So it must have felt in 1914 at the
Met, and in armor collections all across Europe, as if the armored spirits of those knights, still clad in iron, had risen to help save those men of the
But saving men was not what that new war was about.
It is heartening to have so many responses and meandering threads. Thank you! A few tropes were raised, however, about issues I did not have space to treat
in a 2000 word essay. So here are a few quick responses:
About whether such armor could have been manufactured for millions: Just think, all the belligerents were producing shells, very big shells, by the
millions and tens of millions. The artillery doctrines upon which such massive resource appropriation depended were, to be polite, highly flawed. How much
better to have directly protected your men. It is also worth noting that it was far easier to fabricate breast-and-backplates than helmets.
And yes, French metallurgy in the urgent context of existential crisis was not able to deliver good alloys, but British manganese steel was quite
acceptable. German and American alloys were superior, as my article indicates.
Remember, the Deane Panoply was never intended to be bulletproof, but rather, like all modern helmets, to stop fragments. Keeping fragments out of a
soldier's torso meant survival, pure and simple. France lost 1.75 million dead out of a total population of 39 million. Would not losing a half million or
more men not have been welcome to wives, mothers, and children?
Body armor would thus have lowered overall casualties perhaps only marginally. My whole thesis is about deaths, or what we clinically call KIA. That is
And no, no Americans would have been killed collaterally because their helmet looked German. The 2 and 5 models were fully identifiable as American, and
As for mobility on the battlefield, if you all think that a nine-pound cuirass is too heavy, then how do you approach today's reality, where we all wear 40
-pound harnesses, and are proud to be alive? If soldiers could put up with a three-pound helmet, then a nine-pound cuirass (including backplate), is
totally in the combat zone. Unless you guys have more relevant combat experience.
This entire exercise was what some call a "thought exercise." The whole point of such an excursion is to test out why an outcome so terrible and so
preventable happened as it in fact did. In practical, realistic terms, it is of course wholly unlikely that the major belligerents could possibly have
introduced effective, widely deployed body armor during the war. Only the Germans and the Brits did so, and only at the very end.
But the US might have done so, because we had the means,the expertise, and the targeted research (Deane) to do so. Plus, it might so easily have been
transportable to the next war.
But it was not. Hence my piece.