U.S. Navy Men's Shoes

Field Shoes Type N-1

U.S. Navy N-1 Field Shoe front view.U.S. Navy N-1 Field Shoe side view.U.S. Navy N-1 Field Shoe back view.

Specification 72-S-2

Function & Purpose

The primary field shoe issued to U.S. Navy personnel assigned to overseas bases. Recipients of the field shoe included shore parties, construction battalions, amphibious units, combat, and security units. Field shoes were an individual allowance with 2 pairs being issued to eligible personnel whether assigned to temperate, tropical, cold, or arctic climates.

Key Visual IDPrimary MaterialsFastenersColorLabeling
Flesh-out exterior, corded soles, U.S. Navy contract stamp or inspection stamp on interior.Uppers: Chrome tanned, flesh side out, natural cowhide.
Soles: Reclaimed rubber infused with cording.
40 inch laces held by 7 to 9 pairs of eyelets depending on the shoe size.Natural leather color varying from light tan to golden brown.Most shoes had a contractor label ink stamped to the inside top of one of the quarters.
TreatmentsApprox. Contract RunPreceded ByReplaced ByCompanion Garments
Chromium-sulfate tanning process to increase leather's resistance to water.WWII production: April 1943 to September 1945.
These shoes continued to be produce through the mid-1950's.
Black high-top service shoes. These shoes had leather outer soles with a rubber heel. In 1943 this shoe was redesigned with a fully reinforced heel seat and full composition sole.Unknown.The N-1 shoe was worn with other N series special and protective outfits. For example, in tropical conditions, they were worn with the utility jacket and trousers.
Cushion sole socks.
(Touch thumbs for expanded view)

Each boot typically had a contract stamp applied to the inside of the shaft. Navy contracted shoes will have a contract prefix of NXS while Marine Corps shoes will have a contract prefix of NOM.

This type of corded sole and heel was manufactured under the Light Tread name and was a common pattern found among Navy and Marine Corps field shoes. The uppers and sole were sewn together using the welt construction technique as is evidenced by the stitch pattern running round the perimeter of the sole.

This view of the back of the heel illustrates the cording that was infused into the heel and sole. This practice served a dual purpose in conserving both rubber and leather, which were critical materials in the war effort.

Size was indicated on the bottom of the outer sole and on the bottom of the inner sole. Field shoes came in a myriad of sizes and widths to ensure proper fitting of the individual. Also visible is the "conservation" label, which was usually present on Army, Navy, and Marine Corps shoes utilizing the reclaimed rubber and cording construction method.

By the spring of 1943 the Navy had developed a new and improved line of special and protective clothing. Items were given an alpha numeric nomenclature of N-1, N-2, or N-3. The new issues included wool and wool lined winter wear, protective rain wear, and warm weather utilities. Special and protective clothing types were to be issued according to job function and weather conditions. Sizing was roomy so garments could be layered over one another to provide warmth and create a wind and water-proof "barrier" against the elements yet still provide good freedom of movement. New colors were specifically chosen in order to provide better camouflage protection to forces deployed in combat zones. Instead of the blue, black, white, and gray used in the previous issues, new garments would be either khaki, olive drab shade 7, or light green for items made of jungle cloth. Standard lists of outfits consisting of various N items were developed for issue in tropical, temperate, cold, and arctic regions. There also was a standard outfit for personnel serving afloat.

The Navy chose to adopt the Marine Corps field shoe for issue to its ground forces. No modifications were made to the shoe by the Navy and they were, in fact, identical to the Marine Corps issue. This shoe was included in the list of items assigned the N-1 nomenclature. A list of N-1 articles and corresponding specification numbers follow:

  1. Jacket, Winter (37-J-3)
  2. Trousers, Winter (37-J-3)
  3. Coat, Parka, Winter (37-C-8)
  4. Helmet, Winter (37-J-3)
  5. Mask, Face, Winter (37-M-7)
  6. Shoes, Field (72-S-2)
  7. Arctics, Sea (72-A-3)
  8. Boots, Sea (37-B-6)
  9. Gloves, Work (73-G-3)
  10. Mittens, Waterproof (37-M-10)
  11. Goggles (37-G-24)
  12. Glasses, Sun (37-G-23)
  13. Scarf, Winter (37-S-12)
  14. Sweater, Winter (JJ-S-846FS)
  15. Undershirt, Winter (55-U-6)
  16. Drawers, Winter (55-D-16)
  17. Socks, Winter (73-S-4)
  18. Bag, Sleeping (27-B-11)
  19. Bag, Special Clothing (24-B-13)
  20. Roll, Bedding, Waterproof (6-238A)
  21. Blankets, Wool, O.D. (8-111A)

The N-1 shoe was constructed using a blucher pattern, flesh-out cowhide, and a full reclaimed rubber sole and heel.

In a further effort to conserve materials, the soles and heels were infused with fiber cording, thereby helping to extending the supply of rubber. When the sole and heel are viewed from the side, the cord ends are visible and create the distinctive speckled pattern associated with Navy and Marine Corps field shoes. Manufacturers usually marked the bottom of the sole with a conservation and/or corded label to indicate the use of reclaimed rubber and cording.

Although some Army issues can be found with conservation/corded type soles, it is unclear whether these shoes were intended for Army use or for supplemental delivery to the Navy or Marine Corps. After the Army adopted a flesh-out, rubber soled shoe in 1943, composition of the sole changed over time from rubber to reclaimed rubber to synthetic rubber. It's interesting to note that the Army's flesh-out shoe started its life by retaining the traditional toe cap and had several rivet points, but by mid-1944 those features were gone and the resulting shoe looked very similar the Navy and Marine Corps field shoe. Historical records do indicate that large quantities of Army field shoes were supplied to Naval forces.
(Point here for Army/Navy field shoe comparison)
Navy and late war production Army field shoes juxtaposed. Despite their similarities, the two can easily be distinguished by the corded sole of the Navy shoe on the left. The Army continued to contract reverse-upper service shoes to the end of the war, even though it had accepted the double buckle combat boot as standard issue in 1944. Large quantities of Army shoes were also supplied to the Navy.

Specialized and protective clothing could be issued either as an individual allowance or unit allowance. Unit allowances were calculated as a percentage of a bases' complement. For example, at an aviation base it was generally recommended that enough N class articles be ordered to outfit 30% of the personnel. Field Shoes were an individual allowance with two pairs being issued to Naval personnel serving at ground installations, overseas bases, or in combat units. Some examples of units receiving the field shoe include:

  1. Construction Battalions
  2. Amphibious Forces
  3. Beach Parties

Field shoes were issued in temperate, tropical, cold, and arctic climates.

USMC and Navy field shoes were referred to as "boondockers" by the many veterans that encountered them during their service in the 40's and 50's. The colloquialism stuck and has become the common name for the shoe to this day. Field shoes are heavily reproduced nowadays for reenacting use. Reproductions generally don't exhibit the cording that's visible on the original shoes.