Desert Combat Boots are type of combat boot designed specifically for use in humid or arid regions for desert warfare, where a traditional or standard issued black leather combat boot might be deemed uncomfortable or unnecessary. Like jungle boots, desert boots may implement similar designs; such as nylon canvas sides, speed lacing, and drainage vents on the instep. Boots made for desert warfare may commonly come in colors such as tan or beige, and range from dark to lighter versions of the two.
While the history of the desert boot can trace its lineage back to the basic brown leather Chukka type boots worn by British and Australian commonwealth forces of North Africa in WWII, current modern incarnations of the boot did not come until the 1970s from nations like Saudi Arabia, who fielded the first traditional direct molded sole, camel-skin beige style boot for use by the Royal Saudi Land Force, with the zig-zag sole of the boots inspired directly by the American made black leather "McNamara boot".
The development of the American desert boot dates back to 1989, in conjunction with the development of a new simple all Black leather/Black nylon Jungle boot to replace the vast quantities of Vietnam era Black/OD green style boots, many of which were reaching the end of their service life after years of use. Wellco Enterprises (North Carolina) was awarded a contract by the U.S. Army Natick Laboratory to assist with a new desert boot concept, an initiative backed by Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. Commander of CENTCOM. At the time, Wellco was also producing the newer all-leather black combat boot; ("Boots Combat, Mildew & Water resistant, Direct Molded Sole") also in conjunction to replace the aging inventory of assorted black leather combat boots, both in the diamond-sole and zig-zag sole patterns. They shipped several rounds of prototype improved desert boots to Natick under the development contract.
During the First Gulf War, Schwarzkopf, being a very public figure during the war, was notable for sporting a pair of the Saudi made desert boots, then seen later wearing the American made desert combat boot during the final phase of the war. The first American made versions came into existence were mostly as a result of input and opinion by Schwarzkopf himself after wearing the Saudi desert boot.
During trial and fielding in September 1990, Norman Schwarzkopf made several request that the new American version of the Desert Combat boot be made with:A rough tan suede material with tan nylon siding and laces.
Ten Speed-lace eyelets for faster tying.
The utilizing of the distinct Vietnam style Panama-sole tread pattern on the bottom of the boot.
Elimination of the steel protection plate; (to protect a soldiers feet from punji traps) which caused heat to be retained when the boot came into contact with hot sand.
The elimination of the drainage vents at the instep to prevent sand from entering the boot.
At the same time, the high rate of mobilization called for continues orders of the standard Vietnam Jungle boot, as well as all versions of the black all-leather combat boots, with overlapping manufacturing of the older models and the development of the new boot. By November 1990, the rate of use in the Gulf was so high that an all-out acceleration of the Desert Boot was demanded from Wellco. Working almost round the clock, by December a pair of prototype boots was finished and delivered personally to Gen. Schwarzkopf in (size 11 1/2 Regular) along with commitments to high-rate manufacturing in the coming months.
Initially, General Schwarzkopf was not happy with the prototype Desert Boots he received from Wellco or with the other commercial and prototypes reviewed, and development of the Desert Boot was briefly halted while waiting on a decision on how to proceed. Finally, the Wellco ND914 Desert Boot was chosen from nine contenders and, during December 1990 and early January 1991, procurement gears began to turn with the first 5,000 pairs delivered on January 15, 1991. Eventually all of General Schwarzkopf's concerns were met and the updated version was made by four manufactures. Wellco Enterprises, Altama Delta Corp (Georgia), Bellevile Shoe (Illinois), and McRae Industries (North Carolina). To this day, several of these companies continue to manufacture the original issued "Boots Combat, Mildew & Water resistant, Direct Molded Sole", the leather and nylon "Boots, Hot Weather, Black" Jungle boot, and the original Desert Combat boots in the Panama sole style and other tread styles.
The Persian Gulf War required a large ground force to operate in desert conditions, an environment not encountered by U.S. troops since the North African Campaign in early WWII. With the majority of the boots available at the time during the start of the Gulf War were not well suited for the much harsher conditions of the open deserts of the Middle East. Boots such as the American made black/OD green jungle boot; "Vibram/Tropical" or "Panama" tread, the "Zig-zag" tread of the older all black leather combat boot, and the newer all leather "Boots Combat; Mildew & Water resistant, Direct Molded Sole" (issued in 1984) and a newer Jungle "Boots, Hot Weather, Black" (issued in 1989) sporting all Black leather/Black nylon siding, most of which could not stand up to the environment and most simply lacked comfort after decades of use. As a result, the only boot that came close to a hot weather boot was the black/OD green Jungle boot.
By 1993, the Army had adopted the desert boot in large quantity for operations in Somalia during UNOSOM II. And worn by the 75th Ranger Regiment in Operation Gothic Serpent, made heavy use of the Desert Combat boot.
After the Gulf War, the Desert boot became a common staple among U.S. troops deployed to the Persian Gulf, when worn in conjunction with the DBDU or DCU. For a short period, the colors also changed to another version, from that of tan to light beige to better adapt to the bright sunlight of the desert battlefield. While the black leather combat boot, or all-black Jungle boot was relegated to State side deployment, overseas bases in Europe, and peacekeeping zones like Bosnia and Kosovo when wearing of the woodland BDU was appropriate.
In 2001 and 2003, when American troops deployed to places like Afghanistan or Iraq, and in addition to constant deployment cycles, branches like the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army began experimenting with boots that would require less maintenance. The Corps became the first branch to completely abandon the traditional all-black combat boot, in favor of a simple tan, hot weather or temperate weather rough-out boots manufactured by Belleville Shoe Co instead. The Army later followed suit a few years later with the adoption of the Army Combat Uniform. It has now become a common sight to see American troops wear simply just the tan rough Desert Combat Boot, boots like the Army Combat Boot (ACB) for example. In 2014, with the eventual adoption of the new camouflage patterns Scorpion W2 and W1, the Army again changed its official boot color from that of the color Tan to a slightly darker shade of (Coyote brown 498), while retaining the same style and appearance of the ACB.