May 18

First Bullet Proof Gas Tank

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 12:01 AM

From the Marine Corps History Division…

A debate persists as to what constituted the first hostile action for U.S. naval aviation (the earliest distinctions between Navy and Marine aviation were marginal). Some argue the scouting flights in the Veracruz action in 1914, in which Navy and Marine pilots participated, was the first occasion when naval aviation planes came under fire of an enemy. Two purported “bullet” holes were noticed on two different planes at different times. However, at least one of these holes was believed by the pilot to merely be the result of an errant screwdriver. 

Whether the incident constituted proof of the first incident of aviation combat or the active imagination of a pilot, it prompted concern of military aircraft fuel tanks. With the anticipation of U.S. aircraft joining the fight in World War I, this concern was revivified and a “bullet-proof” self-sealing gas tank was first demonstrated to the Army and Navy by the Bureau of Standards on 18 May 1917. They consisted of double walled galvanized iron containing layers of felt,gum rubber, and an Ivory soap-whiting paste.