Iraqi Urban legends

Here's an interesting article about Iraqi urban legends regarding the American forces. Here's a few of the more popular beliefs:

  • that the bulletproof vests American soldiers wear actually contain air-conditioning units (I'm sure the soldiers wish this were true)

  • that the sunglasses worn by almost all American soldiers allow them to see through clothing

  • And that American armored vehicles are protected by electrical fields that detonate RPG rockets before they strike, but that this protection can be defeated by wrapping the rockets in electrical tape.

Military Urban Legends

Posted on Thu Oct 14, 2004


:P Wouldnt the world be a better place with x-ray sun glasses??????????Next time anyone passes someone who is wearing shades check out the expression on there faces!! Keep up the good work.
Posted by Pat  on  Thu Oct 14, 2004  at  12:11 PM
This reminds me of a report I read long ago that combatants in Laos and Cambodia in the 1970s wore special charms that were supposed to make them bullet-proof. Needless to say, this defense strategy was largely unsuccessful.
The sunglasses rumor may result from confusing ordinary sunglasses with the night-vision equipment in common use by the U.S. military, which allows them to see in the dark (though not necessarily through clothes).
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Thu Oct 14, 2004  at  01:06 PM
There used to be a rumor that Sony's digital video camera equipped with an infrared feature would allow you to see through clothes... if you used the infrared feature during the day.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Oct 14, 2004  at  01:31 PM
On the last point, I believe I had read the
British have developed a "forcefield" for their
armored units. I haven't heard if this tech
has been applied to U.S. armored units. This
is probably partly true or conjecture. The
electrical tape idea is funny.
Posted by HotWheelz  on  Thu Oct 14, 2004  at  01:43 PM
Here's a good, non-technical resource to understand what infrared can actually do, when used by professionals:

As you can see, they need X-rays to get through the paint, they can't do it with infrared alone. The same goes for clothing Alex, no Sony can do it. Although I /would/ like it to be different. 😊
Posted by Gutza  on  Fri Oct 15, 2004  at  08:50 AM
What's funny is, I've heard a rumor, which is probably just that, since my brain can't wrap around it, that early night vision lenses had to be scrapped because you could see through people's clothes. Didn't even make sense to me.

Also, my husband and I saw something on TV about a company that is working on air conditioned outfits for the military, so they can wear all that armor in the hot sun, but it's still too heavy and cumbersome to be useful.

As for the rockets, uh, right. What they're talking about sounds like EM in a field or short bursts, which would probably fry the tank's electrical parts.

These are certainly creative!
Posted by Ga  on  Fri Oct 15, 2004  at  01:43 PM
I would think if someone really had lenses that let you see through people's clothes, they wouldn't scrap them, they would sell them to lechers and become billionaires.

There was supposedly a Navy experiment during World War II where they electrified the hulls of battleships in an attempt to make them invisible to radar, but they gave it up because it also made the ships' crews sick.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Fri Oct 15, 2004  at  03:52 PM
That was the thing about the rumor, it was (as all good rumors are) a military product, those X-ray glasses were, so the military scrapped the project and civilians will never get their hands on them. I still don't buy it.
Posted by Ga  on  Fri Oct 15, 2004  at  04:51 PM
Big Gary C, you're talking about Experiment Philadelphia, which is still a controversial topic; however, the most probable hypothesis IMO is that they attempted radar cloaking via magnetic fields. Didn't work out, but that's all there is to it, really. Give it a go on Google if curious, but check your sources before making up your mind.
Posted by Gutza  on  Fri Oct 15, 2004  at  05:33 PM
❓ I think that what people fail to understand is that most technological developments are infact a product of the militery think tanks pushing ideas and designs forword in times of war, and peace. Even though it sounds far fetched if a company developed a product that could benifit the war machine then the sad simple truth is that cavilians would not see the benefits until it was tried, tested and deamed obsalete. Sad but true, even a company as huge as Sony would strugle to get a product like that through the regulatory and patent process, perhaps the greatest urban legend to come out of Iraq was there WMD programme!
Posted by X  on  Sat Oct 16, 2004  at  02:42 AM
I wonder if they have their own Iraqi Museum of Hoaxes? Or maybe they've sent out thousands of e-mails: Forward this to all of your desert peeps! This could save your life! Mohammed said this happened to his friend, Muhamed, so it MUST be real!
Posted by Maegan  on  Sun Oct 17, 2004  at  12:11 PM
Yes early versions of Sony video cameras with the "Nightshot" feature could in fact see through some kinds of clothing. In daylight and with the correct IR (infrared) filter. See
Posted by Myton  on  Sun Oct 17, 2004  at  07:21 PM
A museum of hoaxes in Iraq? Sure, they at least used to have one before the war - the Ministry of Information.
Posted by Matt  on  Mon Oct 18, 2004  at  07:30 AM
Damn I miss the Information Minister...

Actually, If I recall, the 'bulletproof charms' did freaky things for morale.. They'd fight like guys on PCP.

Yeah, the sony cams were set up to be able to shoot in the dark, but if you used the IR filter dring the day, you'd be able to see through clothing with it. Not completely, mind you, but enough for some folks out there.
Posted by Bobcat  on  Mon Oct 18, 2004  at  09:49 PM
I can't confirm this but while I was in Iraq some of our M1A1 abrams had a new system to shoot down guided missiles by using microwaves. Supposedly it scrambles their guidance system.
Posted by Jay  on  Thu Oct 21, 2004  at  10:24 AM
Speaking of Iraqi hoaxes...

I heard an urban legend (maybe it's true!) in the Darwin Awards: Khay Rhamajet, an Iraqi terrorist, opened (and detonated) his own mail bomb after it was returned to him for insufficient postage!

If anyone can shed light on whether this is true, reply here.
Posted by Joe  on  Wed Oct 27, 2004  at  01:05 AM
The last one is interesting, because in late 2001 the Brits claimed they had developed an EM shield that would disrupt shape-charged explosives.
Posted by Ted  on  Fri Dec 17, 2004  at  09:16 PM
At least as far back as the early 70s the military has been working on cooling suits. I was in the USAF dealing with NBC (nuke, bio, chem warfare) and our office had a couple of cooling suit prototypes. Most used water circulating through tubes in a vest that was cooled by an ice pack. Earlier than that we had terry cloth suits worn over chem gear that were soaked in water and cooled (poorly) by evaporation.
Posted by Jim K  on  Tue Jun 28, 2005  at  11:02 AM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.