, and specifically the part of the body mass considered a vital targe, we can pretty well assume by definition that any fatal torso shots were near the armor plates. Let’s take the argument to the extreme. Let’s assume that the plates been slightly larger (AND assuming that the extra weight did not increase casualties due to decreased mobility). What would be the headline? Once again, majority of fatal torso impacts would be near the plate (but total casualties would be lower, but that wouldnt get reported. Eventually we could have soldiers in ceramic cocoons with a one inch achilles heel gap, and the headlines would be the same. Optimal armor is a tradeoff between weight and mobility, not cost (what is the cost of a dead or severely injured soldier in monetary terms). As the technology evolves, the optimal coverage may change. This research should be noted by those involved in making that decision, but not by the court of public opinion. I am sure that at least one soldier has died because his bulky armor exposed him to a fatal shot. That is no excuse to abandon armor. Nor is the non-surprising that many fatal hits were near ceramic plates, but that is no reason dress soldiers up as ceramic goodyear blimps.

  12. Yeah, the civvie stuff is *so* much better. Well, it can be. Sometimes. Of course, it’s not had to go through mil-spec testing – and often the really new, nifty ‘better’ civvie stuff fails miserably. There *is* no perfect answer. There *is nothing* without tradeoffs. Get the ‘latest and greatest’ and find out the hard way about logistical problems. You want to talk pathetic? Let’s talk about the 5.56mm round. But given the choice between that, or everybody bringing their own gun, needing their own ammo – it’s a simple answer which is sustainable for more than a few months. Of course, if you’re only looking to make political points…. (Of course, this is helped by ignoring all those soldiers in Kosovo in the unarmored vehicles, without body armor.. but, that’s different, right?)