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Thin Barracks Shoes and Great Hobnailed Hulks Part II

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This, the second of what will be a three part series, picks up where part one ended.* Part two covers all specifications of the American made hobnailed field shoe, as well as two shoes that were officially classified as “Unlined Marching Shoes”, which in actuality were nothing more than a field shoe without hobnails. I’d like to once again ask all forum members to comment, criticize, correct, and continue this post by adding any relevant information or photographs that they may have to this topic. Also, if any forum member actually owns a pair of field shoes similar to any of those shown, please post clear photographs of what you have for comparison.


I’d also like to thank forum member smcgeorge, jagjetta, Dr_rambow, Kration, Beast, Kbandow, Airborne53, Trenchraider 1918, and cthomas, all of whom graciously provided information, or high resolution period photographs, or examples of the actual field shoes. Without which, the quality of this post would have been much poorer.


The third and final installment to this series will cover the French, British and German hobnailed field shoes that were worn by American Doughboys during the war. It will also include what little information I’ve found on the regulation shoes that were issued by the U.S. Navy and the U. S. Marine Corps between 1917 and 1919.


If anyone out there has any useful information and or photos, regarding either the U.S. Navy 1913 Black or Tan “High” Shoe or the U.S. Marine Corps 1910 Cordovan Service Shoe, that I can include in part III, please send me a personal message.


World War I Nerd …


*For anyone interested, here’s a link to part I: http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/218364-thin-barracks-shoes-and-great-hobnailed-hulks/


Thin Barracks Shoes and Great

Hobnailed Hulks

Part II

The Hobnailed Field Shoes of the

American Expeditionary Forces

1917 to 1919

Photo No. 84: In this group shot of young men from an unknown AEF medical organization, each is wearing the new American made hobnailed, Field Shoe. All variations of the hobnailed 1917 “Trench Shoe”, and the 1918 “Salvage Shoe”, and the 1918 “Pershing Shoe”, and the 1918 “Victory Shoe”, and the 1919 “Occupation Shoe” were all officially classified as “Field Shoes” by the QTMC.

Photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection


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“Trench Shoes”

In service from 1917 until 1919

Specification No’s 1257, 1258, 1269, & 1271

Official Name: Field Shoe

During the seven weeks between the time America declared war on April 6, 1917, and the day that General Pershing boarded the ocean liner that would carry him to Europe in May of that same year, the U.S. Army adopted a new field shoe. It was the shoe that would become known as the “Trench Shoe” because its design was tailored specifically for a new type of warfare that took place inside a network of trenches. It’s uncertain why the QTMC deemed the 1916 Heavy Marching Shoe and the 1917 Marching Shoe as being unsuitable for France at a time when neither one of them had ever seen service on the continent of Europe. Thus far, the only substantial information explaining why and how the Trench Shoe came to be, appeared in an article devoted to the development of the U.S. Army shoe:


Immediately after the entrance of this country into the war it became apparent that to meet the new conditions a heavier type of shoe was required. Accordingly, by enlisting the services of a number of the most successful tanners and shoe manufacturers and by utilizing the knowledge gained from the experiences of other countries already at war, the field shoe was developed and adopted by the War Department.


The Army Shoe Then and Now, Captain Charles G. Keene QTMC, The Quartermaster Review, Vol. 1 No. 1, July-August 1921, page 6, 7

And in a book whose subject matter consisted of the contributions made to the war effort by America’s industrial might:


The American Expeditionary Forces decided that our Army’s shoes were not heavy enough to be suitable for trench service. The British were using a shoe made of bark-tanned India kip, finished flesh side out in the natural color.* It was a shoe of this character which Pershing’s staff decided that we wanted. We had been using lighter chrome-tanned calfskin. The shoe committee of the Quartermaster Corps designed specifications for the American trench shoe and the section undertook to get the American tanneries to turn out a sufficient quantity of upper leather meeting the new specifications. The standard required was a bark-tanned or chrome-retanned “bend” of kip or calfskin of proper weight.


America’s Industry at War, Alexander Edward Powell, 1921, page 251

*Kip was the trade name of the hide from an adolescent cow. It is heavier in weight than that of calf skin, and lighter in weight than that of cowhide.


Conversely, every post war publication that dedicated any space to the subject of shoeing the AEF, managed to find room to mention that the marching shoes worn by the U. S. Army when it arrived “Over There” in June of 1917, did not measure up to what was expected of them. Regrettably, the only thing that those accounts had in common was a striking lack of detail, and the fact that each declared that the aforementioned shoes were neither strong enough, nor waterproof enough to contend with the deep mud and inclement weather that they were exposed to. On the other hand, the Doughboys that saw service in France in 1917, and later in 1918, freely expressed their opinions in respect to the shabby state of their shoes and the inescapable mud that earned a well deserved reputation as the enemy of both foot and footwear:


We hit two days of rain which cuts into this rotten soil making it much like thick mush, only several pounds of it would stick to the already too heavy boots we wear. It simply would not come off and after sitting down to carefully clean them; of course the next two steps filled them up again.


Private First Class George Stanley Lamb, Company B, 318th Engineer Regiment, 6th Division, AEF

Oh how I wished I was home, the soles were worn off my shoes, my clothing all torn and I was wet all through. That is what we get while training in France.


Private Theodore Kohls, Company A, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, AEF

The mud in the trenches is knee deep which we were made to walk and stand in day after hellish day … In the mire and muck of this battlefield we saw boys sink to their waist in seconds. It was terrible beyond description to see some of our boys who had been hit and seriously wounded lying there in a pool of blood and mud.


Private Charles Dermody, Company F, 132nd Infantry Regiment, 33rd Division, AEF

The men are very dirty, their clothes are worn out, covered with grease and dirt, the most pitiful and unsightly bunch of men I have ever seen, either in the Army or out. A man found in this condition in civil life would be a case to be taken care of by a charitable organization. Two men, Thomas Harris and James R. McCabe, both privates in F Company, 165th Inf., told me they had only the clothes they were wearing on their person, having been left in the U.S. when their organization came over, and they were sent later with the 168th Inf. Reg. without overcoats, mess kits or blankets, which have not been supplied to them up to this date. They had not a change of underwear or uniform since leaving the U.S. on Oct. 28th, 1917 … One man had a blister on his foot and could not get his shoes on, and he was wearing one old worn out shoe on one foot and a wooden shoe on the other.*


Captain Thomas Burcham, Assistant Sanitary Inspector, HQ Detachment, 42nd Division, AEF

I crawled out and sank to my ankles in the ooze. Where upon I got back into the wagon. From here on, I may state for enlightenment of future historians of the World War, I intend to keep my feet and face out of the slime and when I die, I’ll die dry.


Captain Robert Joseph Casey, Battery C, 124th Field Artillery Regiment, 33rd Division, AEF

*Captain Burcham’s account of the appalling state of the men from the 165th Infantry Regiment dates to approximately January 29, 1918. It aptly described the AEFs acute shortage of both shoes and uniforms in late 1917 – a shortage which stretched well into the first half of 1918. The 42nd Infantry Division was particularly hard hit in that regard during the winter of 1917-1918. This was partially because a number of units in that division had been separated from their baggage and partially due to the numerous delays in the transportation of the errant baggage to the division’s present training sector. In addition, upon arrival to France, the “Rainbow” Division was ordered to turn over a large portion of the material that it had brought over, including its entire supply of 50,000 pairs of spare shoes. The goods confiscated from the 42nd Division were used by the AEF to resupply the 2nd and 26th Divisions, both of which were in dire need of replacement shoes and clothing.


Photo No. 85: An example of the deep mud and the three types of American marching shoes that were worn for field service by American Doughboys prior to the arrival of the Trench Shoe: right, from top to bottom, the 1912 Russet Leather Shoe, the 1916 Heavy Marching Shoe and the 1917 Marching Shoe.


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1917 Field Shoe, Specification No. 1257

“What about your men’s shoes?” General Pershing asked a captain sharply while he directed his eye along a company line of feet whose casings seemed to be approaching shabby.

“Get them” – the words snapped out from beneath Pershing’s close cropped grey moustache. “Requisition hobnails, your men need them. Get them from the Quartermaster.”


And They Thought We Wouldn’t Fight, 1918, Floyd Gibbons, page 85

The above words were penned by Floyd Gibbons, the war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Gibbons accompanied the AEF Commander in Chief throughout 1917. Thus he was an eye witness to this particular “raid”, which was Doughboy slang for a surprise inspection. The men who’s “casings” were the subject of Pershing’s scrutiny hailed from the 1st Infantry Division. According to Mr. Gibbons, the regulars and rookies were neatly arrayed in ruler straight files near a French village somewhere in the Vosges Mountains. That event took place in August of 1917, and is the earliest reference I have come across as to when the 1917 Field Shoe made its debut overseas.


Photo No. 86: It didn’t take long for General Pershing’s preoccupation with shined shoes to spread throughout the entire AEF. For proof, all one need do is thumb through the many official memoranda and orders that were generated by GHQ, Chaumont, whose content contained numerous references to the cosmetic appearance, or lack thereof of the enlisted men’s shoes. This particular idiosyncrasy of the Commander in Chief was also noted by one of his contemporaries in the book titled Black Jack:


He had an awesome devotion to shining shoes, a devotion bordering on fetish.


Black Jack: the Life and Times of John J. Pershing, 1977, Frank E. Vendiver

In this photo one can almost hear Black Jack curtly stating to the junior officer, “What about your men’s shoes?”


Photo courtesy of the John Adam Graf collection


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Photo No. 87: Taken after November 1918, this un-cropped image depicts General Pershing inspecting the troops attached to General Headquarters, AEF. At this late stage of the war, it appears that each enlisted man is still wearing a pair of 1917 pattern Field Shoes.

Photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection


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Photo No. 88: Regardless of why the 1916 and 1917 pattern marching shoes were replaced, the 1917 Field Shoe, aka Trench Shoe, Specification No. 1257, was adopted on May 17, 1917. During America’s involvement in the Great War a number of specification changes were made to the so called Trench Shoe, and its replacement - the “Pershing Shoe”, and its replacement – the “Victory Shoe”, and its replacement – the “Occupation Shoe”. According to the author of The Army Shoe Then and Now:


Some idea of the very close attention given to the problem of providing a suitable type of shoe may be gained from the fact that from May 17, 1917 to August 19, 1918, no less than nine changes and amendments were made in the field shoe specifications.


The Army Shoe Then and Now, Captain Charles G. Keene QTMC, The Quartermaster Review, Vol. 1 No. 1, July-August 1921, page 7

With the exception of an additional specification for the Model ‘B’ Pershing Shoe, and two additional field shoes, which I have christened the “Occupation Shoe”, the above passage dovetails fairly well with the following list of known WW I field shoe specifications, all of which were kindly passed on to me by forum member smcgeorge:


1917 “Trench Shoe”

  • Specification No. 1257, adopted on May 17, 1917
  • Specification No. 1258, adopted on May 18, 1917
  • Specification No. 1269, adopted on September 10, 1917
  • Specification No. 1271, adopted on September 26, 1917

1918 “Pershing Shoe”

  • Specification No. 1309, adopted on March 2, 1918
  • Specification No. 1310, adopted on March 2, 1918
  • Specification No. 1323, adopted on April 12, 1918
  • Specification No. 1324, adopted on April 12, 1918

1918 “Victory Shoe”

  • Specification No. 1351, adopted on August 19, 1918
  • Specification No. 1352, adopted on August 19, 1918

1919 “Occupation Shoe”

  • Specification No. 412-2-1352, adopted on May 10, 1919
  • Specification No. 412-2-9, adopted on June 2, 1919

The shoes worn by the Doughboy on the left, and the field shoes to his right, both share the basic traits of an early pair of 1917 Field Shoes. Note the brass lacing eyelets and the absence of a rivet on the shoe’s side. Also of interest is the fact that the QTMC sergeant has secured the 1917 Revolver Holster to prevent it from sliding laterally on his pistol belt. This was the intended purpose of the short leather thong that was attached to the reverse of all U.S. Army revolver holsters.


Doughboy photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection


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Photo No. 89: The light color and unsoiled appearance of the 1917 Field Shoes worn by these 1st Division men shooting craps in the Gondrecourt training area circa October 1917, indicate that they have been recently issued. The French called the American dice game of craps, Crapaud. This was the French word for “toad”. It was a reference to the way the players squatted like that amphibian, as they wagered their portable wealth on the tumbling dice.


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Photo No. 90: While they share many common qualities, the external difference between the 1917 Marching Shoe and its successor, the 1917 Field Shoe are easy to see in this side by side comparison. The most obvious being that the 1917 Field Shoe (right) lacked a toe cap, riveted blucher ears, and it incorporated a one piece, combination heel counter and backstrap, as opposed to the two piece heel counter and backstrap on the back of the 1917 Marching Shoe (left).


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Photo No. 91: The primary characteristics of the 1917 Field Shoe, Specification No. 1257 are as follows:

  • A double leather sole that was constructed from a 7-iron* middle sole and a 9-iron outer sole that was “viscolized” or impregnated with a waterproofing solution.
  • The outer and middle soles were attached to a 9 ounce to the yard canvas reinforced; 6-iron inner sole by means of waxed linen thread and number 10 nails.
  • The seam where the upper** joined to the sole*** was sealed with the same waterproofing solution as used on the outer sole.
  • The shoe incorporated a “bottom filler” comprised of ground cork and cement. Its purpose was to better seal the bottom of the shoe and make it more “damp proof”.
  • The forepart of the outer sole was studded with round, oval headed hobnails in a “standard pattern”.
  • A low wide leather heel whose outer edge was reinforced by a steel horseshoe shaped plate that was 1/8th of an inch thick and 3/8th of an inch wide.
  • The shoe’s upper was constructed from chrome-vegetable retanned cowhide, with the rough side of the leather turned out. The thickness of the leather at the vamp**** was to be not less than 2 millimeters and not more than 2.2 millimeters in thickness.
  • A one-piece (first pattern) heel counter that was taller at the back and shorter at the front was sewn to the upper using two rows of stitching. The additional stitching on each side of the heel counter***** was sewn at a diagonal.
  • There was no reinforcement rivet on the front corner of the blucher ears.
  • All sizes of the shoe had seven rows of brass lacing eyelets.
  • The shoe was unlined.
  • Each shoe was stamped in indelible ink on the inner side of the quarter****** with the contractor, contract date, specification number, depot, and the shoe’s size and width.
  • Each shoe’s size and width was also stamped into the shank area of the outer sole between the hobnails and the heel.
  • Each shoe weighed approximately 1 pound, 10 ounces.
  • Each shoe was approximately 6 ¾ inches high from the bottom of the heel.
  • The shoe was manufactured in 15 lengths running from 5 to 12 by half sizes. There was no half size for size number 12. Each length was available in six commercial widths (B, C, D, E, EE & F), making a total of 90 available sizes*******

*“Iron” is a term used to indicate the thickness of a leather hide. Each iron was equal to 1/48th of an inch. Therefore a 7-iron middle sole was approximately 5/32nd inch thick, and a 9-iron outer sole was roughly 3/16th of an inch thick.


**The entire portion of the shoe above the sole is collectively known as the “upper”.


***The joint or seam where the upper attaches to the sole is known as the “welt”.


**** The “vamp” is the front portion of the upper that covers the toes and instep.


*****The “heel counter” is the piece of leather that wraps around the back or heel portion of the quarters. In this case it also covers the vertical seam, which was called a “backstay”, where each quarter butted together and was joined at the back of the shoe.


******The back and top portion of the upper, behind the vamp, was comprised of two halves, each of which was called a “quarter”.


*******The 1917 Field Shoe was built on the same wooden Munson shoe last as the 1912 Russet Leather Shoe until June of 1917. After that, a larger Munson shoe last, Specification No. 1154 was adopted. The new shoe last was made ¾ of a size larger than the original Munson last. This was done to allow for the expansion of the infantryman’s foot. The expansion was caused by the weight of the 40 or so pounds of regulation equipment that he carried. For a period of time the 1917 Field Shoe was made on both the old and new Munson shoe lasts. Unfortunately, at the factories, the shoes made from the smaller lasts were inadvertently mixed with the shoes made from the larger lasts. The result was that countless pairs of mismatched shoes had been issued and worn by the troops. This problem wasn’t addressed until QTMC personnel were sent out to each shoe factory to measure every existing shoe last and destroy the obsolete smaller lasts.

The basic traits that identify a pair of 1st pattern 1917 Field Shoes are pointed out on this pair of pristine 1917 Field Shoes. Note the size stamp of “9-C”on the shoe’s bottom, as well as the inspector’s acceptance stamp on both the sole and the heel.


Photo courtesy of the Kration collection


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Photo No. 92: The configuration of the 1917 Field Shoe’s sole is shown in this diagram. The individual components used for the sole on Specifications 1257, 1258, 1269, and 1271 were essentially the same. When examined closely, the sole of a 1917 pattern shoe is comprised of three separate layers of leather. The top layer however, is not actually a sole, it is the welt. The subsequent layers represent the middle and outer soles. The primary difference between the four 1917 Field Shoe specifications are as follows:

The maximum thickness of the cowhide used for the upper:

  • Specification No. 1257 – 2.2 millimeters thick
  • Specification No. 1258 – 2.2 millimeters thick
  • Specification No. 1269 – 2.3 millimeters thick
  • Specification No. 1271 – 2.5 millimeters thick

The material used for the bottom filler:

  • Specification No. 1257 – ground cork and cement
  • Specification No. 1258 – ground cork and cement
  • Specification No. 1269 – solid leather
  • Specification No. 1271 – solid leather
  • Specification No. 1269 – called for a toe cap and the omission of hobnails and heel plates
  • Specification No. 1271 – a new pattern heel counter was used


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Photo No. 93: A closer view of the unissued hobnailed shoe shown above. Note the diagonal side stitching and back to front taper on the side of the first pattern heel counter, the welt and two-ply leather sole, the standard pattern of the hobnails, and the thinner steel heel plate.


Photo courtesy of the Kration collection


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Photo No. 94: Most, if not all of these 2nd Division men look to be wearing the 1917 Field Shoe, and a combination of wool service dress, denim fatigue clothing and leather jerkins as they go about their business somewhere in Germany circa 1919. Upon receiving a new pair of hobnailed field shoes, one unnamed Doughboy put pen to paper and described their formidable appearance in a letter written to the folks back home:


I received the strangest looking boots today … they have nails in the soles and horseshoes on the heels … I don’t believe you could wear them out.


Little Tanks, Jim Bond at: http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/l_tanks.htm

Photos courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection


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1917 Field Shoe, Specification No. 1258

Adopted on May 18, 1917

Photo No. 95: One day after Specification No. 1257 was adopted, a new specification – Specification No. 1258, of which I have no details, replaced it on May 18, 1917. Whenever a new specification number was issued immediately following a previous specification, it was generally due to a correction being made to the language contained in the original specification. If this is true, then it’s probably safe to assume that there was no significant difference between the two shoe specifications.

The front and three-quarter view of this unissued 1917 Field Shoe shows blackened brass lacing eyelets in this case and a brown shoelace that was probably not original to the shoe.


Photos courtesy of the K bandow collection


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Photo No. 96: Enlarged views of the details associated with a Specification No. 1257/1258 Field Shoe are clockwise from upper left: the ink stamp, in which both the date and the specification number are either hidden from view, or not present; the shape of the back of the first pattern heel counter showing that only two rows of stitching were used to secure it to the upper; the diagonal side stitching; and the absence of hobnails on the inner heel.


Photos courtesy of the K bandow collection and the Kration collection


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Photo No. 97: The bottom of the 1917 Field Shoe. Note the size of the hobnails, and the configuration in which they were placed, as well as the shoe’s inspector and size stamped into the shank.


Shoe photo courtesy of the K bandow collection


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Photo No. 99: The primary purpose of the hobnails on the bottom of the shoe was to protect the outer sole from direct wear when walking, thus prolonging the life of both the shoe and its outer sole. Over time, the hobnails would eventually wear away. It was also not unusual for individual hobnails to become loose and fall out. Examples of various degrees of wear to the regulation hobnail as seen on three examples of the 1917 Field Shoe: left, unissued and still round; center, round hobnail heads worn flat, exposing the full diameter of the hobnail, which was 5/16th of an inch. Note that a few of the hobnails on this shoe have fallen out; right, in the area of highest wear, the entire head of the hobnails have worn away exposing the hobnail’s shank, which was 1/8th of an inch in diameter.


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Photo No. 100: Because the enlisted men didn’t always adhere to Army protocol in respect to the care of their feet and shoes, special regulations were generated by the War Department providing that foot inspections be held periodically. Platoon, troop battery, and detachment commanders were tasked with inspecting the cleanliness and condition of their men’s feet. In short, the soldier’s feet had now become U.S. Army property of which the ordinary enlisted man could not be trusted to maintain properly. During the inspection, blisters were opened and painted with iodine, minor abrasions and sore spots were covered with zinc oxide plasters, serious injuries were referred to the commands surgeon, and the men were universally admonished to trim their toenails and keep their feet clean. Part of this inspection was devoted to monitoring the condition of the Doughboy’s russet and hobnailed shoes. Any soldier whose hobnails were worn down or missing was instructed to have them replaced by the company’s shoe cobbler. If the leather outer sole was cracked, broken or otherwise damaged they were to be resoled or mended. If the shoe was beyond repair, the soldier was instructed to requisition a new pair from the supply sergeant.

One discontented Doughboy celebrated the anniversary of his birth with a grueling hike. He made the following diary entry about his outfit’s forced march to the Rhine in November of 1918, and the foot inspection that ensued:


NOV. 22nd My Birthday, 33 years: hiked all day and that night billeted in a large school, housed in a big town. I curshed [sic] all day on my birth day, but had to hike 20 miles, we had feet inspection as plenty of the men were falling out. They told us to wash our feet.


Private First Class, Henry Jetton Tudury, Company C, 12th Machine Gun Battalion, 4th Division, AEF

Photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection


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Photo No. 101: Eagle eyed observers probably noticed that the second man from the right in the above photo, is in possession of a pair of late production 1917 Field Shoes which had hobnails on the heel (upper right and left). Note that a couple hobnails are missing from his lower shoe. Beneath the enlargements at top, the sole of the late war pattern field shoe on the left can be compared to the early war pattern field shoe on the right.


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1917 Marching Shoe, Specification No. 1269

Adopted on September 10, 1917

Despite the ability of hobnails to prolong the life of the Trench Shoe’s’ outer sole, they also made the Doughboys’ shoes very noisy on a hard surface, and notoriously slippery when moving across any smooth surface. This observation made aboard the Italian troop ship Caserta, as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean in May of 1918, adequately explains the perils of wearing hobnailed shoes on any surface that was comprised of something other than sand, soil, mud or rubble:


At four-thirty came our last meal, identical in substance, and served in the same way. Mess tables were provided on a lower deck, which was reached by a flight of iron stairs. Everything served to us was some kind of slop. For example, we might have lamb stew in our mess kit, stewed prunes in the cover, and coffee in our cups. To manage these three dishes without tilting and spilling is a nice feat on a level floor that stands still, because two of them must be balanced in one hand, and when one gets them filled there is no opportunity to set them down to readjust one’s hold. To manage them on a rolling deck is most difficult. But to walk with them securely down a rolling flight of iron steps on which one’s hobnailed shoes slip like castors, is next to impossible. It was worth getting down into the mess hall early in order to see the involuntary acrobatics that always ensued. It would only be a moment after mess began before some unfortunate would lose his footing at the very top of the stairs and come rolling down the whole distance, his mess kit clattering after him, and showering the stairs with soup, prunes, and coffee. That made the footing even less secure for those who followed, so that the percentage of misfortune was steadily accelerated in direct proportion to the length of time which had elapsed since the meal began. Later, when the sea got rougher, we had all our food brought down to our quarters, which made it somewhat easier for us, but fearfully difficult for the mess detail. To spill a heavy boiler of scalding coffee or soup would not only deprive somebody of dinner, but might prove exceedingly painful for the persons that spilled it.


Private First Class Frederick A. Pootle, Evacuation Hospital No. 8, AEF

Because there was a need in the AEF for some troops to wear a smooth soled shoe that was sturdier than the 1912 Russet Leather Shoe, a special variation of the Trench Shoe without hobnails on the outer sole or steel plates on the heel was devised. Classified as an “Unlined Marching Shoe” by the QTMC, the smooth soled field shoe, Specification No. 1269 was adopted on September 10, 1917. It was essentially identical to that of Specification No’s 1257 and 1258 except for the following:

  • A toe cap or “tip”, as this feature was sometimes called was added to the front of the shoe.
  • The shoe no longer incorporated a bottom filler made from ground cork and cement. Instead, the bottom filler was comprised of a single piece of waterproofed 4-iron leather.
  • The outer sole of the shoe was left smooth. Therefore, it was not hobnailed.
  • The leather heel was not reinforced with a steel horseshoe shaped plate. Instead its outer edge was heavily reinforced by square nails.
  • The shoe was constructed from chrome-vegetable retanned cowhide that was stuffed* with “pure animal grease”.
  • The thickness of the leather at the vamp was to be not less than 2 millimeters and not more than 2.3 millimeters in thickness. This made it slightly thicker than the leather that was called for on the previous specifications.
  • The exact weight of each shoe is not known.
  • Each shoe was approximately 6 5/8th inches high from the bottom of the heel.

*Stuffed leather was a type of leather in which the natural pores were sealed or “stuffed” with grease during the tanning process to render the hide more water resistant.


Photo No. 102: This engraving taken from an Army surplus ad printed in the 1920s shows the external differences of the 1917 Unlined Marching Shoe.


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Apparently, the AEF Salvage Service, which was established in January 1918, was instructed to remove the hobnails from Trench Shoes prior to the advent of the 1917 Marching Shoe in order to meet the AEF need for a strong shoe with a smooth sole. According to the following article that appeared in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, the primary recipients of the 1917 Marching Shoe were AEF railway troops and AEF hospital personnel:


One of the jobs up to the Army’s new shoe repair shops, is the furnishing of railroad troops and hospital attendants with hobnail-less shoes. If there are not enough of the russet garrison shoes on hand, the hobnails simply have to be extracted by hand.

The railroaders claim that the hobnails slip as they climb about on the engines, and point to the fact that one of their number lost a leg by slipping and failing to catch himself in time. Therefore, they say no more hobnails for them.


As for the hospital attendants, the objection to the studs and heel plates is primarily one of noise and secondary, one of flooring.


Stars and Stripes newspaper, November 1, 1918, Vol. 2 No. 39, page 7

Photo No. 103: This Signal Corps carrier pigeon handler is wearing a pair of 1917 Trench Shoes that still retain the steel heel plates suggesting that he is wearing a pair of shoes whose hobnails were removed by the Salvage Service.


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Photo No. 104: During the AEFs transition from the russet shoe to hobnailed Trench Shoe, for a variety of reasons, i.e. … they were noisy – they made the shoe slippery – they conducted the cold directly to the feet – they made the shoe unnecessarily heavy, etc … many Doughboys objected to the iron studs which lined the bottom of their field shoes. In February of 1918, an announcement in the Stars and Stripes newspaper noted this fact while pointing out two of the hobnailed shoes attributes:


The regulation field shoe has been designated the correct footwear for business and informal occasions. Care should be taken to secure sizes which will admit the entrance of the wearer’s feet (one in each shoe) when encased in at least two pairs of socks. Although numerous complaints have been lodged against the hobnails which infest the soles of these shoes, it may be said in extenuation that they are indispensable for marching along slippery roads and also extremely useful when the wearer is engaged in kicking Germans in the face.


Stars and Stripes newspaper, Vol. 1, No. 1, February 8, 1918, page 5


This pair of 1917 Field Shoes, recently sold by Bay State Militaria, have had all of the hobnails plucked (left). There is no way to know whether the plucking was done by the AEF Salvage Service or if the owner had done so after he had been discharged from the Army. AEF railroad men (right) found the regulation hobnailed field shoe to be too hazardous when worn on a moving locomotive. Note the eclectic collection of headgear worn by these men from an unknown railway engineer unit comprised of a French pattern Overseas Cap, a 1907 Winter Field Cap, and a number of non-regulation snap-brim caps.


Photos courtesy of Bay State Militaria


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Photo No. 105: To reduce the amount of “clattering” associated with hobnailed shoes in AEF hospital wards and to protect the indoor flooring from the harmful effect of hobnails, Trench Shoes were banned when necessary in favor of the 1917 Unlined Marching Shoe. The availability and how to procure “special shoes for base hospitals” was made known in the following circular:


3. Shoes for distribution to Medical Department personnel – The Quartermaster has in storage a certain number of shoes without hobnails for distribution to Medical Department personnel serving in base and camp hospitals. Requisition therefore specifically should be made asking for special shoes for base hospitals.


Circular No. 19, Office of the Chief Surgeon, Service of Supply, AEF, April 4, 1918

For obvious reasons, physicians, nurses, orderlies and other attending personnel could not be allowed to disturb the patients by clattering up and down the wards of AEF evacuation, base and convalescent hospitals. Right, the bottom of the above mentioned shoes, showing that the steel heel plates were left in place even though the hobnails had been removed.


Right hand photo courtesy of Bay State Militaria


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Photo No. 106: The audible “crunch” that the Doughboys shoes made when marching could at times be detrimental to the success of an operation, especially when stealth was called for. Such was the case when men of the 89th Division crossed the Meuse River on November 9, 1918 in metal pontoon boats that had only recently been the property of the Imperial German Army:


The pontoons being made of metal, boards were placed in the bottoms so that the hobnails on the men’s shoes would not make too loud a noise as the men stepped into the pontoons.


History of the 89th Division, U.S.A., 1920, George H. English Jr., page 220

In reference to the abrasive action caused by the Trench Shoe’s hobnailed sole to the surface on which it tread, one witty Doughboy wrote the following:


Hiked back along the road we came on and passed through Fauqires, Ochancourt, and arrived at Airest at 4:30 PM covering six miles. In our opinion this ceases to be the U.S. Army; better name us the “Amalgamated Society of American Gravel Crushers”. We’ll take on a contract to smooth out any road.


Unknown Doughboy, AEF

These men from HQ Company of the 3rd Army’s Composite Regiment are wearing two different specifications of the 1917 Field Shoe. The left hand Doughboy has donned a pair of smooth soled field shoes – possibly Specification 1269. His neighbor appears to be wearing one of the other three specifications of the 1917 Trench Shoe, all of which had hobnails embedded in their soles.

Photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection


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Photo No. 107: Close up showing the smooth soled shoes (left), and the hobnailed shoes (right). Also of interest is the drastically different rendition of the star and Indian head painted on their steel helmets. Note that the insignia on one helmet is smaller and placed lower than its neighbor to the right, which is the exact opposite – higher and larger. Also, the right hand helmet appears to have a smooth and slightly glossy finish, while the left hand helmet looks to be duller and a bit rougher in regard to texture.


Photos courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection


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1917 Field Shoe, Specification No. 1271

Adopted on September 26, 1917

The last specification change made to the 1917 Field Shoe was Specification No. 1271, adopted on September 26, 1917. In the absence of the QTMC specifications for this shoe, the only description available at the time of posting is the following:


On September 26, 1917, another change (Specification 1271) was made, slightly increasing the weight of the upper leather, changing the pattern of the foxing and providing for a solid leather bottom filler.


The Army Shoe Then and Now, Captain Charles G. Keene, QTMC, The Quartermaster Review, Vol. I, No. 1, July-August 1921, page 8

The primary characteristics of the Specification No. 1271 Field Shoe were identical to those of Specification No. 1257/1258 except for the following:

  • The chrome-vegetable retanned cowhide at the vamp was increased to a maximum of 2.5 millimeters in thickness, once again, making it slightly heavier than the leather used on the previous three specifications.
  • The bottom filler was comprised of a single piece of waterproofed 4-iron leather.
  • The pattern of the foxing was changed.

In regard to “changing the pattern of the foxing,” the first order of business is to determine what “foxing” actually is. Foxing is defined as a piece of leather that is used to either strengthen or decorate a shoe’s upper. Obviously, the specification 1271 field shoe was not decorated; therefore we have to assume that the word “foxing” is a reference to the heel counter as this was the only piece of leather applied to the outside of the shoe. Presumably the heel counter was modified to either make the shoe stronger – to prolong its life – or both. Unfortunately, without a photograph, diagram or written description of what the new heel counter looked like there is no way to know precisely what its shape was.


Field Shoe

Foxing, Heel Counters & Counter Pockets

Now is as good a time as any to digress from the chronological development of the WW I field shoe and attempt to explain the confusing matter of “foxing”. Based on available information there seems to have been three similar, yet dissimilar heel counters used on the 1917 and 1918 pattern Field Shoes. There were also three different, and again similar “counter pockets” as the new shape of heel counter was called that were used on late war Victory and post war Occupation pattern field shoes. For want of a better name I have dubbed them: first pattern, second pattern, and third pattern heel counters and counter pockets respectively.


Photo No. 108: Observations made regarding the three types of heel counters and their use are as follows:

  • First Pattern, called for on specifications 1257, 1258 (Trench Shoe); and 1269 (Unlined Marching Shoe): diagonal side stitching; -- the side of the counter was visibly taller at the back and shorter at the front* -- the portion of the counter that covered the backstay (the vertical seam at the back of the upper) was the narrowest of the three heel counter types (the back of each heel counter can be seen in photo number 99) – two rows of stitching secured the entire heel counter to the upper – the single row of stitching bordering the lacing eyelets, curved downward towards the bottom of the shoe just before it terminated at the blucher ear.
  • Second Pattern, called for on specification 1271 (Trench Shoe): the side stitching was changed from a diagonal line to a vertical line – two rows of stitching was again used to secure the entire heel counter to the upper – the single row of stitching bordering the lacing eyelets was also modified. It had less of a curve at the end, and it now terminated at the mid-point between the lacing eyelets and the blucher ear.
  • Third Pattern, called for on specification 1309 (Pershing Shoe): also had vertical side stitching – the shape at the side of the heel counter however, was altered. The entire height along each side appears to have been made the same. This effectively eliminated the back to front taper – the vertical area of the counter which covered the backstay was made wider – two rows of stitching still secured the entire heel counter to the upper, however, a third row of stitching was added to only the area that covered the backstay – the curve at the base of the single row of stitching bordering the lacing eyelets was eliminated. It was now entirely straight, and terminated at the mid-point between the eyelets and the blucher ear – a rivet** was added to each blucher ear to prevent it from separating from the shoe.

*In the right hand column each pair of the black lines is identical in length. They are used to illustrate the amount of back to front taper on each of the three styles of heel counters.


**After the use of rivets were implemented in March of 1918, first, second and third pattern heel counters, all of which still seemed to be in use began to have their blucher ears riveted.


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