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U.S. Army Field Shoes 1902 to 1917

Started by world war I nerd , Mar 22 2009 01:28 PM

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#1 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:28 PM

I thought I’d share some of the research that New Romantic & I have unearthed in regards to U.S. Army footwear worn during the early twentieth century.

First let me say that there is some speculation and educated guess work involved on my part, as further research still needs to be done. All forum members are encouraged to add additional information and to post any pertinent drawings, period photographs, etc, as well as images of the actual article from their collections, or to challenge and dispute any of the following in order to add to the overall picture.

1882 CAMPAIGN/FIELD SHOE

Apparently at the turn of the century the army was still using the 1882 type Campaign/Field Shoe for field service. Available information seems to indicate that there was a large supply of these shoes left over from the Spanish American War and the frugal QTMC continued to issue the older model shoes until a new field/marching shoe was adopted some years later. According to the “Annual Reports of the Secretary of War 1905”,

“A full supply of the new model marching shoes has been procured, and they will be issued to the entire Army at once, when it is decided to begin issuing them, which it is expected will be about July 1 next, when the general introduction of the new uniform is contemplated…Full descriptions of this new russet marching shoe, the dress shoe, and the garrison shoe were given in my last annual report, but in addition it should be said that the new marching shoe is furnished with either single or double sole, leather or canvas lining, thus providing footwear adapted to all climates and different conditions of service…The Department is now ready to furnish the Army with the best shoes ever issued to troops, and is restrained from doing so immediately only by the large number of the old pattern, purchased during the Spanish war, on hand.”

Photo 1 shows the 1882 type Campaign/Field Shoe. The shoe is a non regulation model but is probably indicative of the issued shoe. Features of the shoe are: oak tanned black leather, reinforced side rivets, double sole, three pairs of eyelets, three pairs of upper lacing hooks, box toe, no toe cap, pull strap and the soles & heels are attached with square nails. (Photo, forum member rayg)

Photo 2 shows the shape of the box toe with out a toe cap. (Photo, rayg)

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#2 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:33 PM

BARRACK SHOE

A Barrack Shoe made from leather and brown cotton duck (no photo available) was issued in the late 1880’s and was used until replaced by an updated version in 1905. Little is known about this shoe but it is believed to have been worn as a fatigue or camp shoe when not on duty. (Please post any information or image of this type of shoe) The shoe is listed and described in the,

“Regulations and decisions, pertaining to the Uniform of the Army of the United States 1897”

“BARRACK SHOES. 38. for all enlisted men, according to pattern in the office of the Quartermaster General. Uppers to be of brown cotton duck.”

1902 BLACK & RUSSET CALFSKIN SHOES

In the 1901 annual report made by the Quartermaster General, he spoke highly of the process known as ‘chrome tanning’. The 1901 report went on to describe its merits,


1. Chrome-tanned upper leather has a smoother finish than oak tanned.
2. It is not as apt to “rough up” as the oak-tanned skin.
3. It is more pliable and possesses greater waterproofing qualities.
4. After being wet and dried it is not apt to grow hard and crack.


The process was ultimately adopted and used on the 1902 Black & Russet Calfskin Shoes which were used from 1902 until being replaced by the 1904 Black Dress & Russet Shoe. The 1902 Black and Russet Shoes were made to the same pattern and the chief difference between the two was only the color. Presumably during this period the old 1882 Campaign/Field Shoe was worn for field service. Information on the 1902 style shoes is not complete and any additional information would be appreciated.

Photo 3 shows the profile of the regulation 1902 Black Calfskin Shoe (Photo, forum member new romantic via gsanow)

Photo 4 shows all four sides of the 1902 Black Calfskin Shoe (Photo, new romantic via gsanow)

Photo 5 shows a 1902 type Black Calfskin Shoe which was to be worn for all occasions when the dress uniform was worn. It is not known if this particular shoe was a regulation or private purchase shoe but its style closely mirrors that of the issued shoe. The features of the “high top” shoe are: chrome tanned black leather, canvas lined, single sole, five pairs of eyelets, four pairs of upper lacing hooks, box toe with toe cap, pull strap, full bellows tongue. (Photo, rayg via ebay)

Photo 6 shows the 1902 Russet Calfskin Shoe which was to be worn with the cotton and wool service dress for garrison duty only. This shoe is most likely regulation issue and it is constructed from chrome tanned russet tan leather with a canvas lining, single sole, five pairs of eyelets, four pairs of upper lacing hooks, box toe with toe cap, pull strap and a full bellows tongue. (Photo, rayg)

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#3 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:37 PM

Photos 5 and 6

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#4 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:39 PM

1904 DRESS & GARRISON SHOES

Sometime between 1902 and 1904 it was discovered that the upper lacing hooks on the calfskin shoes were easily bent or broken or wore out easily. This created problems keeping the shoes laced properly and the hooks also allowed the laces to slip while marching, forcing many men to fall out to readjust the laces and the upper hooks also caused unnecessary wear on the lower portion of the leggings. Furthermore the chrome tanning process used on the shoe sealed the natural pores of the calfskin leather which led to moisture collecting inside the shoe. The excess moisture softened the skin of the foot, making it more apt to form blisters. These problems were duly noted and the hooks were replaced by eyelets on the 1904 Russet Shoe. The additional eyelets not only corrected the lacing problems but they allowed the moisture inside the shoe to evaporate more readily. In addition the overall height of the shoe was reduced to 5 ½ inches; otherwise its appearance remained essentially the same. The 1904 Black Dress shoe was identical to its russet counterpart except that the “vamp” or lower portion was made from calfskin while the upper portion was made from kangaroo skin.

Photo 7 shows the 1904 Russet Shoe which was to be worn with the cotton and wool service dress for garrison duty only. This shoe is a regulation issue shoe and features, chrome tanned, russet tan leather, canvas lining, single sole, seven or eight pairs of eyelets depending on size, no lacing hooks, box toe with toe cap, pull strap and a full bellows tongue. (Photo, unknown)

Photo 8 shows the pull strap and the white canvas interior lining that was common to both the 1902 and 1904 style shoes. (Photo, rayg)

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#5 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:42 PM

1905 BARRACK SHOE

A new Barrack Shoe was introduced in 1905 and it was now made from russet tan leather and white cotton duck (no photo available). It is not known what purpose this shoe was intended for or when they were dropped as an article of clothing as they do not show up in any of the post 1912 Uniform Specifications or Regulations. (Please post any information or images regarding this type of shoe) The shoe is listed and described in the, “Annual Reports of the Secretary of War 1905”, which states,

“Barrack shoes…The old make of barrack shoe has been replaced by one of the "orthopedic" pattern, made of 15-ounce white cotton duck, with russet-colored calfskin tip and the top of the vamp covered with the same material and lined with sheepskin in order to give additional strength where eyelets are inserted. First quality in material and make is provided and an altogether superior shoe for the purpose designed is supplied, the improved appearance and comfort of which will be appreciated.”

1905 GYMNASIUM SHOE

An entirely new shoe for athletic wear was introduced in 1905 it was made from black “vici” kidd leather and the shoe appears to have remained in use until 1917. The new shoe is first mentioned in the “Annual Reports of the Secretary of War 1905”,

“Gymnasium shoes.—Heretofore no other than the regulation army shoes were furnished by this Department to the enlisted men of the Army for wear while engaged in athletic exercises. The need of a more suitable footwear for this purpose being apparent, it was decided to adopt a black gymnasium shoe, which is being furnished at contract price and undoubtedly will be appreciated.”

The gym shoe is further noted in the “Manual of Military Hygiene”, 1909, revised in 1917,

“The gymnasium shoe is a low shoe of soft black “vici” kid. It is worn in gymnasium work. It may be worn in barracks and may, when prescribed by the commanding officer, be carried in the surplus kit and used as a camp shoe,”

Photo 9 shows all four sides of the 1905 Gymnasium Shoe (Photo, new romantic via gsanow)

Photo 10 the upper photo shows a Hospital Corps doctor and orderly serving with Field Hospital No. 7 as part of the Punitive Expedition in 1916. Note that the orderly is wearing a pair of gym shoes. The bottom photo shows a group of would be musicians in camp near Brownsville, Texas in 1916; the seated soldier strumming the broom wears the black leather gym shoes. (Photo, WW I nerd)

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#6 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:46 PM

1905 RUSSET MARCHING SHOE

Since the dawn of the new century the army was never entirely satisfied with the old model campaign shoe that was still being worn for field service. This fact was born out in the “Annual reports of the Quartermaster General to the Secretary of War for 1901”, which claimed,

“Complaints having reached this office from Cuba that the russet shoes supplied to the army are not satisfactory samples were obtained and careful investigation demonstrated that the shoes did not receive that care which should have been given. No dressing to preserve them appears to have been used. The very fact of the russet upper leather being tanned on the grain necessitates greater care, being liable to scrape or peel upon coming in contact with hard substances. It is believed that the best leather possible is being secured for army shoes, although occasionally some inferior stock will get into the vamps not withstanding the utmost care that is being exercised by the inspectors. It should be stated that at the time the russet shoes were adopted the only successful of finishing this class of leather was on the grain surface. It has been learned that within the last six months the process of finishing russet leather on the flesh side has, it is claimed, been perfected. This matter will receive the most careful and exhaustive consideration whenever future purchases are made.”

Evidently these complaints led to the development, in 1904 of the army’s very first “marching” shoe and the new shoe was noted in the following year’s annual report. The Quartermasters report for 1904 listed a proposed marching shoe as well as a new model Black and Russet Shoe,

“Much progress toward improving the quality of the footwear of the enlisted men of the Army has been made, and it is hoped that one of the most difficult problems connected with the equipment of the soldiers has been solved.
Of the samples selected those deemed most suitable are,

1. for field service, a russet-tanned marching shoe, blucher style, of grain calf leather thoroughly stuffed, having a bellows tongue and toe caps and box toe. Height of shoe for a No. 8, 8 inches
2. For dress occasions, a black calfskin shoe, blucher style, vamps of best black chrome-tanned calfskin of uniform thickness. Quarters and tops to be best quality kangaroo calf. These shoes also have bellows tongues, toe caps, and box toes. Height, 5 1/2 inches for a No. 8 shoe.
3. For ordinary wear, a russet garrison shoe, blucher style, with bellows tongue, toe cap, and box toes, same as the black shoe, except that the uppers are to be of best chrome-tanned russet calfskins.”


The “Annual Reports of the Secretary of War 1905” noted the adoption of the marching shoe and mentioned that the issue of the new field shoe would need to wait due to the large number of older shoes on hand,

“Shoes.—A full supply of the new model marching shoes has been procured, and they will be issued to the entire Army at once, when it is decided to begin issuing them, which it is expected will be about July 1 next, when the general introduction of the new uniform is contemplated.
Full descriptions of this new russet marching shoe, the dress shoe, and the garrison shoe were given in my last annual report, but in addition it should be said that the new marching shoe is furnished with either single or double sole, leather or canvas lining, thus providing footwear adapted to all climates and different conditions of service.

A limited supply of shoes of what is known as the "orthopedic" pattern has been purchased, and they are now being tested through actual wear by officers and enlisted men. Reports are very favorable, and this style will be furnished for issue, increasing still further the latitude for selection to meet conditions of service.
The Department is now ready to furnish the Army with the best shoes ever issued to troops, and is restrained from doing so immediately only by the large number of the old pattern, purchased during the Spanish war, on hand…

The Department now furnishes shoes of all commercial sizes and widths normally required for troops, of excellent material and make, and in styles appropriate for every kind of duty and each phase of a soldier's life. The very few complaints as to shoes that have recently" been heard are, upon investigation, found to relate to the old patterns, which never were entirely satisfactory. It is believed that with the introduction of the new styles of shoes to general use it will be found that the perplexing problem of suitable footwear for the Army has been solved.”


Based on the above reports the army now provided its soldiers with the widest variety of footwear in its history. The shoes issued now included the 1904 Black Dress Shoe, 1904 Russet “Garrison” Shoe, 1905 Barrack Shoe, 1905 Gym Shoe and the 1905 Russet Marching Shoe which was used from 1905 until it was replaced by the M1912 Russet Marching Shoe.

Photo 11 shows the taller profile of a 1905 Russet Marching Shoe. The new field shoe was made from chrome tanned, russet tan, grain calf leather which was thoroughly ‘stuffed’ (stuffed leather was a process where the leather was saturated with oils to render it more waterproof). To meet the widest variety of conditions possible the shoe was made with either a single or double sole, it came in both a canvas lined and unlined version and it was also available with an orthopedic sole. The much taller shoe had eleven pairs of eyelets, no hooks, a box toe with toe cap, pull strap and a full bellows tongue. The height of a size eight shoe was eight inches.

Photo 12 shows all four sides of the 1905 Russet Marching Shoe (Photo, WW I nerd)

Photo 13 shows a soldier wearing the 1905 Russet Marching Shoe circa 1915/16. The close up of this photo and that of another clearly shoe a much higher shoe with more than eight pairs of eyelets. (Photos, WW I nerd & new romantic)

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#7 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:48 PM

1912 RUSSET “MARCHING” SHOE

The high, heavy marching shoe was not completely free of problems and they were noted in the “Annual Reports of the Secretary of War 1908” and the “Annual Reports of the Secretary of War 1910”, respectively,

“The high-top regulation marching shoe for infantry is not wholly satisfactory. The shoe is sufficiently heavy, but complaints are made that the stiff and high tops to the shoes cause blisters on and above the ankles. There seems to be an unnecessary amount of heavy leather in the tops of these shoes.”

“The shoes at present furnished the department and the troops in it, more especially those of recent pattern, seem to give entire satisfaction, and the only causes of complaints that have been heard during the past fiscal year concerning the black shoes have been remedied in recent specifications The shoes now used are very popular. The russet marching shoe, while entirely suitable for the purpose intended, is limited in its use. The russet garrison shoes are probably worn' four-fifths of the time, and many company commanders prefer for troops the garrison shoes, even for practice marches and for the ordinary routine work, to the russet marching shoes.

It is recommended that all shoes manufactured prior to 1905 and now in the quartermaster's storehouse be turned over for the use of prisoners or be otherwise disposed of. These shoes have deteriorated on account of age, and are unfit for issue to soldiers.”


In 1908 an Army Shoe Board was convened at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Lieutenant Colonel Edward Munson was appointed as president and during his tenure the shoe board with the assistance of a radiograph (x-ray) machine and the 4,000 man garrison at Ft. Leavenworth hit on the idea of a shoe shaped like the soldier’s foot that provided stability, protection and support for the entire foot. The new design was christened the “Munson last” (last is the shape of the shoe) and was adopted in 1912 for all service shoes. The design was so successful that it was used exclusively on all subsequent military shoes through to the early 1960’s.

The new 1912 Russet Shoe was now made from vegetable tanned calfskin rather than chrome tanned, to allow the leather to breath, thus preventing the build up of moisture inside the shoe and it no longer had the box toe which had a tendency to warp and curve down when drying after it was exposed to water. The shoe was made as light as possible to prevent unnecessary fatigue on the soldier’s foot and leg and all the material that could be spared was cut away. This resulted in a field shoe that weighed only two and one half ounces more than the former garrison shoe. The tongue was reduced from a full bellows to a half bellows to prevent bunching. The quarters were cut lower from 8 to 6 ½ inches, requiring just six or seven pairs of eyelets (seven pairs were used on size 8 or larger) and the seams of the quarters were brought lower on the sides of the foot for better flexibility.

Photo 14 shows the profile of the 1912 Russet Shoe. This dual purpose shoe replaced both the 1904 Russet “Garrison” Shoe and the 1905 Russet Marching Shoe. It was worn for “all occasions”, meaning for garrison and field duty. The shoe featured vegetable tanned calfskin, a round toe with toe cap, a thick single sole, six or seven rows of eyelets, pull strap and a half bellows tongue. (Photo, WW I nerd)

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#8 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:50 PM

1917 MARCHING SHOE

Although this shoe is outside of the scope of this post I wanted to include it to see if any additional information surfaces. Shortly after America went to war in 1917; it became evident that a more durable field shoe was needed to withstand the rigors of the trenches on the Western Front. A hasty study was made of the French hobnailed field shoe, the Modele 1917 Brodquin and features of the French shoe were combined with the design of the current U.S. 1912 Marching Shoe. The result was the 1917 Marching Shoe. The stopgap shoe was rushed into production without sufficient testing and hastily issued to the vanguard of the A.E.F. For the most part the shoe was totally inadequate and contracts were canceled while a sturdier shoe design was conceived. The limited supply of 1917 Marching Shoes that were made were used up in France and replaced by field shoes of French or British manufacture until the U.S. made 1917 Field Shoe arrived in December of 1917. (I especially encourage collectors with knowledge of this short lived shoe to post comments)

Photo 15 shows the 1917 Marching Shoe which was made from vegetable tanned calfskin with a round toe, toe cap, a heavy double sole without hobnails, it was unlined, had seven rows of eyelets, no lacing hooks or pull strap, a reinforcement rivet on each side and a half bellows tongue. (Photo, WW I nerd)

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#9 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:51 PM

Photo 16 shows a comparison between the 1902 Calfskin Shoe and the 1904 Dress & Russet Shoe.

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#10 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:52 PM

Photo 17 shows a comparison between the 1904 Dress & Russet Shoe and the 1905 Marching Shoe.

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#11 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:53 PM

Photo 18 shows a comparison between the 1905 Russet Marching Shoe and the 1912 Russet Marching Shoe.

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#12 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:54 PM

Photo 19 shows a comparison between the 1904 Russet Shoe and the 1912 Russet “Marching” Shoe.

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#13 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:55 PM

Photo 20 shows a comparison between the 1912 Russet “Marching” Shoe and the 1917 Marching Shoe.

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#14 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:56 PM

Photo 21 shows a comparison between the 1917 French Hobnailed Field Shoe and the 1917 Marching Shoe.

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#15 world war I nerd

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 01:58 PM

All of the following shoes were in use during this period, if anyone has any information, drawings or photographs of the boot or the boot being used please post them.

Arctic Overshoe
Listed in the 1897, 1907, 1913, 1914 and 1917 Uniform Specifications, however, it is not known if the same design was in continuous use

Photo 22 shows the Arctic Overshoe from a 1907 dated publication. (Photo, WW I nerd)

Moccasins, Moose hide
Listed in the 1912 and 1917 Uniform Specifications and possibly earlier

Photo 23 possibly shows the moose hide moccasins, can anybody confirm this? (Photo, unknown forum member)

Felt Shoe
Listed in the 1912 and 1917 Uniform Specifications and possibly earlier

Rubber Boot, Half Hip
Listed in the 1912 and 1917 Uniform Specifications and possibly earlier

Photo 24 shows, I believe the half hip rubber boots being worn in 1916. Can anybody confirm this? (Photo, WW I nerd)

Rubber Boot, Hip
Listed in the 1912 and 1917 Uniform Specifications and possibly earlier

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#16 rayg

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 02:34 AM

http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/thumbsup.gif Brian, thank you for a job well done, you and New Romantic have just clarified and put into order with easy understanding the models and patterns of the eary twenth military military foot gear. A subject that has never been very clear in the collecting circles before. I wish to extend my hardy congratulations for a job well done. Ray

#17 New Romantic

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 09:31 AM

What I've found intriguing about the subject on shoes is the 1905 Marching Shoe in post 6. WWI Nerd first brought it to my attention over a month ago and I had never seen it before. I mentioned how it resembled the 1948 service combat boot. I wonder if any of these have survived to this day.

Before WWI Nerd and I researched the shoes the only ones I was familiar with are the 1904 russet garrison shoes and I had thought those were exclusively worn in the field. Based on period documents it's now clear that the taller marching shoes were meant for field use while the shorter garrison shoes were for everyday use. Eventually soldiers preferred the garrison shoe for field use over the marching shoe and in the early 1910's the taller marching shoe was abandoned by the Army. What happened to the marching shoes? Perhaps many were shortened.

Some of the tall marching shoes may have survived but in the shorter, modified version. I'd have to do some searching to see what turns up in collections. The photo here is of reproduction shoes made by AEF supply and said to have been copied after an original pair. The does not resemble the garrison shoe but looks similar to the 1905 marching shoe. Also shown is a photo of the 1905 marching shoe to illustrate the similarities between the AEF Supply reproductions with the original. Note the distinctive construction of the uppers versus the 1904 garrison show which has a horizontal stitch.

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#18 jgawne

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Posted 25 March 2009 - 03:31 PM

I found this especially interesting as when my grandfather went into the army in 1917 they were so short of equipment that (as he often would tell me) he wore gym shoes throughout his first few months until enough real boots ended up.

I always assumed it was something like sneakers, but now I wonder if he actually had these "for real" Army Gym shoes?

Of course he also was made a bugler because he knew how to play the ocarina. As in "can anyone play a musical instrument?" his hand goes up - "here- here's a bugle. Go out in the woods and practice until you can play it"

What an army

#19 Pat Holscher

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 06:18 AM

I've found this thread to be very interesting as well. A link to it was posted from the Society of the Military Horse website, where a related topic is being discussed on WWI era footgear.Society of the Military horse thread on 1916-1918 footgear

Anyhow, great information.

#20 Pat Holscher

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 06:31 AM

I've found this thread to be very interesting as well. A link to it was posted from the Society of the Military Horse website, where a related topic is being discussed on WWI era footgear.Society of the Military horse thread on 1916-1918 footgear

Anyhow, great information.


To add to this, I've quoted a snippet of one of the entries on the Marching Shoe in the SMH thread. I hope nobody minds, and I've attributed it back to this thread, with a link to it.


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