American Survival Guide - - LAUNCH FAMILY - BY PETER SU­CIU


One of the more ridicu­lous as­pects of post-apoc­a­lyp­tic movies and TV shows is how in­di­vid­u­als are of­ten suited up in bulky ath­letic ar­mor and equip­ment, in­clud­ing hockey/ foot­ball shoul­der pads and mo­tocross chest pro­tec­tors. Not only would this type of “ar­mor” do lit­tle to pro­tect the wearer in a com­bat sit­u­a­tion, it would likely be cum­ber­some and un­com­fort­able, too. What is meant to look “cool” on the screen would ac­tu­ally serve lit­tle pur­pose in any real-world sce­nario.

The first thing to un­der­stand is that ar­mor has been used for mil­len­nia in var­i­ous forms, and to­day, mil­i­tary plan­ners still strug­gle with pro­vid­ing ar­mor that of­fers ad­e­quate pro­tec­tion while be­ing com­fort­able.

“As far as we have his­tor­i­cal records, there is ev­i­dence of peo­ple try­ing to use ar­mor,” said Dr. Gre­gory S. Al­drete, pro­fes­sor of his­tory and hu­man­is­tic stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-green Bay.

“It has been a nat­u­ral con­cept to have pro­tec­tion from sharp ob­jects.”

Through the cen­turies, ar­mor has evolved, and man has used var­i­ous me­tals, in­clud­ing cop­per, bronze, iron, steel and even ti­ta­nium, while ma­te­ri­als rang­ing from bone to hide have long been used, as well. There has con­stantly been a trade­off in terms of weight and pro­tec­tion. Ar­mor should be strong enough to de­feat the weapons of the day while be­ing light enough to pro­vide ma­neu­ver­abil­ity on the bat­tle­field.

Plate ar­mor re­mained in use un­til World War I, but it was mainly rel­e­gated as an anachro­nis­tic el­e­ment of the cav­alry. In fact, the cuirass, a piece of ar­mor con­sist­ing of breast­plate and back­plate fas­tened to­gether, is still used as part of the cer­e­mo­nial uni­form of Great Bri­tain’s House­hold Cav­alry, as well as by other cer­e­mo­nial units. How­ever, with the in­tro­duc­tion of firearms, breast plates grad­u­ally were seen to have lost their ef­fec­tive­ness in bat­tle.

Be­low: A vest pro­duced at the fac­tory of Colom­bian busi­ness­man Miguel Ca­ballero. The com­pany is now also work­ing on a line of bul­let- and stab-proof wear for chil­dren that is in­tended for sale in the United States.

Right: A full cav­alry hel­met and a cuirass are still parts of the cer­e­mo­nial uni­form of the Bri­tish House­hold Cav­alry, but the breast plate would do lit­tle to stop a mod­ern bul­let! (Photo: Peter Su­ciu)

Left: This soldier wears the Im­proved Outer Tac­ti­cal Vest with a groin pro­tec­tor in Iraq in Feb­ru­ary 2008. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Wil­liam Greer, U.S. Air Force)

Em­ploy­ees give the fin­ish­ing touches to vests and other ar­moured cloth­ing at the fac­tory of Colom­bian busi­ness­man Miguel Ca­ballero on the out­skirts of Bo­gotá.

Above: A U.S. Marine Corps cor­po­ral shows the E-SAPI plate that suc­cess­fully stopped a bul­let in com­bat when he was hit. (Photo: Lance Cor­po­ral Erik Vil­la­gran, U.S. Marine Corps)

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