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U.S. Army Field Shoes 1902 to 1917


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The reasons for troops falling by the wayside during a critical march are many, such as heavy loads, poor physical conditioning, exhaustion, hunger, steep or rugged terrain, and excessively hot or adverse weather conditions to name a few.

 

However, by and large, the overwhelming majority of marching men fell out as a result of foot injuries that were caused by improperly fitting shoes. During the 19th and early 20th centuries it was recorded that American soldiers fell out in staggeringly large numbers.

 

In the period from the Civil war to the beginning of the 20th century statistics showed that on average anywhere from one quarter to one third of a command could be expected to sustain some form of foot injury after several days of marching. Of that number, not less than 10% would wind up in the hands of the regimental surgeon.

 

This fact caused Major Edmond Lyman Munson of the Medical Department to write in 1912, that,

 

The soldier whose badly shod feet are unable to carry him into battle fails at the critical moment of the purpose for which he is trained, and instead of being an added strength, he becomes an encumbrance.”

 

Despite the fact that so many men were falling out with foot injuries, the important matter of correctly fitting shoes to the soldier’s feet was given scant consideration by the War Department. In fact, at the turn of the century, more attention was given to shoeing the horse’s hoof than that of the soldier’s foot!

Both the Army and the War Department failed utterly and completely to make the connection between sore feet and the fundamental importance of shoe fitting. The Army’s General Staff was convinced that it was the design of the field shoe, not its fit that was to blame for so many men falling out whilst on the march.

 

Photo No. 02: Two images showing the Resco shoe measuring device in use – one borrowed from America’s Munitions, the other from the Resco kit’s manual.

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It wasn’t until the Army Shoe Board of 1908 discovered than the Army’s practice of allowing the men to, in most cases, incorrectly select their own shoe size, was the reason for the high percentage of foot injuries.

 

An experiment was conducted in which a battalion of infantrymen who had selected their own shoe size was made to march 8 miles, spend 24 hours in camp, and then march the same 8 mile route back to the post. Upon completion of the march, the board members examined the feet of the men and 38% were found to have severe foot injuries.

 

A second test was conducted in which each soldier’s feet were first measured and fitted with the correct size shoe by the board members. The men were allowed to wear their recently issued shoes for approximately 14 days before the march in order to break them in. The men then proceeded on a 120 mile hike that lasted 9 days. The shortest day’s march was 8 miles and the longest day’s march was 21 miles. Full equipment and ammunition was carried. At the end of the march, not one man had fallen out as a result of foot injuries.

 

That demonstration proved that it was entirely possible to march American troop’s long distances without appreciable loss from foot injury … provided that their footwear fit properly. The War Department took note and in 1912, it revised its policy in regard to issuing enlisted men’s footwear.

Shortly afterwards, measuring sticks were issued, and the matter of determining the soldier’s shoe size was taken out of the enlisted men’s hands and entrusted to company officers. Orders dictated that it was now the officer’s responsibility to ensure that the men in their command were issued and wore shoes that actually fit their feet.

 

Photo No. 03: Two more images from America’s Munitions showing the Resco foot/shoe measurement device.

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Despite the orders issued in 1912, studies made at a cross section of World War I training camps in the U.S. conducted late in 1917 and early in 1918, showed that less than 20% of the 59,000 men checked, were wearing shoes that properly fitted. The findings showed that over 80% of them were wearing shoes that were too long, too short, too narrow or too wide.

 

Shortly after that the Resco Shoe Fitting Device was adopted and several officers from each camp were sent to a five day shoe fitting school at Camp Meigs in Washington DC. Upon their return they in turn, had to instruct the other company grade officers at each camp how to use the new Resco measuring device.

 

New orders followed which stated that company officers were to personally measure the feet of each man and personally check the fit of his shoes. An unknown artillery officer posted to Camp Brunswick in Maine, wrote the following in a letter to his wife,

 

“Today I measured and fitted my battery to their shoes, which has to be personally done by the captain. So now I am an expert shoe fitter. Talk about dirty stinking feet. Honey, you should have seen and had a whiff of some of those 414 feet that I saw and measured today. I am also directly responsible for the feet of the men, so if a fellow has a sore or something the matter, I have to see that it’s fixed up right. Oh this is some job.”

 

Photo No. 04: Clockwise from upper left, the closed carrying case, minus the leather handle, of the Resco kit courtesy of Bay State Militaria.com, a pair of hopefully correctly fitted 1917 Field Shoes and three diagrams from the Resco’s manual illustrating how the device was to be employed.

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  • 1 month later...

I wanted to add these pictures of some Barracks Shoes to the discussion.

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Without data, your just another person with an opinion...................

 

Selling DVDs of Ordnance Drawings on ebay seller ID 245thcac
Original Research from Museums and The National Archives
1912 Cavalry Board Report, 1910 Infantry Board Report, Equipment Blueprints and Drawing, Coast Artillery Training Films and 1897 Specifications for Clothing
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And these as well.

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Without data, your just another person with an opinion...................

 

Selling DVDs of Ordnance Drawings on ebay seller ID 245thcac
Original Research from Museums and The National Archives
1912 Cavalry Board Report, 1910 Infantry Board Report, Equipment Blueprints and Drawing, Coast Artillery Training Films and 1897 Specifications for Clothing
CHECK THEM OUT

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Wow, I've never seen such nice examples!

-Todd

Currently looking for WWI items, specifically photos of the 116th infantry regiment, and any material related to the USS Olympia.

Always on the lookout for any rations, miscellaneous personal items, pack filler, care package stuffers, knit Red Cross material, and oddball equipment to supplement the Doughboy display.
Have some extras? I help friends fill out their living history kit, and could always use more loaner gear!

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  • 2 years later...

The following were copied from Bay State Militaria's website. If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas, these will do very nicely!

 

1912 Russet Leather shoes, specification No. 1258 with box.

 

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" We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

View my website honoring the men and women of Indiana: http://indianavets.wix.com/indiana-at-war and follow my updates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IndianaModernAgeofWar/
Interested in US uniforms? Join the Association of American Military Uniform Collectors! http://aamuc.org/or find us on Facebook! facebook.com/AAMUC.ORG

 

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" We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

View my website honoring the men and women of Indiana: http://indianavets.wix.com/indiana-at-war and follow my updates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IndianaModernAgeofWar/
Interested in US uniforms? Join the Association of American Military Uniform Collectors! http://aamuc.org/or find us on Facebook! facebook.com/AAMUC.ORG

 

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" We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

View my website honoring the men and women of Indiana: http://indianavets.wix.com/indiana-at-war and follow my updates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IndianaModernAgeofWar/
Interested in US uniforms? Join the Association of American Military Uniform Collectors! http://aamuc.org/or find us on Facebook! facebook.com/AAMUC.ORG

 

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Last photo:

 

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donation2012.gifdonation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif
donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gifdonation2020.gif



" We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

View my website honoring the men and women of Indiana: http://indianavets.wix.com/indiana-at-war and follow my updates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IndianaModernAgeofWar/
Interested in US uniforms? Join the Association of American Military Uniform Collectors! http://aamuc.org/or find us on Facebook! facebook.com/AAMUC.ORG

 

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Wonder how those managed to survive unworn. Very nice

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

*Sherlock Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia"*

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  • 1 month later...

I have thoroughly enjoyed this thread and appreciate the research and effort that has gone into it. I feel this is a topic that does not receive a lot of academic attention but it is very important for collectors who are trying to gain more knowledge on period footwear. I myself have just recently started collecting 19th century footwear in an attempt to put together complete uniform displays for the Civil War and Indian Wars era. I currently have a knee high pair of, what I believe to be, late Civil War to early Indian War boots and 3 pairs of brogans. The 1st is a "minty" condition Civil War pair, the 2nd pair's authenticity is in question but my gut tells me they are legitimate 1800s era, the last pair I just purchased at auction that were listed as Civil War Era Saxon Military Issued Boots. I was pretty confident the last pair was not Civil War era when I bid but I got a pretty good deal on them, I think. The shoes look very much like the M1882/85 campaign shoes pictured above. My question on the M1882/85 shoes is, how do you distinguish between military issued shoes and civilian shoes in the absence of a QM stamp or solid provenance? Were the M1882/85 campaign shoes unique to the military?

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