Revealed: France shoed US way past Viet traps

2nd February 2004, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (AFP) - The United States stuck the boot in after failing to bring Paris to heel on Iraq, but newly released intelligence documents reveal the sole truth that the US Army was once awed by the well-shod French soldier.

WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (AFP) - The United States stuck the boot in after failing to bring Paris to heel on Iraq, but newly released intelligence documents reveal the sole truth that the US Army was once awed by the well-shod French soldier.

It was hardly the stuff of high Parisian fashion, but for those strolls through Indochina's booby-trapped jungles, the US military knew there was nothing better than the French armour-plated shoe.

Army intelligence documents from 1954 show French design expertise was pressed into service to protect soldiers from dastardly bamboo spikes coated with buffalo dung, planted by anti-colonialist Viet Minh troops.

"The recent development of an armoured-sole shoe represents a significant achievement in French military footwear design," the US Army intelligence report said.

 Soldiers who fell victim to the spike could be maimed, infected and out of action for up to six months, prompting military boffins to seek a solution, the document showed.

The armoured shoe was of ankle height and similar in construction to a tennis shoe. But crafty French military cobblers inserted a steel wire mesh, similar to chain mail, in the vulcanized rubber sole.

"Technologists testing the shoe were able to hammer nails through the sole and mesh only by exerting considerable force," the admiring army report said, suggesting the footwear might be developed for use against landmines.

The shoe would have won few prizes for fashion, though, as it was made of "heavy oil drab duck, with an unbleached drill lining," according to the report, marked "Confidential," which appeared in the Army's Intelligence Review.

It was not clear if the French design was used as a model for US reinforced boots.

© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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