February 12, 2007
By Associated Press
DOVER, N.H. -- Karl Hannan knows how to stop a bullet, and for that the Army is grateful.
Before the Department of Defense figured out how to armor vehicles in Iraq, Hannan was the man on the ground, inventing a system of steel plates that could be clipped onto vehicles to protect soldiers.
Hannan, an engineer and retired Army Reserve officer, last year was awarded the Bronze Star, one of the military's top medals, for his invention. Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense, recognized Hannan on a list of heroes for his lifesaving work.
Hannan, of Pittsfield, was only two months into his 2004 tour in Tikrit, Iraq, when a commanding officer asked him to design something to protect tractor trailers hauling supplies.
The trucks "had no protection whatsoever," Hannan recalled.
His invention, 6 mm plates of hardened steel, were unique because they could be clipped, rather than bolted, to vehicles. They tested well, too.
"When I actually shot a weapon at the material, it actually stopped the bullet," he said.
Soon Hannan and a team of servicemen were working around the clock, armoring as many vehicles as they could. As word spread, he traveled to Baghdad, Mosul, and Kuwait to outfit vehicles. He also shared his designs and drawings in books and CDs.
At its peak, Hannan's team was armoring 254 trucks a day. He estimates more than 2,500 military and civilian trucks received the protection.
"His engineering expertise really emphasized how well-versed he was in coming up with the different angles and the stress factors that were needed," said Wayne Cote, Hannan's supervisor in Iraq.
Hannan retired from the Army Reserve's Devens, Mass.-based 323rd Maintenance Co. five months after returning from Iraq in February 2005.