War Stories

War Stories

Keep Your Feet Dry

By Callie Oettinger | Published: February 13, 2012

It was time to air out.

The men sat down to remove their boots and socks.

Their feet were wet.

Their socks were wet.

Their boots were wet.

The three combined provide the perfect conditions for jungle rot (if you imagine the men in Vietnam) or Trench rot (if you imagine them in WWI).

* * *

I asked Dad what he learned from Vietnam. He shared a few things, but the one I always think back to is: Keep your feet dry.

I expected him to go down the leadership and battles road. He paused and shared a bit at the fork and then went down the seemingly-little-things-that-matter-practical route.

Wear dry socks. Mucked-up feet will take you – and your brothers – down.

Don’t take shortcuts. It’s easier to walk along the side of a cleared road than it is to clear your own path in the jungle. Don’t go with what is easy.

Trust your instincts. This one arrived via an interview Steve Pressfield did with Gen. Sam V. Wilson, July 2010:

You are going along a jungle trail in North Burma when suddenly a voice in your head says, Duck Sam, Duck Sam, Duck!

And a Jap Nambu light machine gun cuts the empty air where you had been standing.

Premonition? Hardly.

The almost unnoticed odor of fish heads and rice and the slight discoloration in the leaves of the branches camouflaging the enemy machine gun telegraphed danger to you without your being fully conscious of it. Trust your instincts.

* * *

Big-picture war stories often are about battles. The lessons learned and shared take the form of strategies developed, weapons used, and so on.

If you have the opportunity to ask a veteran, ask about the things that kept him or her operating and alive, and you’ll find that the stories and examples shared are quite simple—as simple as “Keep your feet dry.”

Posted in War Stories

8 Responses to “Keep Your Feet Dry”

  1. February 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Keeping your feet dry. Yet another reason to tighten your boots, no? Both of these posts speak to the idea that in all our endeavors, preparation matters.

  2. February 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Ignoring the basics causes more than discomfort, it can cause your death and that of your team. In sports, famed coach John Wooden first taught his teams to be sure socks were smooth and shoes correctly tied. You can’t play on sore feet, let alone use the special talents you may have to make the great plays.

  3. February 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    You just keep knocking them out of the park, Callie! Thanks for another great post.

  4. Sam
    February 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Have General Wilson’s memoirs been published yet? See the referenced interview.

  5. February 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the great post…preparation is key!

  6. February 14, 2012 at 8:04 am

    A few more decent,real paragraphs aimed right at me.Or at least I thought or feel when I read ‘your stuff’ I love it! Yeah- I got immersed in it and almost thought you were gonna bamboozle me when you threw in “Trust Your Instincts” with keeping your feet dry. I think my instinct told me other people will not back up properly when they tell Me to trust My instincts. I encourage you to write more-Ha!because I’m a fool for you —-and you know it! Warren

  7. March 4, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Keep your feet dry reminds me of reading about WWI where the men who fought were rarely able to change their socks and underwear – I’ve read that once a month was typical. In The Letters of Agar Adamson, Agar (isn’t that a wonderful name) frequently writes to his wife requesting fresh socks, underwear, pyjamas and so on. Often he gives them to his men. Incredible what men endured.

  8. July 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Yes! Finally someone writes about vermont country store soap.