I had to wonder how this controversy even arose in the first place. Whatever happened to uniforms and uniformity? And there seems even to be some complaining about this new rule, that the powers that be are too closed minded and uninformed about the benefits of FiveFinger shoes.
What is the history of shoes in the military? Surely, there have been many soldiers who have gone without any shoes at all. From a Civil War letter:
"We slept on the ground for four nights with only one blanket apiece, and what was the worst thing that happened to me was that in going up the mountains I lost one of my shoes in the mud and it was so dark that I could not find it and then of course I had to carry one until I came back to camp. You must wonder at soldiers having to do without shoes and blankets sometimes. I believe men can stand most anything after they get used to it. The hardest part is getting used to it."ADDED: "One of the most persistent legends surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg... is that it was fought over shoes."
"On the morning of June 30," [wrote Confederate general Henry Heth], "I ordered Brigadier General [Johnston] Pettigrew to take his brigade to Gettysburg, search the town for army supplies (shoes especially), and return the same day." That parenthetical phrase "shoes especially" has taken on a life of its own over the years....AND: Continuing to the end of that article at the last link:
[F]rom a literary standpoint, "shoes especially" represents the perfect detail, quickly translating abstract historical forces into blisters on aching feet and the smell of new shoe leather. The Battle of Gettysburg readily lends itself to being read as a three-act tragedy, dominated, as many have argued, by Lee's hubris... That it started by accident, over something so "pedestrian" as shoes, is too perfect for writers to ignore. Shelby Foote certainly did not, crafting a scene in The Civil War: A Narrative (1963) in which A. P. Hill airily dismissed the possibility that the Army of the Potomac was in Gettysburg:From a literary standpoint, it's no surprise that a man named Foote would fixate on shoes.
In Foote's dialogue, Heth was quick to take him up on that. "If there is no objection," he said, "I will take my division tomorrow and go to Gettysburg and get those shoes."