Continuous microindentation tests performed on the electropolished surfaces of single crystal Fe (3 wt.% Si), known to have a thin passivation film, show a sharp discontinuity at a load of 1.8 mN. To this point, there was no apparent plastic deformation in the metal in that the loading and unloading curves exactly overlay each other. Stresses at the discontinuity were close to the theoretical strength of the metal. Elastic contact theories of Hertz and Love reproduced the elastic portion of the load-displacement curves. On removing the passivation film with a HCl solution, indentation tests yielded strengths nearly two orders of magnitude smaller. The strength recovered to near its initial value after the liquid evaporated and the passivation film re-formed.