Jungle boots are a type of combat boot designed for use in jungle warfare or in hot, wet, and humid environments where a standard leather combat boot would be uncomfortable or unsuitable to wear. Jungle boots have vent holes in the instep and sometimes a canvas upper to aid in ventilation and drainage of moisture.
Development and use
The use of "jungle" or "hot weather" boots predates World War II, when small units of U.S. soldiers in Panama were issued rubber-soled, canvas-upper boots for testing. Developed in conjunction with the U.S. Rubber Company, a pair of jungle boots weighed approximately three pounds. Adopted in 1942, the design of the jungle boot was based on the idea that no boot could possibly keep out water and still provide sufficient ventilation to the feet in a jungle or swamp environment. Instead, the jungle boot was designed to permit water and perspiration to drain, drying the feet while preventing the entry of insects, mud, or sand.
In 1942, fused layers of original-specification Saran or PVDC were used to make woven mesh ventilating insoles for newly developed jungle boots made of rubber and canvas. The Saran ventilating insoles trapped air which was circulated throughout the interior of the boot during the act of walking; moist interior air was exchanged for outside air via the boot's water drain eyelets. In cold weather, the trapped air in Saran insoles kept feet from freezing by insulating them from the frozen ground; when walking, the insoles circulated moist air that would otherwise condense and freeze, causing trench foot or frostbite.
The new M-1942 canvas-and-rubber jungle boots with Saran mesh insoles were tested by experimental Army units in jungle exercises in Panama, Venezuela, and other countries, where they were found to increase the flow of dry outside air to the insole and base of the foot, reducing blisters and tropical ulcers. The Saran ventilating mesh insole was also used in the M-1945 tropical combat boot.
World War II
Field reports from the Panama Experimental Platoon on the new lightweight boots were positive, and M-1942 jungle boots were later issued to a number of U.S. Army and Marine forces for use in tropical or jungle environments, including U.S. Army forces in New Guinea and the Philippines, and in Burma with Merrill's Marauders, the 1st Air Commando Group and the Mars Task Force (5332nd Brigade, Provisional). As jungle boots wore out more quickly than the standard Army Type II field shoes, they were often carried by infantrymen attached to the field pack as a secondary pair of footwear, to be used when encountering heavy, soft mud.
In 1944, the Panama sole was first developed by U.S. Army Sergeant Raymond Dobie, which used a series of angled rubber lugs in the soles to push soft mud from the soles, clearing them and providing much better grip in greasy clay or mud. However, the Panama sole was developed too late to see service in World War II, and both M-1942 (Jungle) and M-1945 (Combat Boot, Tropical) boots used Vibram soles. With the end of the war, all official interest in jungle equipment came to a halt; an improved jungle boot with the new Panama sole was not produced until 1965.
British Imperial forces designed their own jungle boot based on the American one, but much higher. Special Operations Executive Force 136 personnel were issued with these boots during operations in Burma 1944–45. Otherwise, they were not issued until after the war where they were used in the Malayan Emergency.
First Indochina War
The French issued rubber/canvas jungle boots manufactured by Palladium during the first indochina war. They came in different variants and were also worn during the Algerian war.
In the early years of the Vietnam War, some U.S. Army units were equipped with the M-1945 Tropical Combat Boot. In 1965, a boot incorporating most of the improvements developed since the end of World War II for tropical climates was adopted by the U.S. military as the M-1966 jungle boot, developed by the Natick Laboratories and the shoe industry. In the improved boot, the upper was made of cotton canvas duck, with leather for the toe and heel, and nylon reinforcements for the neck of the boot. The new jungle boot originally used a Vibram-type lugged composition rubber sole strongly vulcanized to the leather toe and heel. Water drains (screened eyelets) were added to the canvas top near the sole to quickly drain water from the inside of the boot. Removable ventilating insoles made of fused layers of Saran plastic screen, first invented in 1942, were issued with the jungle boot.
In May 1966, after numerous widely reported incidents of foot injuries to U.S. forces caused by punji stake traps, issue jungle boots were fitted with a stainless steel plate inside the boot's sole to protect the wearer from punji stake traps. Later jungle boots were given nylon canvas tops in place of cotton duck. The boot was also fitted with other improvements, including the Panama mud-clearing outsole and nylon webbing reinforcement on the uppers. However, Vibram-soled jungle boots continued to be issued to troops into 1969.
The US military jungle boot's popularity extended beyond the US Armed Forces with Australian Army and New Zealand Army soldiers going to great lengths to get a pair of jungle boots from American troops to use alongside their standard-issue black leather General Purpose Boots (GP Boots). When the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) was deployed to South Vietnam and served alongside the US Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade in 1965, many Australian troops were willing to trade their Australian Army-issue "slouch hats" for a pair of jungle boots from the Americans since the boots Australian troops were issued were World War II vintage tropical studded ankle boots and the boots were not suited to the conditions of Vietnam. Australian and New Zealand Special Air Service troops also made extensive use of American jungle boots during the course of the Vietnam War and they were very popular with SAS troopers. Up until the replacement of the GP Boots for the Terra Boots in 2000, Australian military personnel were allowed to wear the US military jungle boots with their combat uniforms and the boots remained popular with Australian soldiers during the post-Vietnam period.
Post-Vietnam jungle boot designs
The Vietnam-era jungle boots were quite successful. They have gone through only minor design changes since they were introduced in the 1962 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, eliminate the steel plate (conducted heat to the foot in hot sand) and vent eyelets (let sand into the boot). The US military jungle boot helped influence the design of the famed desert combat boot, which many American soldiers wore during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Despite the introduction of the desert boot at the time of Operation Desert Storm, many American military personnel were still issued jungle boots because there were not enough desert boots to issue to all personnel in the Middle East at the time, which led to many American soldiers and Marines to go into battle with jungle boots and black leather combat boots. During Operation Enduring Freedom, US Army and Marine personnel were seen wearing black jungle boots and black leather speedlace combat boots alongside the newer desert boots while on combat operations in Afghanistan during the early 2000s.
During the 1980s, some of the improvements incorporated over the years in U.S. jungle boot design were modified or discarded, primarily for reasons of cost and convenience to the contractor. This included changes in rubber sole composition (to avoid marking linoleum floors at stateside army bases), and use of waterproof Poron linings instead of Saran ventilating insoles. Since the boot retained its water drain eyelets, water still entered the boot, where it soaked the open-cell Poron insoles which remained in constant contact with the bottom of the foot. In contrast, the British Army continues to use Saran insoles in its combat boots, primarily because of its insulating properties.
Increasing use of the jungle boot as a general-purpose combat boot brought more changes; the issue boot's Panama sole reverted to a Vibram sole in the 1980s. However, the Vibram sole, while better suited to use on rocks, sand, or other hard terrain, lacked the mud-clearing qualities of the Panama sole, and was inferior to the latter for use in jungle or swampy environments. Other changes were made to lower acquisition costs. By the late 1980s, incidents of heel blowouts and loss of water drains (screened eyelets) from poor materials and lack of quality control were being reported.
Today, Altama Footwear and Wellco Footwear are two American combat boot companies who still manufacture the US military jungle boot. Altama began manufacturing boots for the military towards the end of the Vietnam War, in 1969, and is still supplying the military with footwear to date. Wellco gained the first government contract for boots in 1965. These companies manufacture jungle boots with waterproof insoles and Vibram or Panama outsoles with green cotton/nylon uppers and conventional eyelets. Both companies also make an updated version with a black Cordura upper and a Speedlace-and-eyelet lacing system. The company Atalaia manufactures jungle boots for the Brazilian Army.
As of 2005, the United States Marine Corps has retired the black jungle boots from front-line military service and replaced them with two versions of a new tan rough-out leather combat boot. One version, called the Temperate or Infantry Combat Boot, has a waterproof Gore-Tex lining inside. The Temperate boot is an effort to keep moisture out of the boot; once the interior is soaked with water, it tends to remain there. The lining also tends to limit air exchange, limiting its use to environments with temperatures of 98 °F or less. Another, called the Jungle or Hot Weather Boot, has no lining but retains the vent holes on the instep of the boot. The US Army and US Air Force have also removed the black jungle boot from frontline service for suede leather desert-style boots when the US Army adopted the Army Combat Uniform and the US Air Force adopted the Airman Battle Uniform. A number of nations outside the United States are still using and issuing the American-made jungle boot to their soldiers. One example can be seen in Afghanistan with soldiers of the Afghan National Army being seen wearing black jungle boots with American-made combat uniforms.
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- Report on Orinoco-Casiquiare-Negro Waterway: Venezuela-Colombia-Brazil, Volume 4, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Office of Inter-American Affairs (July 1943)
- George, John B. (Lt. Col), Shots Fired In Anger, NRA Press, pp. 490–491
- Mars Task Force: A Short History http://www.cbi-theater.com/mars/marstaskforce.html
- Kearny, Cresson H. (Maj), Jungle Snafus...And Remedies, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (1996), pp. 178–179
- Rottman, Gordon L., Green Beret in Vietnam: 1957–73, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-568-3 (2002), p. 58
- p.47 Brayley, Martin & Chappell, Mike The British Army, 1939–45: The Far East Osprey Publishing
- Hearings on military posture and H.R. 13456, p. 8177.
- Wood, Clyde E., Mud: A Military History, Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., ISBN 1574889842 (2006) p. 106
- Kearny, Cresson H. (Maj), Jungle Snafus...And Remedies, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (1996), p. 179
- Interview with General Colin L. Powell, : A young Colin Powell, later to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, was injured by one of these traps, but would not have been protected by the steel plate; his foot fell into the trap at an angle, and the punji stake missed his boot sole entirely, penetrating his instep.
- Kearny, Cresson H. (Maj.), pp. 183, 365–368
- Kearny, Cresson H. (Maj.), pp. 365–368
- Westwood, E., Smith, N., and Dyson, R., Comparison of the Influence of Three Types of Military Boot Insoles Upon the Force and Loading Rates Experienced In Drop Jump Landings, Biomechanics Symposia 2001, University of San Francisco (2001), p. 30
- Kearny, Cresson H. (Maj.), pp. 366–368
- Kearny, Cresson H. (Maj), pp. 366–368
- "Jungle Boots". Military Boots Blog. 2009-12-14.