I have a question. What is Corlon?
No, seriously, what is Corlon? In our context - helmetty stuff - it is a word often applied to the South Korean 'ballistic plastic' helmets used all around the world especially in Second and Third World nations since the 1980s, and usually recognised as what we call the Iraqi M80 (for want of a better designation).
But what is Corlon?
I recently got hold of a South Korean helmet which, miraculously, had a makers label attached. You can see it on CompoSite - first entry here credited to previous owner (Richard Jones) Composite Helmet, Ballistic helmets, Military helmets KOREA, SOUTH KOREAN HELMET helmet, Kevlar helmet . Its label actually reads
W't; 900+/- 50gr pc
Now this is interesting in itself, being as how it appears there were at least two makers of these helmets, Daewoo (cited in Casques de Combat, for example) and now Samsung, and it also seems there are design differences between the two (the most obvious being either a two or three rivet chinstrap fixing). But websearching for anything using the information on that label brought nothing useful. So I tried simply'Corlon' - and to my absolute amazement I got next to nothing there either. There isn't even a Wikipedia entry for this substance! That was amazing! Almost all the hits I got related either to a floorcovering material that seems to have originated in the 1950s, or to helmet websites that refer to South Korean helmets being made of Corlon, but of course without any clue whatsoever as to what Corlon may be.
I then began to wonder exactly why in hell we've all got this idea that these helmets are actually made of this Corlon stuff. Whatever it is. I've believed it for years without actually questioning it. But why? There's no reference to it in either CASQUES DE COMBAT or Marzetti, and those books were my primary references in the early 2000s. Several websites, including the comprehensive and usually reliable Joseba and World War Helmets definately refer to these helmets as being made of Corlon. But why, and what is this stuff anyway? Where did this idea come from?
Purely on a possibly insane intuition I came up with the idea that Corlon might be some kind of glass-fibre webbing encased in a nylon shell, working on the idea that it might be a Corning glass product - you see how possibly loony this theory may be...) 'Cor' + 'lon', yeah? Desperation, really. That made no sense as a websearch either.
The only really solid info I found - and which does not reference South Korea *at all* - came via globally-renowned Canadian collector Roger Lucy, who at one time presented online a brochure from a Germany company called TECHNOLOG based in Frankfurt, who were publicising a range of military armour made of Corlon, tagged as "Corlon reinforced fibre composite with ballistic core". The brochure is undated but internal evidence (a reference to the start of the project being in 1972, and that being ten years previous to the time of writing) indicates it is the early 1980s. Two helmets are shown, one a PASGT type, the other looking remarkably similar to the well-known South Korean object. But the illustrations are indistinct as the scans are from low quality photocopies.
Following this clue got nowhere. I did find a present-day German company called Technolog but they are in Hamburg and involved in maritime equipment. Maybe the same outfit, of course, but no reference to any adventures in body armour or a move from Frankfurt on their website.
I'm actually more than somewhat baffled by this. I don't understand either what this Corlon stuff is, or why we have accepted, blindly it seems, that it is what these South Korean helmets are made of.
There may be a simple answer to all this, that I have failed to find. Do we have a materials technologist in the house? Or anyone with any real information at all? Or even a good informed guess? I am quite happy to be proved stupid or unobservant providing I actually get a sensible answer.