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M1948 Russet Combat Boots

The Boots, Service, Combat, Russet were intended to replace the M1943 Combat Boots of WW II as well as jump boots and other footwear. Styled like the coveted WW II jump boots, they eventually became worn by most U.S. Army soldiers but not until after the Korean War.

M1948 Russet Combat Boots worn by 2ID MP at the DMZ, Korea
M1948 Russet Combat Boots worn by 2ID MP at the DMZ, Korea.

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M1948 Russet Combat Boots

Boots, Service, Combat, Russet.  Photo:  Courtesy Lee-Jackson Militaria
Boots, Service, Combat, Russet. Photo: Courtesy Lee-Jackson Militaria.

In the late 1940s and into the start of the Korean War in the second half of 1950, most infantrymen were wearing the M1943 Combat Boot (the "double buckle boot") or even the early WWII-style Service Shoes and Leggings. Although the Army had standardized the Boots, Service, Combat, Russet on 13 Dec 1948, there was little distribution of the new boot until demand in Korea forced it into widespread use. As news of the availability of the Russet Combat Boot spread in Korea, large numbers were requisitioned since the men liked it much better than the older models. Many soldiers took the wrong size just to get the new boots, a choice that caused a lot of pain later.

By the end of the Korean War, the M1943 boot had been replaced by the paratrooper jump boot styled, cap-toe M1948 Boots, Service, Combat, Russet. The term "russet" refers to the color, a deep reddish brown (photo, right). The boot was 10 1/2 inches high, laced up from the foot to the top at the calf (11 eyelets, usually). It had a smooth leather upper, Goodyear-welt construction, and a full sole with a diamond tread pattern. Boots, Service, Combat, Russet provided good ankle support and were popular with the soldiers who had to wear them. When worn in the correct size with one pair of Socks, Wool, Cushion Sole they were generally comfortable on long marches. For garrison wear, the smooth leather held a good shine.

The russet leather color of the M1948 combat boot was retained until the Army begain its transition to black footwear to go with the new Army Green uniforms, adopted September 1954. In early 1958, soldiers who still had the russet color boots were instructed to use shoe dye to change the color to black, although russet boots were still being issued in the early 1960s as supplies were drawn down. Black-dyed M1948 russet boots are often sloppily done, with the original russet color visible under laces or on the upper part of the boot.

Differences: Russet Combat Boot vs. Jump Boots

Boots, Service, Combat, Russet.  Photo:  Courtesy Lee-Jackson Militaria
Boots, Service, Combat, Russet. Photo: Courtesy Lee-Jackson Militaria.

The M1948 Russet boot is very similar to the Boots, Jumper, Parachute (jump boots) of World War II. Some differences do exist to help distinguish the two types:

  • Markings: Jump boots are undated, while M1948 boots will have the date inside along with contract information. Sizing is abbreviated for the russet boots while letter sizes are used for jump boots.
  • Sole: Jump boots have a rubber half sole and leather midsole while M1948 boots have a full rubber sole.
  • Heel: Jump boots have a heel bevel while the russet boots have a straight heel profile. The heel cap on the russet boot extends up the back of the boot while the heel cap of the jump boot is a shorter, simple wrap around.

These are not the only differences, but will help differentiate the boots if there is a question. In vintage photographs, it can be very difficult to distinguish issue boots of various models as well as private purchase boots that add more variables to the possible identification. More here.

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