Shoes. Anytime I bought a new pair while growing up, a couple of weeks of blisters could be expected until feet and leather became better acquainted. Even when they seemed an OK fit in the store's shoe department, an uncomfortable adjustment was on tap. Then, at 18, I joined the Army Air Corps.

They handed out shoes in the Army like everything else -- "Size eight? Here ya go." and they were clumped on the counter. "Keep the line moving, soldier!" No time for a try-on!"

Now the miracle. No blisters. Of course, in the Air Corps, we didn't go on long forced marches like the infantry. Still, there were hours of parading around, hiking on bivouac and one 15-mile march I remember. But somebody knew how to make those shoes.

Here's another one: I never heard anyone complain about not getting his mail. There were more than 12 million of us, and somehow they kept the mail sorted and delivered. In contrast, a few years ago, my middle son, John, was in a MASH unit that served twice in Iraq -- with the initial invasion for three months and, later for a full year. The mail? I had 12 of my letters returned and was forced to resend them through his base in Germany -- a sad comparison.

Franklin Roosevelt had been crippled by polio and was aging much too fast, yet he was able to obtain and oversee top industrial leaders who organized the greatest military production ever known. For example -- 295,000 military aircraft, 70,000-plus tanks and self-propelled guns, more than two million trucks and other military vehicles, plus 22 aircraft carriers, eight battleships, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers and more than 33,000 merchant ships.

According to "Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck," Germany's best general, Irwin Rommel, was aware of our productive capacity and manpower, and he told his aide, von Luck, in October 1942 that Germany had lost not only North Africa but the war itself. Further, he told him, the only way to save Germany from total destruction would be for Hitler to abdicate so a separate peace might be obtained with the Western Allies. Then, under the leadership of Churchill, join them to go after the Soviet Union. Otherwise, Germany would be destroyed ... amazing prescience!

Concerning those merchant ships, working at Moore's Shipyard (across the Estuary from the Alameda Naval Air Station) in the summer between my sophomore and junior years at Oakland Tech as a flanger's helper, I saw us launching a new ship every four days, while Kaiser in Richmond was launching a ship a day. Patriotism to the max!

That amount of organization had to have someone mighty capable in charge. Enter FDR again. This, plus efforts to overcome the Great Depression followed by his personal leadership in the war itself have me placing him in the top three of all our U.S. presidents (Washington, Lincoln, FDR).

All this from thinking about those Army shoes!

Contact Joe King at alamedanews@bay- areanewsgroup.com.