# The luckiest man alive

Luckiest man in Iraq
By Matt Sun
March 28, 2003

THIS is the luckiest man in Iraq - a British commando who cheated death despite being shot four times in the head during a raging battle.

Royal Marine Eric Walderman was hit by a volley of bullets while fighting Iraqi soldiers at Umm Qasr, southern Iraq.

The bullets hit Pte Walderman's Kevlar helmet just above his eye, tearing the camouflage lining and ricocheting away.

If a round had struck a 1cm lower, he would have been killed.

Pte Walderman was shaken but otherwise unscathed when he returned to base with his Alpha company 40 Commando unit afterwards.

Because the troops are not allowed direct contact with their families, Walderman asked a wounded colleague being evacuated back to the UK to phone his girlfriend Lindsey Robinson in Fleetwood, Lancashire.

She was shocked to hear he had been hit but pleased he was alive.

Lindsey told London's The Sun newspaper Pte Walderman was lucky.

"I can't believe it. I want to hug him. He always seems to come out on top – but I don't want to think about what could have happened," the 25-year-old said.

"He is so lucky to be alive, he's the luckiest man out there."

The couple have been together for eight years and are parents to two-year-old son Danny.

Pte Walderman's 47-year-old mum, Brenda, was also relieved.

"I am shocked, but at the same time feel lucky," she said.

Pte Walderman, a welder, joined the Marines three years ago.

He completed the intense 30-week training course in March 2000 with flying colours, receiving the Commando Medal for being "an outstanding new recruit".

The 690-strong 40 Commando unit left England for the Gulf in January to conduct training exercises and has been fighting since the first shots of the war were fired last week.

The helmet worn by Pte Walderman is similar to the Personnel Armor System Ground Troops helmet used by US soldiers.

The Kevlar lined PASGT helmets are up to 40 per cent more resistant to fragments than the old style "steel pot" protective head gear.

Costing about $500 each, tests show 50 per cent of projectiles are stopped while the other half penetrate the kevlar. While the helmets do increase the chances of surviving a bullet, their primary purpose is to protect the head against blunt trauma. Discovered by scientist Stephanie Kwolek in 1965, Kevlar is a super-strong fibre made from liquid crystalline. Type II helmets are lined with 24 layers of Kevlar and can stop a 9mm round travelling at 358 m/ps. The Daily Telegraph http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,6199176%255E25777,00.html [Broken] After Desert Storm I read a report on the effectiveness of those nifty kevlar helmets. Of all head shots sustained, none had pased through the helmet; they had all come through unprotected areas. Those helmets are so nifty. Last edited by a moderator: Related General Discussion News on Phys.org #### Zero Oh, but the helmets are bulky, uncomfortable, and have a tendensy to slip over your eyes at the worst possible moment....that guy is pretty lucky, though. #### Mulder Seen pictures of it in the British media. I should think his family don't know whether to be happy or terrified. #### J-Man How can you consider getting shot in the head 4 times lucky? I think I'm far luckier for never getting shot in the head. I feel sorry for the guy, but I'd opt for a different adjective to describe him, "unfortunate" maybe. #### Mentat I think they mean that he's lucky for having survived it. Although, you do make an excellent point, that someone who has not gone through a horrific circumstance is technically more lucky than someone who has (even if that person happened to survive, or even make it through unscathed). #### Lifegazer Do the soldiers have bullet-proof vests? If not, why not? #### LURCH Science Advisor Fortunate to be alive, certainly, but can you imagine this guy's headache?! I mean, helmet or no, bullets hit HARD. #### plus Originally posted by LURCH bullets hit HARD. Even the 20 year old Iraqi ones! #### BoulderHead Originally posted by Lifegazer Do the soldiers have bullet-proof vests? If not, why not? Hey LG, so far as I know the vests are only good for protection against less powerful weapons (handguns) and wouldn't stop a bullet from a high-powered rifle without having to be so thick that the soldiers would look like the Pilsbury Doughboy. #### drag Science Advisor Greetings ! Zero, Those helmets actually look pretty comfortable on the soldiers and for 500$ you'd think they
can shape the ceramics pretty well.

LG, yes they wear ceramic body armor. It's pretty
expansive too. You can ussualy see it in blue
on reporters. I don't know the exact kind they're
using but this armor ussualy only has an average
chance to stop an AK47 bullet at close range.
At a distance, however, it is ussualy effective.
Anyway, even if it stops the bullet, the impact
is like a "well-swung" 5 kg (11 pounds) hammer
and can sometimes do some serious internal damage.

That soldier is EXTREMELY LUCKY ! Not only did
the bullets not panetrate the helmet, they
apparently slid across its surface. Otherwise,
the impact of such a volley could've easily
broken his neck.

With no intention of turning this into a
laughing matter, I'd like to say that such
an experience can be a positive frame of
mind changing experience. Certainly better
in such a role than actually being hit
yourself or seeing someone else getting shot.

Live long and prosper.

That's interesting drag, so now I want to tell a quick one about the father of an old friend;
He decided to commit suicide and fired a .22 caliber (short?) bullet into his mouth. I’m not sure I remember all the details but think that the angle he had been holding the pistol caused the bullet to strike the inside front part of his skull. The bullet traveled across the top of his skull and came to rest at the back of his head. It had simply followed the shape of his cranium and the man lived another 10 or 15 years.
This man’s son, and my friend who was big into every kind of drug, joked about it and would say “….what a trip that must have been…”

Lesson learned; better make it at least a .22 magnum

My memory isn't clear on this and the bullet might actually have struck the back of his skull and traveled to the front of his head coming to rest between the eyes.

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#### franznietzsche

Hey LG, so far as I know the vests are only good for protection against less powerful weapons (handguns) and wouldn't stop a bullet from a high-powered rifle without having to be so thick that the soldiers would look like the Pilsbury Doughboy.

Actually, putting metal plate inserts into a kevlar vest is the usual method for stopping rifle rounds IIRC. Its not that bulky, but it does leave a few weak spots in between the plates. But the plates will stop a rifle bullet, maybe not at point blank, but definitely at range.

And living or not, i imagine it would still hurt like hell.

#### franznietzsche

That's interesting drag, so now I want to tell a quick one about the father of an old friend;
He decided to commit suicide and fired a .22 caliber (short?) bullet into his mouth. I’m not sure I remember all the details but think that the angle he had been holding the pistol caused the bullet to strike the inside front part of his skull. The bullet traveled across the top of his skull and came to rest at the back of his head. It had simply followed the shape of his cranium and the man lived another 10 or 15 years.
This man’s son, and my friend who was big into every kind of drug, joked about it and would say “….what a trip that must have been…”

Lesson learned; better make it at least a .22 magnum

My memory isn't clear on this and the bullet might actually have struck the back of his skull and traveled to the front of his head coming to rest between the eyes.
This is why you can't really accuse a robber with a .22 of assault with a deadly weapon.

#### Grogs

I've had the opportunity to wear the (US) versions of the kevlar vest and helmet for extended periods, so I'd like to offer a few comments on them.

The helmet is not particularly heavy. If you wear it all day, your neck will be sore, but it doesn't take long to adapt to it. The most uncomfortable feature was the nylon webbing in the top, which would wear a bald spot in the top of your head. Most soldiers combatted this by putting a foam pad or folded up T-shirt in the top. Overall, I would rate the helmets as excellent for what they were designed to do (protect against blunt trauma and explosive fragments.) That they stop bullets quite often is a nice added benefit. I took at least one fall where my kevlar helmet hit a rock with such force my friend who was 50 feet away came running to see what the loud crack was. I didn't even have a headache after the impact (although my knee wasn't so lucky.)

The best story I heard about the kevlar helmet involved an American soldier in Panama. He was supposedly captured by the Panamaniam Defense Forces, at which point they put a pistol to his head, pulled the trigger, and left him for dead. He woke up some time leter with a sore neck, a headache, and a bullet lodged in his kevlar helmet. I've never seen an idependent verification of this story (i.e., a news article) but it sounds plausible, at least with a small caliber handgun.

As for the body armor, it isn't meant to stop bullets at all, but rather fragments from grenades, artillery, etc. Historically, these types of projectiles have killed more soldiers in the last 50 years than bullets. Some aviators (helicopter pilots and crewmen in particular) wore a vest over the body armor with metal plates in them (chicken plates) which were designed to stop bullets to the chest area. The plates were pretty heavy and most of the aviators I knew didn't even want to wear theirs, so I think they would add too much weight to the typical foot soldier.

#### tumor

Those US military helmets are based on German WW1 design.