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Insufficient Body Armor Blamed For Significant Number Of Marine Deaths In Iraq

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Better body armor could have prevented or limited a significant percentage of fatal torso wounds suffered by Marines killed in Iraq, says a report by U.S. military medical experts.

The report, conducted for the Marine Corps by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner and not released to the public, examined the cases of Marines fatally wounded from the start of the war in March 2003 through June 2005, and found weaknesses in the torso protective gear.

Bullets or shrapnel hit the Marines’ shoulders, the sides of their torsos or other areas not fully covered by ceramic plates contained in the body armor in at least 74 of 93 fatal wounds examined in the study.

The military defended itself, hoping that empty spin could offset the study’s findings. Army spokesman Paul Boyce said Friday that U.S. forces have the best body armor in the world and it is “saving lives every day.”

Boyce added: “The Army has made numerous improvements in the area of soldier-protection equipment to the outer tactical vests and to the small-arms protective inserts.”

But having the best armor doesn’t help troops who don’t receive it. There have been plenty of news articles about soldiers buying their own armor or scrounging in scrap yards for homemade armor, or about parents personally buying flack jackets for their children.

This spring, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation to create “Patriot Plates,” special license plates that help buy body armor for Oklahoma troops sent to Iraq. Meanwhile, a Westchester County, N.Y., veterans organization recently announced plans to raise money for body armor for troops.

Throughout the presidential campaign last year, Democrat John Kerry blasted the Bush Administration on the subject.

KERRY (10/1/2004 debate): I’ve met kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin places, Iowa, where they’re going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body gear to send to their kids. Some of them got them for a birthday present. I think that’s wrong. … This president just – I don’t know if he sees what’s really happened on there.

The standard Bush-Cheney response was to note that Kerry voted in 2003 against Bush’s $87 billion appropriation for the troops – funding that would have included money for body armor. What the Republicans didn’t say, though, was that Kerry had supported a rival bill that would have provided $67 billion for the troops, including the much-need body armor, but wouldn’t have provided $20 billion for pork-laden reconstruction projects. (Some Republicans came to the same conclusion. The two bills are explained by Sen. Joe Biden on the Aug. 1, 2004, edition of NBC’s Meet the Press.)

Amazingly, Bush threatened to veto the alternate legislation if passed – suggesting that for the White House, the legislation was as much about political favors as Kevlar vests for the troops.

Still, the conservative noise machine repeated the empty spin over and over, and aided by a truthful, poorly worded (and thus easily spinnable) videotaped Kerry admission – he answered a question with “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it” on the campaign trail – it successfully painted Kerry as the dreaded “flip-flopper.”

Somehow, though, in spite of all that spin, the proper body armor didn’t reach enough troops.


This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.

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About David R. Mark

  • You reference ness articles from 2003 and 2004…got anything up to date??? Your “buying their own armor” reference is from 2004, your “scrounging in scrap yards” is 2004 and your “buying flack jackets” is from 2003! Your cheney and bush response reference is also from 2004. Even better, your republican response article is from 2003! You reference Biden, I wonder who he stole those words from??? Kerry met kids in Ohio? I wonder what fast food restaurant that was from???

    Kerry didn’t give a shit about his shipmates in Vietnam, that’s why he got out of there so fast, I know he doesn’t give a shit about these troops either!

    All the shit going on in the world and this is the best you can do?

    Someone needs to start a blog called everyone against your BS!

    In case you didn’t know, this is 2006.

  • david r. mark

    Andy, the main news is from Friday. The other stuff is a nifty thing called “background.” Maybe you’re familiar with it. It’s how we got from Point A to Point B. The study referenced tracked deaths from 2003 to 2005.

    As for Kerry, you must be an adherent of the fact-challenged Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. Every major point they made was found to be untrue — a mix of hearsay and stuff they just made up to smear Kerry.

    The money behind the Swifties was from Robert Perry, a friend of Karl Rove’s. He was the same person who was behind the smear campaign that derailed John McCain’s 2000 presidential bid, funding a whisper campaign and leaflets in South Carolina suggesting that McCain was a Manchurian Candidate, had fathered a black child with a NYC prostitute, and had a wife who was still addicted to drugs.

    Now, you might think it’s just liberal hyperbole to point out this connection. I think, though, it’s pretty clear that one man — a friend of the president’s campaign and talking points architect — was responsible for two smear campaigns against two Bush rivals.

    Remember, just because Sean Hannity says it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s true.

  • This situation is disgraceful no matter when it happened. Our troops put in harm’s way should have the best of everything. This is just proof that this war has been fought “on the cheap” without fully preparing for it.

  • Perfect timing on the disinformation campaign, David. I notice you wait until right when the truth about body armor is hitting the news to post this. The truth, of course, being that troops have adequate body armor and are rejecting upgrades because they feel they are endangered more by the inconvenience and constriction of the armor than they are helped by any protection it gives.

    Maybe you should write something on THIS STORY.


  • gonzo marx

    when i was in the military a Wise warrior once told me an Axiom for successful combat…

    “prior planning prevents piss poor performance”

    it would seem that the Facts indicate that prior to an elective and pre-emptive conflict, in which the DoD had control of ALL Variables, a decision was made to begin with inadequate preparation

    much of this Article seems to show this, as did the footage of the anarchy and looting that occured directly AFTER “mission accomplished”

    hopefully, all will work out for the best of not only our military personnel, but for the Iraqis themselves


  • Gonzo, the counter-argument on the prior planning still stands and you can either accept or reject it as you choose. That being the belief that there was reason to act swiftly with minimal warning both to keep casualties down on both sides, and to prevent the removal of money, assets and WMDs from the country.


  • gonzo marx

    as for comment #6

    the so called “counter-argument” has proven to be factually incorrect and completely untrue in it’s assumptions, assertations and results

    frm a military and strategic standpoint, it is completely fallacious…the ONLY competent counter arguments to the Axiom i quoted are purely political

    and it is my Thought that such consideration supreceding the military requirements are both irresponsible and contributory to the Situation as it stands at this time



    Outside of the fact that the DOD has been researching improved body armor for at least 30 years, and the procurement process for it is glacial, let me clarify the body armor issue. Almost all military personnel had thick Kevlar fabric based body armor desigened to protect against the most common battlefield threat prior to IRaq; shrapnel from artilley. It weighed about 15 pounds, was bulky and limited movement of the head and limbs, and provided torso and neck protection. THis armor was already (since ca 1999) being replaced by the armor troops use today, it incorporates a thicker protective insert designed and proven to stop direct fire from common rifle bullets, as well as shrapnel. IT provides neck, torso, and groin protection, if you wear all the pieces provided. It weighs about 25 pounds, before you strap all the ammo pouches and other necessities to it. IT limits movement as well as provides little opportuity for air circulation, you will sweat, but the sweat pools agsint your skin until you move, then it flows like a river down your spine and stomach. It kicks your ass after a few hours, and if you sit or kneel down, you have to work to get back up. THe collar which protects your neck can bind against your helmet, so you make an effort to move your head. THe new helmets are a great thing thoug, like new style football helmets with fantastic comfortable padding. You still have sweat streaming off your skull after a short time, but they are much more protective against explosive concussion, as are the ballistic eyewear we were issued (didn’t read that part in the article, did ya?) The helmets were fielded very rapidly once it was learned that it would save lives, but let’s get back to finger pointing.)
    THe new additons to the body armor, available for about the last 2 years (about the time the wound data is drawn from), are the shoulder and armpit inserts. They will protect you against many of the wounds described above, at the same time they increase the weight you carry and can hinder movement. ( I am 6 feet tall, and let me tell you getting in and out of a Hummer wearing all that is not like jumping in a car for a ride to the mall.)
    Anyone with a lick of sense or a grasp of history knows that no armor is proof against all weapons. Explosive concussion could pulp my bones and rupture vessels and not leave a mark on me. I could just as easily be hung up inside a burning Hummer, caught up on some of that armor I am wearing, and burn to death.
    Point is, we have the right equipment, and I make sure my troops wear it the right way, but nothing is 100% proof against all danger.

    I agree also, the data is from 2 years ago, and the reporter does a terrible job of following up on the improvements made since that time. We aren’t stupid, you know. The Military does a very great ands intense job of seeing what went wrong and how to fix it.

  • david r. mark

    Dave, are you trying to argue that the government’s own study is a disinformation campaign? Or are you just upset that it became public knowledge?

    Andy, regarding comment #1, the Oklahoma example is from last spring, and the Westchester County example is current. So this argument is also factually inaccurate.

  • No, David. I’m just pointing out that the timing of your rehash of this old issue is suspicious when it comes in coordination with the recent complaints of soldiers about how the new army restricts movement and they frequently prefer not to wear it.

    Now how about responding to Ski’s technically knowledgable comments?


  • some things never change

    The Republican who got 30 million to supply our troops with armor, spent 10 million on a party for his son.

  • some things never change

    make that his daughter.

  • david r. mark

    Dave, the story about the government report came out Friday. I posted my story Sunday morning. That hardly qualifies as an “old issue.”

    Did you read the article, or are you just commenting on the headline?


    Another thing, the day I got off the plane in Iraq, I was given the proper body armor; all of it had been sent to there during the war. Now, most Soldiers will receive it long before they deploy, and as stocks increase, new Soldiers will have it during basic training instead of waiting to get to their duty station after basic.

    Also, the National Guard does receive different funding in relation to active duty. The Marines, and this is where the study was drawn from, also receive a differnt, and much smaller, budget.

    Another thing, most reporters misidentify damn near every piece of military equipment, so I wonder if the Oklahomans are buying body armor, protective plates, or Kevlar floorboards for Hummers.

    As for the maker of the body armor, its his money to spend.

  • Somehow, I can just visualize a band of knights round about the First or Second Crusades, sitting around kvetching at their armor when I see this post headline. Wonder how they managed without the blogosphere back then.

    Good update, SKI

  • some things never change

    Yes it is his money to spend and thankfully not his children dying.


    A lot of people’s children arer thankfully not dying in Iraq, so what’s our point? Would conscription make you happier?

    By the way, a Bat Mtizvah is for a daughter, it occurs around ge 13, so should 13 year olds be forced into the US military?

    I usually suffer trolls gladly, but I’ll make an exception in your case, pinhead.

  • Dave Nalle

    STNC, do you KNOW that David Brooks doesn’t have a kid in Iraq?

    I would think that the fact that he’s making armor for our soldiers would be a GOOD thing, but you seem to think that making armor somehow makes him to blame for military casualties?

    That’s some warped thinking.


  • Hate to tell you this…but on my calendar, February is still winter. It’s january 2006 and that oklahoma thing s from feb o5…that’s pretty close to a year. As far as the westchester link…ok…you got one out of what..10? Nicely done! And of course, the guy commenting on here whos first three initials are Saergant First Class, wouldn’t know anything about this.

    Dave – he’s only supposed to supply the troops, he’s not actually allowed to make any money off it! I must have been getting paid to much when I was in the military, I was able to take my daughters to chuck-e-cheese for a b’day party once!

    Ski – I guess that body armor you received when you got to Iraq came via the same path as that old manna from heaven story…maybe the prez just prayed it to ya???

  • tommyd

    I thought the Iraqi insurgency was in it’s “last throes”, said Dick “5 Vietnam deferments” Cheney. Why does the US military need so much body armor nowadays? Haven’t we been greeted as liberators? Why are Iraqis still shooting down blackhawk helicopters?


    I doubt it, you usually don’t inventory and sign for manna…

  • some things never change

    A lot of people’s children arer thankfully not dying in Iraq, so what’s our point? Would conscription make you happier?

    The point is the (quote)Party of Morality(end sarcastic quote) is definitely partying on, while our soldiers die. And yeah, it’s their right to do so, I’ll save you the effort of having to point that out. The article is about not having enough money for body armor, but rather than be patriotic and help out, party on, party on. Certainly a bat mitzvah for 500,000 dollars would be absurd.

    It is about morality and a country at war, and observing free choices.

    I usually suffer trolls gladly, but I’ll make an exception in your case, pinhead

    I see personal attacks from the Right still continue unabated at this site.





  • this guy that you’re bitching about having a party for his daughter…it is HIS money that HE spent on a party for HIS daughter…

    as far as Mr. Mark’s whinning about the gop using kerry’s words against him…they were HIS words…

    and also on your comment on the swiftboat vets…if kerry had just signed his SF-180 it all would have gone away…care to share with your fellow tinfoil hat wearers why he didn’t? Oh yeah, he, kerry, said it was the principal of the thing…I guess he just didn’t want to win the election…can you come up with a better reason???

  • some things never change

    it is HIS money that HE spent on a party for HIS daughter…

    In comment 22, I pointed that out to hopefully save you the time of typing something redundant.

    care to share with your fellow tinfoil hat wearers why he didn’t?

    Blatantly obvious attempt to change the topic.

  • don’t blatant and obvious mean about the same thing…isn’t that like saying…giantly large??? I wasn’t changing the subject, I was responding to Marks comments in #2.

  • STNC, as Ski and others pointed out, our troops in Iraq DID have body armor available when they arrived there or when they shipped out. The problem is that body armor technology is always changing, and the stuff is manufactured in small scale, almost cottage-industry businesses. What they did not have was the newest body armor in all cases, and because of the limited number of manufacturers it was impossible to get it deployed as soon as it went from development to production, which was after the war was already under way.

    Now this is just my understanding of the situation. If SFC Ski or someone else had more details on this, please explain.



    That is about right, body armor went to active duty deploying units first, in whatever quantities it was available. Basically, if there was no more going on, most Soldiers or Mairines wold nto have the newer body armor beause the need would be less obvous, and the money would be allocated to something else, most likely.

    BTW, I am no member of the right, I am primarily apolitical and possibly pragmatic.

  • SFC SKI writes,

    “By the way, a Bat Mtizvah is for a daughter, it occurs around ge 13, so should 13 year olds be forced into the US military?”

    Real real close, but no cigar. A bat mitzvah is held for a twelve year old girl, the usual age of menarche in the Middle East.

    In ancient Israel, a “bahhúr” was a youth of twenty years of age, and only then he was inducted into the army, or liable for military service.

    $10 million on a bat mitzvah?

    “Vanity of vanities – it’s all vanity.” (Kohelet)

  • Alice

    Back to what is more relevant…

    “this guy that you’re bitching about having a party for his daughter…it is HIS money that HE spent on a party for HIS daughter…”

    It’s more than that…

    David H. Brooks, CEO of bulletproof vest maker DHB Industries, earned $70 million in 2004, 134 times more than his 2001 compensation of $525,000. Brooks also sold company stock worth about $186 million last year, after spooking investors who drove up DHB’s share price.

    In May 2005, the US Marines recalled more than 5,000 DHB armored vests after questions were raised about their effectiveness. By that time, Brooks pocketed about $250 million in war windfall profit.

  • Not sure that ‘spooking’ investors is the right term for getting them to increase stock prices.

    But putting that aside, it does sound like David H. Brooks is a scumsucker. Nonetheless his daughter’s bat mitzvah still has little or no relevance to his other misdeeds.

    And I doubt that his $25K contribution to the NRSC gained him any direct or immediate benefit. I used to work for the NRSC and they’re just a clearing house for money. It comes in and then goes out anonymously to all sorts of candidates. The candidates don’t necessarily have any clue who donated the money in any but an extremely general sense. Brooks made no donations to specific candidates or even to lobbying groups. Trying to connect his donations to his war profiteering just doesn’t fly.


  • We have one soldier here who’s happy with his armor – and many are. And we have many soldiers who aren’t and say it is inadequate.

    I don’t kow if SFC SKI’s view should be given more weight here, though I’m glad he chimed in with some details,

    I referenced on my own site the article that said soldiers don’t like wearing the BEST armor from the armor they receive

    And 250lbs!!!!! Is that the right figure? If it is, it is, but that seems in error and would seem to limit movement almost to nil.

  • I heard a weight figure around 100lbs for current armor, Temple. I don’t think anyone would ask soldiers to wear 250lbs of armor. They might as well just sit down and wait for someone to put an IED in their laps with that much armor.

    I’d give SFC Ski’s view a lot of weight since he’s a guy who’s worn the armor.

    And btw, the new armor is going to be obsolete almost immediately, as there is apparently some even newer technology coming which will work better and start people crying that it be upgraded again. At some point you have to just say give the guys the armor we have and let them do their jobs.


  • MCH

    “Kerry didn’t give a shit about his shipmates in Vietnam, that’s why he got out of there so fast, I know he doesn’t give a shit about these troops either!”

    Johh Kerry…1 Silver Star, 1 Bronze Star, 3 Purple Hearts

  • RedTard

    Our military is outfitted far better than any other in the world. Of course, every soldier would like to be issued there own private armored vehicle for protection but that is not really possible. I still have my body armor with ballistic plates from my stay in the service. Perhaps I should forward it to Iraq where it can be put to good use.

  • htom

    I’m expecting the number of our troops shot in un-armoured torso areas to increase. I am mildly curious as to why no graphic showing the unprotected areas has been provided, though. Was that seen as being too far over the line?

  • RedTard, I’m not sure they’d take your armor at this point. It’s probably already obsolete.

    As for a diagram of underprotected areas, I don’t think that’s much of a mystery to anyone who cares. The shortcomings are pretty well documented, and I know that milbloggers have written quite specifically about how they’ve modified their armor to improve mobility. I may be off on this, but it’s possible that one milblogger was shut down or censored over the armor modification issue, but I can’t recall where I read that.


  • Alice

    “I may be off on this, but it’s possible…”

    The story of Dave’s life…

  • SKI’s comment #8 used to say 250 pounds of armor.

    That got edited by . . .?

  • Dave Nalle

    I remember that too, temple. He must have asked someone to correct it for him. 250 seemed insanely high.


  • I don’t think it would be above SFC to just correct it in comments.


  • Clarification — I don’t think it would have been been …

  • Clarification2 — I don’t think it would have been above …

  • Dave Nalle

    I don’t think it would be above SFC to just correct it in comments.

    And that would be a problem, because…?


  • Temple, I don’t know who lives behind the SFC id, but I don’t think it’s an editor so they wouldn’t have access…

  • #44 obviously. I know SFC isn’t an editor.

    #43 compehension problems. It would have been easy for SFC just to leave a comment correcting that figure than go to the trouble of e-mailing an editor and asking that it be changed on the sly. Even if, said hypothetical editor should also say, no, and tell them to just leave a comment.

    So … ?

  • While I don’t yet keep a log of who is responsible for every *change* to an existing comment, I do keep a log of each comment as it is initially made, which makes it possible for me to say definitively and without a shadow of doubt that comment #8 has always said 25 lbs.

    Specifically, my gmail log shows that at “Sun, 08 Jan 2006 15:45:42 -0500,” that comment appeared, and said in part, “It weighs about 25 pounds, before you strap all the ammo pouches and other necessities to it.”

    Any memories of another number there are false memories. Sorry.

    While this particular incident turned out to be both a tempest in a teapot and based on a mistaken accusation in the first place, I am going to implement a change log to track when comments are edited, to avoid any confusion in the future.

  • I had e-mailed the author of this post and he said the 250 pound figure was in his copy of the comment sent to him by e-mail. Otherwise I would not have bothered to ask nor entered the teapot.

    Also I commented on the 250 pound figure pretty close to the time mentioned so it’s not a memory issue, though I could have misread it. But right now that’s three people that misread it and one that has a copy of the e-mail that reads 250 pounds.

    So there’s that.

    Thanks for realizing the potential for abuse Phillip; it goes to the integrity of the site and a revision of history. It’s pretty high. If it was changed twice would you have a record of both changes?

    Where did SFC go anyhow? He’d also be able to say.

  • you know…this is really starting to become a scandal!!!

  • Well I have gotten to this party late. But doesn’t 250 lbs. of armor sound a little off to you Temple? I would wager to say that most of those men dn not weigh 250 lbs. to begin with.

    And this is above and beyond any “abuse” that may or may not have happened.

    But I agree: Where did SFC SKI go anyhow? This could have been cleared up rather quickly with another comment from SFC SKI.

  • see #31

  • I missed the timestamp Phillip in your comment. Sorry.

    I don’t know. Mass hallucination.

  • I see says the blind man. I missed that one on first pass.

  • Dave Nalle

    On reflection I think I picked up the 250lb figure from Temple’s comment and just assumed it was a correct repetition of what was in the original comment.

    As for the ‘abuse’ factor, I wonder which is more important – giving people the opportunity to express themselves clearly and accurately and make their arguments, or scoring points off them because they made a trivial typographical error?


  • You’re still missing the point. And that’s fine. You’re selectively obtuse. Great. But where are any points being attempted at all? Can you point to that?

    Out of small things come important lessons.

  • Dave Nalle

    I get your point, Temple, I just don’t agree with it.


  • selectively obtuse…can I use that term???