By: E&P Staff
A secret Pentagon study, The New York Times reports on Saturday, has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor.
“Such armor has been available since 2003,” writes Michael Moss, “but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.”
The Times obtained a copy of that study. And forensic studies by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s unit, also obtained by The Times, indicate that about 340 American troops have died solely from torso wounds.
“The ceramic plates in vests now worn by the majority of troops in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back,” Moss reveals. “In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines’ shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach.
“For the first time, the study by the military’s medical examiner shows the cost in lost lives from inadequate armor, even as the Pentagon continues to publicly defend its protection of the troops.
“Officials have said they are shipping the best armor to Iraq as quickly as possible. At the same time, they have maintained that it is impossible to shield forces from the increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices used by insurgents in Iraq. Yet the Pentagon’s own study reveals the equally lethal threat of bullets.
“The vulnerability of the military’s body armor has been known since the start of the war, and is part of a series of problems that have surrounded the protection of American troops. Still, the Marine Corps did not begin buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until last September, when it ordered 28,800 sets, Marine officials acknowledge.
“The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army was deciding among various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers, adding that they hoped to issue contracts this month.”
The U.S. military on Friday announced the deaths of six more American troops killed in the recent barrage of violence that has swept Iraq, bringing to 11 the number of troops killed on the same day.