WASHINGTON — When the U.S. Marines stormed into Fallujah last November — in the deadliest urban combat of the war — many may have been wearing body armor that may be flawed. But it wasn’t until last week the Marines ordered more than 5,000 of the potentially defective vests recalled.
The so-called Interceptor bulletproof vests are manufactured by Point Blank Armor of Pompano Beach, Fla., and are supposed to stop a 9mm bullet. But government tests showed that bullets fully penetrated some vests.
A Marine Corps memo dated July 19, 2004, warned that Army tests on one lot of vests "yielded failing results."
But with the war heating up in Iraq, there was such a demand for more body armor the Marines ordered a separate, independent test. The Marine Corps says the armor passed that test, so nearly 5,300 from the suspected defective lot were passed out to Marines.
"There are still vests that are rejected by contractors out there in the field," says Marine Corps Times reporter Christian Lowe.
Monday, a company spokesman for Point Blank told NBC News, "We stand by our product" and "We do not know of any casualties or injuries related to the vest."
The Marine Corps said Monday the vests are capable of stopping a 9mm bullet, but nevertheless ordered the extended recall last week.
The problem is that after extended wear and tear, serial numbers on each vest may be blurred and difficult to trace — making it impossible to tell which Marines are wearing what government experts claim are potentially defective vests.
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