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U.S. Military Jungle Boots
Development of U.S. Military Jungle Boots in World War II
Prior to WW II, the armed forces of the United States had engaged in a number of campaigns in jungle terrain. However, no specialized units for jungle warfare existed nor had any special equipment been developed. Jungle conditions involve constant exposure to water, sand, heat, and various insects, fungal and bacterial infections. To equip soldiers for that environment, boots were required that were lightweight, durable, quick drying and provided protection from jungle hazards ranging from mildew to punji sticks.
The first jungle boots were made of canvas and rubber, used in the South Pacific during World War II. The first model was standardized 31 Aug 1942 and went into production that year, to try to meet the unexpectedly large requirements for war in the Pacific Theater. It had a canvas duck top and an attached tongue that kept out mud and insects (top photo on this page). The corrugated rubber sole had good traction while a removable fabric insole kept the feet away from the rubber. Overall, the boot was lightweight and kept the feet and lower legs comfortable when worn with cushion sole socks. It was easily cleaned and dried. However, it offered little support, causing troop complaints of "aching arches." The high canvas tops chafed at the legs, so it was not uncommon for soldiers to fold them over or cut them off. The boots were better than the standard service shoe or combat boot but still lasted only a matter of weeks in the field.
A modified jungle boot was designed and tested during the latter part of World War II. It consisted of spun nylon, a leather midsole, and a full-length rubber outer sole. Production was not started until the summer of 1945, at the end of the war and the design of a successful jungle boot was not settled as the war ended.
The Vietnam Jungle Boot: "Boot, Combat, Tropical, Mildew Resistant"
Since Korea was a temperate to cold climate, there was little interest in jungle operations or boots from the end of World War II until the beginning of involvement in Vietnam.
At the outset of the Vietnam War, U.S. advisors wore leather combat boots and these continued to be used throughout the war period. Some stocks of the WW II Jungle Boot were located and shipped to Vietnam, but they performed poorly and soon deteriorated. But under a new specification tested in 1962, Army and Marine field troops began to use a black leather and OG107 nylon-webbing tropical combat boot with a cleated sole. This was the "Jungle Boot" with nomenclature "Boot, Combat, Tropical, Mildew Resistant" or later "Boot, Combat, Tropical, DMS with Spike Resistant Sole Shield" and "Boots, Hot Weather". Using technology developed by Wellco, one of the major contractors, the Direct Molded Sole was part of the design. Wellco produced 5,000 pairs per day in the mid-60s and their technology was licensed to multiple other contractors for additional production.
In Vietnam, two versions of leather combat boots remained in service in rear areas, or where there was a fire hazard that precluded the use of nylon (e.g. for pilots and other aviators), or wherever the Jungle Boot was not desirable for any reason.
There are five patterns that have been identified for the Vietnam-era Jungle Boot. All feature the black leather and OG107 nylon construction with two steel side-by-side screened eyelets on the inner part near the arch to drain the boots after water crossings and provide for air circulation. The black synthetic rubber sole uses a self-cleaning tread with sharp outer edges and smoother center portion. The variations and evolution during the Vietnam period are tabulated below the photos:
The need for protection from Viet Minh traps containing Punji sticks was recognized by the French in the early 1950s. This fact was rediscovered by American forces in the early 1960s leading to a steel plate insert for the Jungle Boots. At first this was a separate insole that was slipped into the boot, tested in 1963. But many users developed blisters or had problems with the fit of their boots when using the slip-in protector. As a result, the Jungle Boot came to include a metal plate as part of the sole construction, the "spike protective" feature.
The Third Pattern Panama Sole (Boot, Combat, Tropical, Direct Molded Sole with Spike Resistant Sole Shield), was service tested by the US Army Tropic Test Center in the Panama Canal Zone during the period 21 Feb thru 21 June 1966 with a test sample of 85 pairs of boots. The boots were worn by personnel from airborne, mechanized, and regular infantry battalions, special forces units, and by field cadre at the US Army School of the Americas and the US Air Force Tropic Survival School. Use included local unit training and field exercises. Tests of the spike protection feature were conducted at other Army facilities and were not a part of the Panama test.
Other than some minor problems, the test boot was found to be functionally suitable for field and garrison wear in the warm, wet climate of Vietnam. With the shortcomings corrected, the new model was released in 1967. The same spike protective plate was added to any further production of the Vibram sole model as well.
Additional information and reference photos are available on the Moore Militaria site linked at the bottom of the page.
All Jungle Boots came with an "information tag" attached that provided instructions for use. The key points on the tag were:
Jungle Boots After Vietnam
The Vietnam-era Jungle Boots were quite successful. They have gone through only minor design changes since they were introduced in the 1960s and used in large numbers by troops in Vietnam. Jungle Boots were the standard combat footwear for mild weather for decades following Vietnam. The last nomenclature for Jungle Boots was Boot, Hot Weather, Type I, Black, Hot-Wet and allowed for both OG107 green and black for the nylon sections of the upper. In addition, the Type II boot was defined, identical except with desert tan color for the leather and the nylon.
The boot was further described this way in a 1999 document:
When attention shifted to Southwest Asia for the Gulf War, Marines and Army units found that during the extreme hot weather the jungle boot surpassed the all-leather black combat boot in comfort. While the boot proved generally adequate, eyelets located on the lower portion trapped sand, and it did not keep the feet adequately warm during the winter months. These and other factors led to the development of a new generation of Desert Boots for use in hot-dry climates. 30 April 2008 was the U.S. Army wear-out date for Type I jungle boots, in conjunction with the retirement of the Battle Dress Uniform.
Jungle Boots Specifications and Stock Numbers
This table summarizes the available information regarding specifications and Stock Numbers for the Jungle Boot. The table is not exhaustive. If you have additional information or can correct any errors, please contact Olive-Drab.com.
The range of NSNs reflects the range of sizes and widths stocked, a large number in an attempt to try to match the soldier's foot as closely as possible. Commercial mil-spec Jungle Boots are available at Amazon.com at the link.
Find More Information on the Internet
There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.
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