Did you know why tankers have special boots since World War II?

The Dehner tank boots, designed in part by George S. Patton
(Photo: 44thcollectorsavenue.com)
A new type of boot, partially designed by then-Lieutenant Colonel George S. Patton (Read our earlier article) in cooperation with the Dehner footwear company, was introduced to tank crews in 1937. The boot did away with bootlaces and the metal eyelets designed to hold them, and instead could be secured by straps which go all around the boot. The basic design, simply called “tanker boots,” is still used by tank crews today. But why was it necessary?
An American tank crew, wearing tanker boots, resting in the Normandy town of Avranches
(Photo: Getty Images)
The new design had several advantages. One, it could be put on easily and fast, without having to fiddle with laces. Two, laces could easily become undone and then get entangled in a moving part inside the tank, or even drag the wearer’s foot into a piece of machinery. Three, the leather boots lacked the nylon that was present in many other boots and in the laces. This was important, because the nylon could melt while the crew was escaping from a burning vehicle (or if simply the boot touched a hot ejected shell casing), causing burn wounds. Four, crewmen could get outside the perform maintenance on the tank in mud without the eyelets getting clogged by the mud, and without the muddy boots becoming hard to unlace. And fifth, the strapped boots set less tightly on the foot; this was important to tank crews who often spent extended periods of time sitting inside their vehicle, and whose blood circulation would have been impaired by tighter boots.
A tank crew at Fort Knox, still wearing an older style of laced boots
(Photo: U.S. Army)
So why weren’t tanker boots adopted for the entire Army? Beside all the advantages, it also had a big disadvantage in that it provided less ankle support than the traditional, tightly laces boots. And for infantry, who march and run around a lot, that support is far more important than tanker boots’ advantages.

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American soldiers in a foxhole in January 1945
(Photo: U.S. Army, Tony Vaccaro)
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