The scientific tourist #28 — Marston Mat

This week’s picture is from the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and shows a simple but very effective invention from World War II — Marston mat:

Marston Mat

Marston mat (a.k.a., Marston matting, or PSP for Pierced Steel Planking) is one of those simple inventions that had a disproportionately large impact in real terms. It was developed in the U.S. shortly before our entry into WWII, for use in quickly building and repairing runways. It gained its nickname from the town in North Carolina where it was first made and tested late in 1941.

Typically, a piece of Marston mat was 10 feet long, 15 inches wide, and weighed about 66 pounds. The strips would interlock along their edges to form a continuous surface, which was then often covered with crushed rock or coral to form a flat surface. This technology allowed a runway 200 feet wide and 5000 feet long to be built in two days by a small team of engineers. Using this material, a bomb crater in a runway could also be repaired in 40 minutes by an unskilled labor party.

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