The development of parachute units was started by the United States Army in 1940, part of the general expansion beginning at that time. Every item of clothing and equipment was scrutinized for its suitability for the special needs of the airborne troopers.
World War II Jump Boots for Paratroop Infantry (Photographed at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot during WW II).
When parachutists of the U.S. Army airborne units were being equipped in 1940, the first item to be considered was special footgear, part of the development of clothing and equipment for parachute units, covered further on this Olive-Drab.com page. [Photo to the left shows paratrooper Raymond O. Barkuy, wearing the M-1942 uniform with jump boots, 31 January 1944.]
Army jump boot design started by combining features from existing use by others, including German parachutists, units who started earlier than the U.S. and had already participated in combat in Europe. The design was partly derived from the ordinary high-top boot (shoe), worn throughout the Army and the M1928 mounted boot. The equipment and experience of U.S. Forest Service "smoke jumpers" were studied. The Marine Corps also had parachute units and experiments had shown the need for special footwear after broken bones were suffered. In October 1940 the first design was recommended by the Infantry Board and put into procurement after overcoming bureaucratic objections. The first design was like a shoe, with special braces, but was not a success, however, and a second shoe-based design also failed tests showing that many of the special features of braces and cushioning added little to the comfort and safety of the boot/shoe.
In August of 1942 the "Boots, Jumper, Parachute" was standardized, a tall laced boot with 11 to 13 pairs of lacing eyes depending on the foot size. It was a clean design that dropped straps and other reinforcements of earlier designs and had many points strengthened to take the punishing wear of jumping. The heel and sole were rubber with the leading edge of the heel slanted to avoid a snag point for lines or to catch on the lip of the aircraft door. Often called "Corcorans" after their first contractor, they were made by several different companies for both government and private sales. Corcoran's Company of Stoughton, MA
continues to make the boot style more than 60 years later.
The tongue, under the laces, is in the form of a gusset and forms part of the uppers. The jump boots also had a capped "bubble" toe, and diagonal stitching across the instep (the external vestige of a webbing reinforcement strap on the inside). They were originally issued with standard brown laces but those were replaced by leather thongs, measuring 70 inches in length. Jump boots were available in more than 110 different sizes.
The boots were very popular with the Airborne units, providing a strong, military look that was distinctively different from boots worn by other units, symbols of the paratrooper’s elite status. The boots did as much for paratrooper morale as they did for their feet. The Airborne troops tucked their trousers into their boot tops to show the maximum boot, more for appearance than for any other reason. These boots remained officially in service until the paratrooper uniforms and boots were merged with other Infantry uniforms in late 1944 (See the Olive-Drab page on the "Boots, Service, Combat M-1943").
As the Army tried to get all soldiers into double buckle boots, the jump boots apread beyond Airborne, to units such as Rangers, who were eager to adopt the sharp look. Airborne units resisted giving up their distinctive boots, only slowly accepting the phase in of newer standard boots. When the Boots, Service, Combat, Russet M1948 came into widespread use during and after the Korean War -- a boot with very similar styling to the Boots, Jumper, Parachute -- gradually the specialized Airborne boots disappeared.
Paratroopers prepare for a mission, England during WW II.
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