Duct Tape and WWII

 

During the WWII, U.S. troops in the heat of battle had a strangely impractical way of reloading their weapons.

Cartridges used for grenade launchers was one example. Boxed, sealed with wax and taped over to protect them from moisture, soldiers would need to pull on a tab to peel off the paper tape and break the seal. Sure, it worked… except when it didn’t, soldiers were left scrambling to pry the boxes open.

waterproof ammo boxes

Vesta Stoudt had been working at a factory packing and inspecting these cartridges when she got to thinking that there had to be a better way. She also happened to be a mother of two sons serving in the Navy and was particularly perturbed that their lives and countless others were left to such chance.

Concerned for the welfare of sons, she discussed with her supervisors an idea she had to fabricate a tape made from strong, water-resistant cloth. And when nothing came of her efforts, she penned a letter to then-President Franklin Roosevelt detailing her proposal (which included a hand-sketched diagram) and closing by making a plea to his conscience:

“We can’t let them down by giving them a box of cartridges that takes a minute or two to open, enabling the enemy to take lives that might be saved had the box been taped with strong tape that can be opened in a split second. Please, Mr. President, do something about this at once; not tomorrow or soon, but now.”

Oddly enough, Roosevelt passed Stoudt’s recommendation on to military officials, and in two weeks time, she received notice that her suggestion is being considered and not too long after was informed that her proposal had been approved. The letter also commended her idea was of “exceptional merit.”

Before long, Johnson & Johnson, which specialized in medical supplies, was assigned and developed a sturdy cloth tape with a strong adhesive that would come to be known as “duck tape,” which garnered the company an Army/Navy “E” Award, an honor given out as a distinction of excellence in the production of war equipment.

Army/Navy E Pennant

While Johnson & Johnson was officially credited with the invention of duct tape, it’s a concerned mother who will be remembered as the mother of duct tape.

The initial iteration that Johnson & Johnson came up with isn’t much different from the version on the market today. Comprised of a piece of mesh cloth, which gives it tensile strength and rigidity to be torn by hand and waterproof polyethylene (plastic), duct tape is made by feeding the materials into a mixture that forms the rubber-based adhesive.

Unlike glue, which forms a bond once the substance hardens, duct tape is a pressure-sensitive adhesive that relies on the degree in which pressure is applied. The stronger the pressure, the stronger the bond, particularly with surfaces that are clean, smooth and hard.

Duct tape was a huge hit with soldiers due to its strength, versatility and waterproof properties. Used to make all sorts of repairs from boots to furniture, it’s also a popular fixture in the world of motorsports, where crews use strips to patch up dents.

During the war duck tape was distributed to soldier’s to use in sealing ammo cans. Industrious soldiers quickly started using it for all manner of repairs thanks to its strong adhesive and sturdy construction. When millions of soldiers returned home from the war, they brought their respect for duct tape with them, rapidly introducing the now ubiquitous tape into popular culture.

Film crews working on-set have a version called gaffer’s tape, which doesn’t leave a sticky residue. Even NASA Astronauts pack a roll when they go on space missions.

on aircraft

Besides repairs, other creative uses for duct tape include strengthening cellular reception on the Apple iPhone 4 and as a form of medical treatment for removing warts called duct tape occlusion therapy, which research hasn’t been proven to be effective.

“Duct” or “duck” tape?

In this case, either pronunciation would be correct. According to Johnson & Johnson’s website, the original green sticky cloth tape got its name during world war II when soldiers started calling it duck tape for the way liquids seem to roll off like water off a duck’s back.

Not long after the war, the company launched a metallic-silver version called duct tape after executives discovered it can also be used to seal heating ducts. Interestingly enough, however, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted field tests on heating ducts and determined that duct tape was insufficient for that purpose.

By :  Tuan C. Nguyen

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – 

DUCT TAPE DOESN’T FIX EVERYTHING!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Steven Bailey – Houston, TX; US Army, Kuwait, 82nd Airborne Division, Bronze Star

Harry Beal – Meyersdale, PA; US Navy, 1st SEAL

Robert Collins – Rockaway, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. A/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Thomas Hard Sr. – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, POW

Reed Mattair – Williston, FL; US Army, WWII, PTO

Paul Moore Sr. – Portsmouth, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS West Virginia, SeaBee, Pearl Harbor survivor

Edward Sulewski – So. Milwaukee, WI; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Alexander Suprin – brn: Poland; USMC, WWII, PTO

Thomas Whitaker – Marquette, MI; US Army, WWII, Engineering Corps

Dominic Zangari (100) – Lancaster, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, (Ret. 34 y.)

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on February 1, 2021, in Current News, Home Front, Post WWII, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 191 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I doubt that the guys who invented duct tape ever thought it would be so multipurpose!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s nothing like GI ingenuity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating! Another great history lesson… Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this story!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Mrs Stroudt. And at last we have cleared up that either duct tape or duck tape is fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A tale well told, as always. Thanks, GP

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Now that you mention it… It was Dad who brought it into our home life while in the military…And all this time I thought it was a father-son handyman thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing the history of duct tape, GP! The Gaffer’s tape offshoot sounds interesting too. I’ve got a few repairs around here that might be good for. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wow! Didn’t know such a story was behind a duct tape❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wowww!!! Mother always knows best 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow….I did not know this…so interesting to read the history behind the things so easily available now
    👌👌

    Liked by 2 people

  13. As usual, one of the only blogs I take the time to read, except I just noticed something. Am I just not observant because i didn’t know you have or use contributors/writers till now.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Every so often my husband surprises me with a new roll of duck/duct tape. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Interesting read! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I enjoyed reading the history, which I didn’t know, but I was more intrigued by the mention of gaffer tape. Most marine tapes that I use in my work aren’t strong enough for certain jobs, but if duct tape is left in the sun for a couple of weeks, it can be the very dickens to get off. the articles I read said things like this: “Gaffer tape adhesive is more resistant to heat and more easily removed without damaging the surface to which it adhered.” Wowza! I’m going to find a roll and try it out!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Duct Tape is currently patching up a gap in my windscreen while I wait for the windscreen business to open.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Great post but I had to chuckle when I think of The Red Green Show. Duct tape is the solution for practically anything on that great Canadian satire!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Fascinating! And I love that it was a woman who came up with the idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. If it moves and it is not supposed to duck tape.
    It it does not move and is supposed to WD-40

    Liked by 3 people

  21. I don’t remember duct tape but WD40 and araldite fixed most things in the Australian army. Number 8 fencing wire fixed the rest.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. How very interesting! Another fascinating story of how one of our everyday objects came in to being.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Strangely (perhaps not), Duct Tape in Italy is called “Nastro Americano” (American Tape).

    Liked by 3 people

  24. I love this story, G. We have a drawer devoted to duct tape for use around the house use. I also carry it in out van and have an emergency supply I backpack with. It’s wrapped around my emergency pencil. Over the years I repaired everything from backpacks to tents to rain gear and even shoes. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 3 people

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