Shoes of the US Cavalry 1916-1918

A place for discussion of mounted services uniforms, headgear, footwear and related personal equipment of the horse soldier.
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Fossilhorse
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Shoes of the US Cavalry 1916-1918

Post by Fossilhorse » Wed May 13, 2009 2:02 pm

Can anyone tell me what shoes were used by US mounted, enlisted and non-com troops, during the Punitive Expedition, and then by the few Cavalry companies that actually saw mounted service in WWI France? I suspect, though I'm honestly not sure, that the troops in 1916 Mexico were using the Russet Marching Shoe with single ply sole and smooth-out calfskin uppers. Would mounted troops in France have continued to use these, or would they have used the M1917 Trench boot (with heel plates and hob nails), or M1918 "Pershing" trench boot issued to the infantry?

Thanks and cheers,
Tim

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Post by Pat Holscher » Wed May 13, 2009 8:32 pm

Fossilhorse wrote:Can anyone tell me what shoes were used by US mounted, enlisted and non-com troops, during the Punitive Expedition, and then by the few Cavalry companies that actually saw mounted service in WWI France? I suspect, though I'm honestly not sure, that the troops in 1916 Mexico were using the Russet Marching Shoe with single ply sole and smooth-out calfskin uppers. Would mounted troops in France have continued to use these, or would they have used the M1917 Trench boot (with heel plates and hob nails), or M1918 "Pershing" trench boot issued to the infantry?

Thanks and cheers,
Tim
There's some old threads on footgear you may want to check out, as they have some interesting information.

In the Punitive Expedition cavalry enlisted men were issued service shoes. However, you can find a fair number of photos in which individual troopers are wearing lace up, or lace up with buckle top, riding boots. This probably gave them a better pair of boots and allowed them to dispense with the leggins.

You raise an interesting point about WWI service. Over time, it seems we now have some evidence that there were a few more cavalrymen serving in Europe, even as cavalry in divisional recon troops, than we initially would have suspected, although it certainly isn't a large number of troops. I honestly don't know if these soldiers were ever issued the boots that ended up being issued to doughboys in WWI or not. There's a few photos of mounted troops in WWI up here on the forum, and it might be possible to pick out their footgear in some of them.
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Post by Fossilhorse » Thu May 14, 2009 11:56 am

Thanks for the reply Pat. I'll see if I can find more info on footgear in the old treads you refer to. As far as US mounted units in France, I have seen a reference that troops B, D, F, and H of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (under Pershing) served there as mounted horse cavalry; participating in several battles including Aisne-Marne offensive.

Cheers,
Tim

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Post by Pat Holscher » Thu May 14, 2009 1:15 pm

Fossilhorse wrote:Thanks for the reply Pat. I'll see if I can find more info on footgear in the old treads you refer to. As far as US mounted units in France, I have seen a reference that troops B, D, F, and H of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (under Pershing) served there as mounted horse cavalry; participating in several battles including Aisne-Marne offensive.

Cheers,
Tim
The 2nd is the only cavalry regiment that served in an independent regimental capacity. However, every square division in WWI was supposed to have a cavalry recon troop, just like the French divisions. I don't know how many actually had one, but some did. At least one fellow I've seen write on it, who knows a great deal about US formations in WWI, insists that every US division in WWI had a cavalry recon troop.
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Post by Todd » Fri May 15, 2009 1:49 pm

While it's only an observation of a few rare photos of mounted US troops in WWI France that I've managed to come across, they invariably seem to show the trench boots and wool wraps. That goes for the mounted field artillery troops, of which there are far more photos of.

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Post by Pat Holscher » Sat May 16, 2009 6:53 am

Todd wrote:While it's only an observation of a few rare photos of mounted US troops in WWI France that I've managed to come across, they invariably seem to show the trench boots and wool wraps. That goes for the mounted field artillery troops, of which there are far more photos of.
That's interesting. That'd put mounted US troops in the saddle with hobnailed boots, just like British mounted troops of the same period.

Here's a discussion of WWI period boots:

http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/l_tanks.htm

FWIW, I've always heard the standard boot referred to as the "service shoe". This link calls them the Russet Marching Boot. I have to wonder if that's a collector's description, as I'd find it odd for the Army to refer to any shoe by its color, given that all footgear in this period was russet.
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Post by Pat Holscher » Sat May 16, 2009 7:04 am

The Pershing boot looks so practical, it's interesting to note that it rapidly disappeared after the war. Of course, in those days, the soldier wore the same set of shoes for almost every duty.
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Post by Pat Holscher » Sun May 17, 2009 9:58 pm

As sort of a grim example of the Service Shoe's longevity, the current issue of the National Geographic has a photo of a pair recently recovered in the Hürtgen Forest near some human remains. They're assumed to be the boots of an American soldier killed during the battle. The fighting there occurred between September 1944 and February 1945, when we often sort of think of US troops wearing the M1943 boots, although clearly that wasn't universally the case.
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Post by rayg » Mon May 18, 2009 6:53 pm

Here's a good thread on the post 1900-1918 shoes, Ray


http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/ ... opic=39225
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Post by Pat Holscher » Mon May 18, 2009 9:51 pm

rayg wrote:Here's a good thread on the post 1900-1918 shoes, Ray


http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/ ... opic=39225
Excellent link, thanks. It shows how much I've forgotten on this topic. I'd forgotten, for example that t here was a "marching shoe", which I'm sure the more informed here did not forget. Seeing the illustrations shows how high up over the ankle the 1905 to 1912 marching shoe was.
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Post by Fossilhorse » Tue May 19, 2009 11:58 am

Would the apparent limited longevity of the M1918 trench boot, after the war, have resulted from the somewhat specialized "trench warfare" design? This type of warefare seems to have not repeated so perhaps the limitations of the boot (poor flexibility being one) were no longer offset by the benefits of the design.

Cheers,
Tim

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Post by Pat Holscher » Tue May 19, 2009 1:10 pm

Fossilhorse wrote:Would the apparent limited longevity of the M1918 trench boot, after the war, have resulted from the somewhat specialized "trench warfare" design? This type of warefare seems to have not repeated so perhaps the limitations of the boot (poor flexibility being one) were no longer offset by the benefits of the design.

Cheers,
Tim
Perhaps, but one thing I'd also note is that the Army really disliked roughout leather during peacetime. The reason was that it couldn't be polished.

Sounds silly, I know, but in this time period soldiers often wore a single pair of boots/shoes for everything, field and dress.
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Post by Todd » Tue May 19, 2009 2:38 pm

Pat Holscher wrote:
Fossilhorse wrote:Would the apparent limited longevity of the M1918 trench boot, after the war, have resulted from the somewhat specialized "trench warfare" design? This type of warefare seems to have not repeated so perhaps the limitations of the boot (poor flexibility being one) were no longer offset by the benefits of the design.

Cheers,
Tim
Perhaps, but one thing I'd also note is that the Army really disliked roughout leather during peacetime. The reason was that it couldn't be polished.

Sounds silly, I know, but in this time period soldiers often wore a single pair of boots/shoes for everything, field and dress.
I'd say some of both, but would tip my hat to the former - those hobnailed 1918 boots were the footwear equivalent of off-road studded snow tires. They were for nasty conditions, and would likely eat up wood-flooring in short order, and probably more than a little slippery dangerous on paved and similar hard surfaces.

Which is probably why so few remain - an excellent farmers work boot.

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Post by Philip S » Tue May 19, 2009 6:27 pm

Col. Frank Tompkins recommended the following after the Punitive Expedition:

Shoes--Unlined, flesh side out, double soles, hob nailed, leather laces.

(Chasing Villa, by Col. Frank Tompkins)

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Post by Sam Cox » Tue May 19, 2009 7:51 pm

also worth Tompkins opinion on hooded stirrups as a possible emergency resole on the hoof
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Post by Pat Holscher » Thu May 21, 2009 8:31 am

The thread on the U.S. Militaria Forum is really intersting. We've looked at cavalry specific boots before, but I don't know that we've ever looked that carefully at the service shoe family of footgear before. http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/ ... ntry333314

Anyhow, it's worth looking at.

Would I be correct, based on that thread, that the service shoe type boot came in during 1902? The photos of the 1902 shoe would seem to suggest a fairly consistent type of boot from there on out. As noted in some earlier threads here, the current LL Bean "Engineer's Boot" is quite close in appearance to the 02 boot.

The one that really surprises me is the 1905 Marching shoe. The details and photos of that one are most intereting. Note that it had an 8" height, much higher than prior boots, and really sort of the shape of things to come. Indeed, the 05 Marching Shoe bears a resemblance to the later jump boot and post WWII combat boot.

Here's something that really surprises me regarding the 05 Marching Shoe, with this quote taken from the source, that being the U.S. Militaria Forum thread. The quote (only part of the more detailed post there, notes the following):

(Note. This is a quote from the U.S. Militaria Forum Thread)
“The high-top regulation marching shoe for infantry is not wholly satisfactory. The shoe is sufficiently heavy, but complaints are made that the stiff and high tops to the shoes cause blisters on and above the ankles. There seems to be an unnecessary amount of heavy leather in the tops of these shoes.”

“The shoes at present furnished the department and the troops in it, more especially those of recent pattern, seem to give entire satisfaction, and the only causes of complaints that have been heard during the past fiscal year concerning the black shoes have been remedied in recent specifications The shoes now used are very popular. The russet marching shoe, while entirely suitable for the purpose intended, is limited in its use. The russet garrison shoes are probably worn' four-fifths of the time, and many company commanders prefer for troops the garrison shoes, even for practice marches and for the ordinary routine work, to the russet marching shoes.

It is recommended that all shoes manufactured prior to 1905 and now in the quartermaster's storehouse be turned over for the use of prisoners or be otherwise disposed of. These shoes have deteriorated on account of age, and are unfit for issue to soldiers.”

It's odd that these were found unsatisfactory due to height and blisters. Higher boots would come in during WWII and never leave, so this seems oddly out of sink with later experiences.

I'd also note that the Army continued to issue leggins, etc., with these boots, so we sort of oddly have a high boot issued with leggins, such as we associate with ankle high boots.
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Post by Pat Holscher » Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:25 am

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