At the beginning of World War II, the U.S. soldier wore a service shoe with canvas leggings. The leggings were difficult to put on and take off and did not provide much protection. The deficiencies in the shoe plus legging led to the development of the combat boot to solve the problems.
A soldier relaxes on the hood of a halftrack, ETO, Summer 1944. Although most of his clothing is dark olive drab, his leggings are the earlier khaki version. His mess gear, canteen cup and other gear are nearby.
5 Jun 1941 During the Bombing of Chongqing, 4000 residents hidden in a bomb shelter tunnel are asphyxiated. 5 Jun 1941 German ammunition depot explodes at Smederevo on the outskirts of Belgrade, Serbia, killing 2,500 and injuring more than 4,500. 5 Jun 1944 In the night before D-Day, thousands of US and British paratroopers fly from England to jump over Normandy [5-6 Jun]. 5 Jun 1944 In a black Halifax, Team HUGH departed England at 2300 hours, the first Jedburgh team to infiltrate into occupied Europe, landing on French soil early D-Day mcrning. Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.
Service Shoes with Leggings During WW II
Soldiers of Co I, 60th Infantry, 9th Inf Div, wearing service shoes and leggings typical of infantry at the time, during fighting near the Belgian border, 9 Sep 1944.
The World War II combat boot design evolved from the service shoes used with leggings. The Model 1939 "Shoes, Service, Composition Sole" was an ankle high shoe/boot made of tanned leather in a dark red color, originally with leather soles, changed to rubber soles after 1940. The same shoe design was modified in early 1943 (called Type III) to reverse the leather (rough side out) and add reinforcing rivets. A simplified version of the Type III shoe was adopted later in 1943 as the "Shoes, Service, Reverse Upper", different from the earlier service shoes in that it was built a little lower with no toe cap and with nylon laces instead of cotton. The latter two types were the most common service shoes of the war.
In the field, all of the service shoes where worn with leggings that extended the shoe up the calf. The leggings had a strap that looped under the shoe in the space in front of the heel. The leggings were laced up with a series of hooks and grommets. At the start of WW II longer leggings were in use in khaki or light OD shades. By 1944 a shorter, dark OD #7 legging was issued. Most ground troops wore the service shoe-legging combination until late in the war. Service shoes continued in use for garrison wear even after the war. [At left is a detail from a 1942 photo taken at Ft. Knox, KY.]
A World War II soldier received an initial issue of two pairs of shoes which could be resoled twice, then were replaced with a new or rebuilt pair. The replacement rate varied depending on conditions where the shoes were worn, ranging from a year in the US to only five months in the Southwest Pacific. [Click here for Shoes and the Army, Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson, 4 June 1945.]
The World War II combat boot design evolved from the service shoes used with leggings as described on the linked Olive-Drab.com page.
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