Original U.S. WWII Army Air Forces Unissued “M1 Flyer’s Flak Vest” - Front and Back Pieces

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. During WW2 in the US Army Air Corps, bomber crews often returned from missions over NSDAP-occupied Europe reporting extremely dense flak, each burst spraying the aircraft with hot shrapnel. Following the experience of the Royal Air Force, the Air Corps began issuing flak jackets to aircrews in 1942. These early flak jackets were heavy, consisting of steel plates sewn into multi-layered nylon that would catch low velocity fragments. An apron panel was added to increase the protected areas. The vest and apron design was supplemented by a helmet to complete the protection. The heavy protection vest had a pull tab to dump it quickly if the plane ditched in the water or the crew had to bail out.

This is a genuine, very good condition complete USAAF Armor, Flyer's Vest M1, with the correct "Back Piece M1" and "Front Piece M1 & M2". The flak armor used in the USAAF bombers was a modular design, which could assemble various pieces for specialized personnel. This is the basic pattern, and does not have any of the additional Groin or Leg armor that is sometimes seen. Both pieces are complete with original markings and data labels which can be completely read.

These flak vests were originally only armored in the front as it was assumed that aircrew would be sitting in armored seats. These later versions have armor on both the front and back. Condition is very good, though the pieces definitely do show wear and fading from service.

All in all a very hard to find vest offered in very good condition.

Weight: 17lbs 6oz

A flak jacket or flak vest is a form of body armor. A flak jacket is designed to provide protection from case fragments ("frag") from high explosive weaponry, such as anti-aircraft artillery ("flak" is a German contraction for Fliegerabwehrkanone, "aircraft-defense gun"), grenades, some pellets used in shotguns and anti-personnel mines, and other lower-velocity projectiles. It is not designed to protect against bullets fired from small arms such as rifles or handguns. However, certain flak jackets are able to sustain certain gunshots, depending on the armor, the projectile, the angle at which the shot was fired (an oblique angle for example), and the range from which the shot was fired.

The term "flak jacket" is often colloquially applied to newer body armor featuring protection against small arms projectiles, but the original usage predated the existence of functional bulletproof vests and the two are not interchangeable in performance.

During World War I, a number of British and American officers recognized that many casualties could be avoided if effective armor were available. Isolated efforts at developing armor were made, and soldiers could make individual purchases or efforts, but there was no armor issued to the troops. As it is today, issues of weight, cost, availability of materials and/or environmental stability complicated the issue of developing armor that would also be effective. For example, soft armor made of silk was tried on a small scale based on Japanese designs, but this material did not last well under harsh environmental conditions.

The first usage of the term "flak jacket" refers to the armor originally developed by the Wilkinson Sword company during World War II to help protect Royal Air Force (RAF) aircrew from the flying debris and shell fragments thrown by German anti-aircraft guns' high-explosive shells (flak itself is an abbreviation for the German word "Fliegerabwehrkanone" (aircraft-defense gun)).

The idea for the flak jacket came from Col. Malcolm C. Grow, Surgeon of the US Eighth Air Force in Britain. He thought that many wounds he was treating could have been prevented by some kind of light armor. In 1943 he was awarded the Legion of Merit for developing the flak vest.

Unfortunately, flak jackets proved to be too bulky for wear within the confines of the RAF's standard bomber aircraft, the Avro Lancaster. The Royal Air Force subsequently offered the jackets to the United States Army Air Forces, which adopted them as a Defense Standard. The UK subsequently supplied the USAAF with 9,600 flak jackets under reverse lend-lease.

During World War II, flak jackets and steel helmets were worn by US Navy personnel on aircraft carriers during battle, since the ships and especially their flight decks offered little protection for their crew. The jackets were supposed to protect against shell fragments and heat.

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