Have you seen these old steel planks? You won’t believe what these were used for during World War II


Pierced Steel Plank

Pierced Steel Plank.

The Pierced Steel Plank, or PSP Mat, was developed by the US Army Corp in anticipation of United State’s involvement in World War II. Also known as the Marsden Matting, it is  a standardized, perforated steel matting material originally developed by the United States at the Waterways Experiment Station shortly before World War II, primarily for the rapid construction of temporary runways and landing strips. The material is also commonly known as Marston mats (or Marston Plate) for a town in North Carolina adjacent to Camp Mackall airfield where the material was first manufactured and used in November 1941.  The material was also used in the Korean and Vietnam Wars where its common name, from its NATO Stock Number nomenclature, is pierced (or perforated) steel planking (PSP). When the American Liberation forces landed in Leyte, thousands of Marsden mats were deployed for use as temporary roads and airstrips.  Indeed, it has found many applications in the Philippines that it can be found as fences, footbridges, grills and cover for irrigation ditches. In Cagayan de Oro, It used to cover the American landing beaches in Baranggay Agusan, and the  Patag Airfield.

PSP Landing Mat

The Marsden Matting’s primary function is that of a readily deployable airfield to be used in sand, mud and snow. Picture at left shows the matting being utilized as a fence. (Photo Credit Donna Amis Davis)

The US Army Air Corps summoned representatives of America’s leading steel companies to help in this development: “Gentlemen, we want you to build a good portable airport. It must be strong, light, simple, fool proof, safe and inexpensive. It must be so simple that it can be laid on any fairly level piece of land with a few days work. It must be so foolproof that if some parts are lost, it will still be useful. It must be safe for any type of airplane, under any weather conditions. It must be so light that it can be transported swiftly and easily to any spot.” This sounded like a tall order, but American ingenuity persevered and within a short period of time, the US Pierced Steel Plank mat or PSP mat was in production. Many historians believe the Pierced Steel Planks were a primary tool in winning the war. Over the years, there have been updates and changes, but the initial design for the Pierced Steel Planks or PSP mat is and has served our country quite well. These mats are still in use by the US Army Air Corps for temporary runways, storage and parking areas for heavy equipment. The Pierced Steel Planks are 10′ long x 16″ Wide and made out of 10 gauge steel. The PSP mat was designed with holes to reduce the weight, improve aircraft traction and facilitate drainage. Flanging the holes kept the mat durable by compensating for the strength lost by removing a portion of the metal. The planks joined together by a locking mechanism consisting of alternating rows of slots on one side and sliding interlocking projection on the other. The use of a spring clips lock the mats in place. PSP Mat Applications then and now:

  1. Temporary and permanent aircraft landing fields or runways
  2. Temporary roadways or access routes for trucks, heavy equipment, backhoes, concrete trucks, tree trimmers and cranes.
  3. Construction Sites
  4. Helicopter Landing Pads
  5. Irrigation Tracks
  6. Launches and boat ramp extensions
  7. Corrals and chutes for livestock
  8. Warehouse flooring
  9. Mobile home moving
  10. RV tracks or storage areas
  11. Storage platforms for heavy equipment, supplies or runways.

Photo Credit: Donna Amis Davis

Additional resource and reference: http://www.donnaamisdavis.com/wwii-leftover-marston-matting/