QM Corps Develops Early Body Armor Models

Editor’s Note: This abridged article was published in December 1952 to the Office of the Quartermaster General.

Development of body armor, including armored vests for Army ground troops was conducted during World War II by both the Army Ordnance Corps and the Army Quartermaster Corps.

Quartermaster efforts were directed toward development of non-metallic body armor. At the end of World War II, it had reached the combat test stage with an experimental vest armored with rigid plates of Doron, laminated plastic fibre-glass. The term Doron is derived from the name of Brig. Gen. Georges Doriot, World War II chief of the Research and Development Branch, Office of the Quartermaster General of the Army.

Body armor developed by the Ordnance Corps during this period included a 12-pound vest of aluminum plates and nylon fabric designated as M-12, which was adopted as a standard Army item by the end of World War II.

Immediately after it was assigned responsibility for body armor, the Quartermaster Corps began development on a new type of vest utilizing flexible laminated nylon duck, recommended by the Ordnance Corps as the best of all lightweight flexible ballistic materials. The fibres of nylon trap jagged fragments of low-velocity missiles, which cause the majority of combat wounds. (Multi-layered nylon was an important ballistic element in World War II U.S. Airman’s armor.) Ordnance Corps ballistic tests reveal that nylon, weight for weight, is superior even to steel in stopping fragments from exploding missiles.

Meantime the Department of the Navy also had been engaged in extensive body armor development, concentrating principally on the use of Doron. In 1950, experts of the Army Quartermaster Corps and the Marine Corps began joint experiments on various models utilizing both Doron and nylon.

In 1951, 100 test models of a combination of Doron-nylon armor, for which the Quartermaster Corps furnished the fabric, Doron and webbing, and which were made by the Marine Corps, were shipped to Korea for test under supervision of a joint Army Marine Corps team. This vest used over-lapping, curved Doron plates around the upper torso and nylon duck over the shoulders. At the conclusion of the test in Korea, the Marine Corps continued development of the new-type Doron vest, which was subsequently standardized for issue to Marines.

In the summer of 1952, the Far East Command requested immediate supply of the latest Army type vest for issue to combat troops. Although field testing of this model had been completed, the vest had never been mass-produced. For this reason, vest of this type could not be furnished immediately and the Far East Command indicated that, although the Army armored vest was preferred, the Marine Corps’ Doron vest was acceptable to fill immediate requirements. Delivery to the Far East Command of an additional 20,000 of the Army vests is scheduled for the period of January through May, 1953. Cost of these 20,000 of the Army vests, including price of materials furnished the contractor by the Quartermaster Corps, is $39.04 each.

Reports received by the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army on the combat testing of the new Army nylon vest show that the armor has been deflecting about 65 percent of all types of missiles, 75 percent of all fragments, and 25 per cent of all small-arms fire. The reports also state that the armor has reduced torso wounds by 60 to 70 percent, while those inflicted in spite of the armor’s protection were reduced in severity by 25 to 35 percent.