Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
“Mobility is the key of military success, and troops which cannot march will not be given, by a more vigorous enemy, opportunity to fight except under what may prove to be decisive military disadvantage. History is full of instances where military success has been won more by marching than by fighting.”
So wrote then-Lt. Col. Edward Lyman Munson in his 1912 book “The Soldier’s Foot and the Military Shoes: A Handbook for Officers and Noncommissioned Officers of the Line,” in which he relays the results of his research that led to the redesigning of the Army boot that is still worn by Army soldiers today.
An official Munson boot, marked with the Munson Last shield, is one of the items in the mini exhibits currently at Munson Army Health Center.
“He looked at 40,000 pairs of soldiers’ feet, and he essentially did all kinds of things with them,” said Megan Hunter, Frontier Army Museum museum specialist. “He took impressions of feet with and without burden of certain weights to see how that would affect the pressure points. Because of that, he was able to redesign how the boots would actually fit on the foot.
“He also reconstructed the boot itself to make it more sturdy and durable so it didn’t fall apart because prior to that, the boots would fall apart, you’d have lots of foot injuries, and they weren’t actually made to fit your foot,” she said. “You kind of just wore them in.”
MAHC Sgt. Maj. Kristine Quinn worked with FAM staff to create the exhibits.
“I was creating a study guide for our soldiers to assist with studying for upcoming NCO/soldier and promotion boards. When I started searching for the history of Munson, I realized there was not a lot of information readily available. Additionally, walking the halls of Munson, there was not much history displayed,” Quinn said. “It started off that I wanted to have a display that described the history of the Munson shoe, and my ultimate goal was to find a Munson shoe that could be included in the display.
“That is when I enlisted the assistance of the museum,” she said. “When I found out the museum had an actual Munson shoe that could be loaned to us for the display, the idea was now a reality.”
Hunter said the FAM staff were glad to help.
“We love doing satellite exhibits for the post, and we can hopefully reach a whole new audience that we might not normally reach,” she said.
There are two mini exhibits currently at MAHC. The first exhibit, near the elevators, is a biographical case of Brig. Gen. Edward Lyman Munson that includes a biographical panel, the boot and a timeline of Fort Leavenworth hospitals.
“With that first case, I think what’s interesting is a lot of people go to Munson all the time, and they don’t realize where the name actually came from,” Hunter said. “He had an interesting story and the strong Army connection that he had, and he’s relevant today because boots that are on servicemen today were designed by him. They’re able to march miles and miles without any foot ailments because of the research and the scientific discoveries he did.”
The second display, near the pharmacy, highlights Army medicine and includes a section on Civil War medicine with circa-1845 surgeon’s instruments, including a bone saw, a metacarpal saw and a Liston knife; a forage cap; a panel on the Letterman Plan; a panel on the Spanish-American War: The Dodge Commission; and an Army Nurse Corps pin, circa 1901.
“The Frontier (Army) Museum did an amazing job setting up the displays. I worked with them for weeks reviewing all the Munson and medical history they have in storage to select items that would proudly display the history of Munson and Army medicine,” Quinn said. “I hope that patients and staff understand the significant contribution that Brigadier General Munson made.
“Army medicine has come a long way through our history,” she said. “The history of an organization is very important to understanding where we came from.”