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An example of common camouflage
Military camouflage became an essential part of modern military tactics after the increase in accuracy and rate of fire of weapons during the 19th century. Until the 20th century armies tended to use bright colors and bold, impressive designs. These were thought to daunt the enemy, foster unit cohesion, allow easier identification of units in the fog of war, and attract recruits. In addition, bright uniforms, such as the red coats formerly used by the British, tended to deter desertion.

Conversely, the intent of camouflage is to disrupt an outline by merging it with the surroundings, making a target harder to spot or hit. Different countries have undergone different evolutionary stages towards the development of military camouflage.


United Kingdom

In England, irregular units of gamekeepers in the 17th century were the first to adopt drab colours (common in the 16th century Irish units), following examples from the continent. A later example of camouflaged units would be the 95th Rifle Regiment and 60th Rifle Regiment, created during the Napoleonic Wars to strengthen the British skirmish line. As they carried more accurate Baker Rifles and engaged at a longer range, they were dressed in a rifle green jacket, in contrast to the Line regiments' scarlet tunics and following the jaeger tradition of rifle troops in Europe. The forces of the East India Company in India were forced by casualties to dye their white summer tunics to neutral tones, initially a tan called khaki (from the Hindi-Urdu word for "dusty"). This was a temporary measure. It became standard in Indian service in the 1880s, but not until the Second Boer War, in 1902, did the entire British Army standardise on dun for Service Dress.

The Lovat Scouts were formed from Scottish gamekeepers for service in the Boer war. They used the Ghillie suit for concealment for sharpshooting.

Other nations

The United States, who had green-jacketed rifle units in the Civil War, was quick to follow the British, going khaki in the same year. Russiamarker followed, partially, in 1908. The Italian Army used grigio-verde ("grey-green") in the Alps from 1906 and across the army from 1909. The Germansmarker adopted feldgrau ("field grey") in 1910.

20th century wars

World War I

File:Brow-armor.jpg|World War I Stahlhelm with camouflage pattern applied in the fieldFile:Popular Science Sep 1918 p335 - WWI camoflage.jpg|WWI soldiers in robes to make them appear as stumps and lichen to overhead aircraftFile:BL 8 inch howitzer Mk 8 CWM 3.jpg|Restored British 8 inch howitzer in typical WWI "dazzle camouflage" patternFile:CamouflagedAustralian9.2inchHowitzerYpres1917.jpeg|Heavy guns were further concealed by camouflage netting, seen here in 1917Camouflage was uncommon in the early days of the First World War, as military traditions concentrating on the ideal fighting spirit considered the idea of hiding from the enemy somewhat shameful. Some units actually entered the war in 1914 still clad in attention-grabbing colours, such as the French who initially wore bright red (garance) trousers and blue Greatcoats as part of the standard uniform. However, the first concessions were quickly made, such as the German 'Pickelhaube' helmets being covered with cloth covers designed to prevent them from glinting in the sun, and the red French kepi hats in turn also being covered with cloths. The Belgian Army started using khaki uniforms in 1915.

The development of camouflage drew on various skills and ideas of the period. An American artist and zoologist, Abbott Thayer published a book Concealing Colour in the Animal Kingdom this book was widely read by military leaders in an attempt to understand how to camouflage military equipment and troops. Theories from Gestalt Psychology also influenced the development of camouflage as it deals with questions such as "How is it that we see a thing?". Contemporary artistic movements such as cubism, vorticism and impressionism also influenced the development of camouflage as they dealt with disrupting outlines, abstraction and colour theory.

The French established a Section de Camouflage (Camouflage Department) in 1915, briefly headed by Eugene Corbin and then by Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola. The experts were for the most part, painters, sculptors and theatre-set artists. Technological constraints meant patterned camouflage uniforms were not mass-produced during World War I. Each was hand-painted, and so they were restricted to snipers, forward artillery observers, and other exposed individuals. More effort was put into concealing equipment and structures. By mid-1915 the French section had four workshops (one in Parismarker and three nearer the front) mainly producing camouflage netting and painted canvas. Netting quickly moved from wire and fabric to raffia, burlap, and cocoa—natural materials were always recommended.

Other countries soon saw the advantage of camouflage and establihed their own units of Camoufleurs who were also artists, designers and architects. For example the United Kingdommarker (Camouflage Section established in late 1916 at Wimereux) and the U.S. (New York Camouflage Society, established in April 1917; official Company A, 40th Engineers, set up in January 1918; and the Women's Reserve Camouflage Corps) and to a lesser extent by Germany (from 1917, see, for example, lozenge camouflage covering Central Powers aircraft, possibly the earliest printed camouflage), Italymarker (Laboratorio di mascheramento, established in 1917), Belgiummarker and Russiamarker. The word camouflage entered the English language in 1917.

Camouflage added to helmets was unofficially popular, but these were not mass-produced until the Germans began in 1916 to issue Stahlhelm (steel helmets) in green, brown, or ochre. Mass-produced patterned, reversible, cloth covers were also issued shortly before the end of the war. Net covering was also examined, fitted with natural vegetation or with coloured fabric strips called scrim.

Specialist troops, notably snipers, could be supplied with items of camouflage, including patterned veils for the head and gun, hand-painted overalls and scrim-covered netting or sacking—an adaptation of the rag camouflage used in Scotlandmarker by anti-poaching wardens, gillies, the first ghillie suits.

Interwar period

The first mass-produced military camouflage was the Italian telo mimetico ("mimetic cloth") pattern of 1929, used to cover a shelter-half (telo tenda).

In 1931 it was copied and adopted by the German Army, who had been begun using camouflaged cloth in 1918 with the indigenous Buntfarbenanstrich.

The Red Army issued "amoeba" disruptive-pattern suits to snipers from 1937 and all-white ZMK top-garments the following year, but it was not until hostilities began that more patterns were used.

World War II

With mass-production of patterned fabrics, they became more common on individual soldiers in World War II. Initially, patterning was uncommon, a sign of elite units, to the extent that captured camouflage uniforms would be recycled by an enemy.


German Military tent camouflage from 1931
The SS-plane-tree pattern (autumn variation)
The Germans experimented before the war and some army units used "splinter" pattern camouflage. Waffen-SS combat units experimented from 1935. The initial, and much other, Waffen-SS camouflage was designed by Prof. Johann Georg Otto Schick.
  • Platanenmuster—"plane-tree pattern" (1937–1942): spring/summer- and autumn/winter variations
  • Rauchtarnmuster—"blurred edge" (1939 - 1944): spring/summer- and autumn/winter variations
  • Palmenmuster—"palm pattern" (ca. 1941–?): summer/autumn variations
  • Beringtes Eichenlaubmuster—"ringed oak leaf" (1942 bis 1945)
  • Eichenlaubmuster—"oak leaf" (1943–1945): spring/summer- and autumn/winter variations
  • Erbsenmuster—"pea pattern" (1944–1945): spring/summer- and autumn/winter variations
  • Leibermuster (1945)
  • and also telo mimetico ("mimetic cloth"), using fabric seized from the Italians in 1943 (the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler often wore this pattern).

The Sumpfmuster ("swamp pattern") is a Wehrmacht camouflage first introduced in 1943. A variation was introduced in 1944.

Apart from "Leibermuster", the official names of the wartime German camouflage patterns are not known: the names above are those used by military historians and collectors.


Finland has used snowsuits as winter camouflage for soldiers since its independence. At first, snow-camouflage suits were simple white overalls and they were easy and cheap to produce. When the Winter War began, Finnish forces were already issued with the appropriate camouflaged while these were not available to Soviet forces.
Finnish machinegunners with winter camouflage


The Red Army adopted brownish khaki-colored uniforms for most troops. Snow-camouflage coveralls were widely issued in the winter. Specialized units often wore one or two-piece hooded camouflage suits, such as long-range scouts, snipers and assault engineers. Initially, one-piece 'amoeba' pattern coveralls were worn over the standard khaki shirt and pants. The most common color schemes were a light ochre with dark brown blotches, and a light green with dark green blotches. Later, two-piece versions appeared in a variety of colors and patterns, some quite intricate. The sniper suits sometimes had ghillie-type attachments.

United Kingdom

Developed in the 1930s, khaki Battle Dress was issued widely from 1939. With the return of war, camouflage sections were revived. The British set up the Camouflage Development and Training Centre in 1940 at Farnham Castlemarker, Surreymarker. Early staff included artists from the Industrial Camouflage Research Unit such as Roland Penrose and Frederick Gore, and the stage magician Jasper Maskelyne (later known for camouflage work in the North African campaign). The British did not use disruptive-pattern uniforms until 1942, with the hand-painted Denison smock for paratroopers, followed in 1943 with a similar style M42 garment.

United States

July 1944, U.S.
Soldier wearing a two-piece herringbone twill (HBT) camouflage used by Marines in the Pacific.
It was abandoned in the European theater because of its similarity to Waffen SS uniform.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began wide-ranging experiments in 1940, but little official notice was taken until 1942 when General Douglas MacArthur demanded 150,000 jungle camouflage uniforms. A 1940 design, "frog-skin" , "leopard spot", or "duck hunter", was issued as a reversible beach/jungle coverall—soon changed to a two-part jacket and trousers. It was first issued to the U.S. Marines fighting on the Solomon Islandsmarker and worn by Marine Raiders and Paramarine units as well as many regular Marine units in the Battle of Tarawamarker. Battlefield experience showed that pattern was unsuitable for moving troops, and production was halted in 1944 with a return to standard single-tone uniforms.

During 1944, units of the 2nd Armored Division in Normandy were issued with "frog skin"/"leopard spot" camouflage patterns, but similarity to the battledress worn by Waffen SS troops led to friendly fire and it was withdrawn [222894].

Full "leopard spot" uniforms continued to be worn by the USMC Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion (whose role was reprised by the USMC Force Recon units from 1954) and by Combat Swimmer Reconnaissance Units (later to evolve into the Navy SEALs).



Lizard pattern is a military camouflage used by the French Army on uniforms beginning in the 1950s up to the late 1980s.A Lizard pattern has two overlapping prints, generally green and brown, printed with gaps so that a third dyed color, such as a lighter green or khaki, makes up a large part of the pattern. In this, it is printed like earlier British patterns used on that country's paratroops' Denison smocks, and descends from those patterns. Lizard patterns have narrower printed areas than the British patterns, and strong horizontal orientation, cutting across the vertical form of a body.Other patterns descend in turn from Lizard patterns, either by imitation such as Cuba's Lizard pattern, or innovation, such as the tigerstripe patterns produced during the Vietnam War.

United Kingdom

Battledress continued until the late 1950s. In the Korean War (1950-53), troops found the combat uniform inadequate: too hot in summer, and not warm enough in winter. Soldiers were at first issued Jungle Green (JG) uniforms for hot weather, and battledress in winter, but this had to be augmented with warm clothing (often from the U.S. Army) as well as caps with ear flaps and fur linings. A solution was pursued, and towards the end of the war a windproof and water-repellent gabardine combat uniform was issued. The trousers followed the battledress design, while the bush jacket had pockets inside and out, closing with zips and buttons, a hip-length skirt with draw-strings to keep out the wind, and a similar arrangement at the waist. The uniform was produced in greyish green (OG), similar to the U.S. Army Olive Drab (OD).

With the end of National Service in 1961, the Army looked for a new uniform: smarter than battledress, but also more comfortable, while still having a military air. Using Korean War clothing as a basis, new items were developed for the 1960-pattern Combat Dress, including the so-called Canadian pattern combat jacket, which was made with a lining above the waist and reinforced elbows. The 1960s was a transition for the Army, reflected in changes in uniform.

Disruptive Pattern

The new, smaller, all-volunteer Army could now afford to equip every soldier with his own camouflaged uniform, and a pattern, based on the brushstroke of the Denison Smock, was designed in 1960, called Disruptive Pattern (DP). The camouflage is more commonly known by the name given to the cloth printed with the pattern: Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM). By the late sixties it was issued in limited quantities on 1960-pattern jackets and trousers, making Britain the first country to issue regular troops with a standard camouflaged combat uniform. Known as ‘66-Pattern, it was superseded by the ’68-Pattern, which had a slightly revised design on a new uniform, featuring minor changes over the preceding 1960/66-Pattern kit, most notably: a full lining for jacket and trousers. DPM became official army-wide issue only in 1972.

Various redesigns since 1984 changed the size of the pattern and the tone of the colours, but DPM is easily recognisable and remains effective. Many countries use it or a variation.

United States

A U.S.
Marine dressed in a "boonie suit" during the Vietnam War.
Many war surplus "leopard spot" uniforms were sold to allied nations reforming their armed forces. Worn by French parachutists in the First Indochina War, the "leopard spot" was marketed to civilian hunters under the name "duck hunter".

The CIA supplied "leopard spot" or “duck hunter” camouflage for Brigade 2506 Cuban exiles in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and South Vietnamese and Montagnard Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) counter-guerrillas until the pattern was replaced by the tigerstripe pattern in the mid-1960s. [Blechman H & Newman A, 2004].

During the Vietnam War, U.S. troops were issued a "boonie suit" in a single dull green for blending into the jungle. From the late 1950s the USMC had been issued with a variation on their World War II reversible helmet cover and shelter half. This had a tan and brown “brown clouds” side (printed with large identification numbers) and a green jungle side with a jagged “wine leaf” (a.k.a. as “Mitchell”) pattern. Rangers and Special Forces units (aka Green Berets) adopted the Vietnamese "Tigerstripe" pattern with its distinctive horizontal slashes of black, green, and tan. Although this style became popular among the troops, it was not an official government issue uniform. It was procured by private purchase from civilian tailors. This is also called the "John Wayne pattern" as the design was featured in Wayne's 1968 film The Green Berets. Also in 1968, the brightly colored division shoulder patches worn since World War II were gradually replaced with a "subdued" green and black version. Name tags and other insignia patches soon followed.

U.S. Woodland camouflage

Another, four colour U.S. pattern, designed in 1948 by the Engineer Research & Development Laboratory (ERDL) based at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, was later revisited for use in the Vietnam War. Named ERDL Leaf pattern, it was first issued to elite reconnaissance and special operations units in early 1967. It was initially produced in a lime dominant colourway, consisting of large organic shapes in mid green and brown, black ‘branches’, and light green ‘leaf highlights’. Shortly thereafter a brown dominant scheme (with the light green replaced by light tan) was manufactured. The two patterns are also known as ‘Lowland’ and ‘Highland’ ERDL respectively. The brown ‘Highland’ version was adopted as standard issue by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) from 1968, and later introduced on a wide scale in Southeast Asia by the U.S. Army, so that by the end of the Vietnam War American troops wearing camouflage combat dress had become the norm. Following the withdrawal of the U.S. Army from the Southeast Asian Theatre in 1973, camouflage clothing was no longer routinely issued in that arm though the 1st Battalion 13th Infantry Regiment in Baumholder, Germany wore the Lowland ERDL in the early 1970s as an experiment. The USMC continued wearing a transitional ‘Delta’ ERDL pattern that was issued in the mid-1970s. It was not until 1981 that the U.S. Quartermaster Dept. approved another camouflaged uniform with the fielding, from September (not officially introduced until 1 October, however), of the battle dress uniform (BDU) in M81 Woodland pattern[222895]. Although based on the Vietnam era brown dominant ERDL Leaf camouflage, but enlarged (by 60%)[222896], and with the thicker black ‘shadows’ of the ‘Delta’ variant, the pattern was designed primarily for use in Europe. For the next two decades, this was the standard issue BDU for all arms of the U.S. military. Solid olive drab uniforms were rapidly phased out, such that by the time of Operation Urgent Fury in 1983, all participating units were clothed in M81 BDUs.

U.S. Desert camouflage

The "chocolate-chip" desert camouflage pattern.
The formation of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) in 1979, with its remit to operate in the Middle East, and protect U.S. interests in the Persian Gulfmarker region, saw the issue of the first U.S. desert camouflage clothing, a six colour Desert Battle Dress Uniform (DBDU), that had been originally designed in 1962. With a base pattern of light tan overlaid with broad swathes of pale olive green and wide two-tone bands of brown, the clusters of black-on-white spots scattered over it resulted in it being nicknamed the "chocolate chip" pattern. It was worn by U.S. troops taking part in the biennial Bright Star exercises in Egyptmarker during the 1980s, and by FORSCOM peacekeepers in the Egyptian Sinaimarker. Feedback from these users indicated that the design contrasted too much with the terrain. Anecdotal evidence suggested that the dark areas of the pattern warmed up more than the paler parts under desert sunlight, and retained the heat longer. The six colours were also more expensive to manufacture than three or four colours, and so the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center began the search for a substitute. Samples of sand and earth from the Middle East were measured for optical and infrared reflectance, and seven trial patterns were created using these statistics. The patterns were evaluated in fourteen different desert locations and narrowed down to one favourite. The resulting "Desert Camouflage Pattern: Combat" was standardized in 1990, but was not ready before troops deployed to Saudi Arabiamarker during the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Consequently U.S. forces wore the six colour DBDUs during the campaign. An initial batch of desert BDUs in the new scheme was enroute to the Middle East when hostilities ceased. The pattern, officially issued with the new Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) in 1993, consisted of a subtle blend of large pastel green and light tan shapes, with sparsely placed, narrow, reddish brown patches, leading the design to be unofficially nicknamed the “Coffee Stain” pattern. This remained in service for over a decade, most notably during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Currently this pattern is being replaced by various digital pixel patterns.

Digital camouflage

Digital camouflage (or "digicam") is a pattern devised by utilizing small micropatterns, as opposed to larger macropatterns for effective disruption. From 1978 to the early 1980s, the American 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment stationed in Europe used a digital camouflage pattern (dual-tex) on its vehicles. During 1979 and 1980, the Australian Army experimented with digital camouflage (dual-tex) on helicopters.

More recently, battledress in digital camouflage patterns has been adopted by the Canadian Forces (CADPAT), the United States Marine Corps (MARPAT), the military of Jordan (KA2 series), United States Army (Universal Camouflage Pattern), the United States Air Force (Airman Battle Uniform), the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, the Philippine Marine Corps, the Philippine Army, the National Army of Colombia (Patriota), the Ecuadorian Army, the Peruvian Army ( PACIPAT), the Guatemalan Army Special Operations Brigade, the Italian Army (Vegetato), Estonian Defence Forces (ESTDCU), the Iraqi National Police, the Croatian Army, the Military of Latvia (NBS2006), the Finnish Defence Forces (M05), China Armed Police Force (Type 05) and Chinese People's Liberation Army (Type 07), Serbian (DMDU-03),
Kuwaiti Army (KAPAT), Russian Federationmarker Army, Royal Thai Armed Forces, the Indonesian Army Batalyon Raiders, Mexican Armed Forces (SEDENA-08marker Types A, B C, and D), the Turkish Armed Forces (Apnea), the Lebanese Airborne Regiment and the Lebanese Navy SEALs Regiment, Singapore Armed Forces (woodland and arid), and the Yemeni Internal Security Forces.The South Korean Army possibly around August 2006, already adopted a digital camouflage pattern that is somewhat similar to the USMC's MARPAT—it is currently being supplied to Special Warfare Command units. Meanwhile, they are going to introduce another digital camo scheme for regular units very soon. The German, Danish, and Japanese military today use camouflage that involves dots (flecktarn) instead of pixelated patterns. Presently, the digital camouflage for personal clothing is being actively evaluated by some other countries, e.g. Austriamarker, Polandmarker, and Spainmarker.

Vehicle camouflage

The purpose of vehicle and equipment camouflage differs from personal camouflage in that the primary threat is aerial reconnaissance. The goal is to disrupt the characteristic shape of the vehicle, reduce shine, and make the vehicle difficult to identify even if it is spotted.

Methods to accomplish this include paint, nets, ghillie-type synthetic attachments, and natural materials. Paint is the least effective measure, but forms a basis for other techniques. Military vehicles often become so dirty that pattern-painted camouflage is not visible. Patterns are designed to make it more difficult to interpret shadows and shapes; matte colors are used to reduce shine, but a wet vehicle can still be very shiny, especially when viewed from above. Nets can be highly effective at defeating visual observation, but are useful mostly for stationary vehicles. They also take a lot of time to set up and take down. Nets are occasionally fixed in place around gun tubes or turrets, and if adequately attached can remain in place while the tank is moving. Nets are far less effective in defeating radar and thermal sensors. Synthetic attachments, analogous to ghillie-suit attachments, are sometimes used to break up shape. These are prone to loss as AFVs move across terrain, but can be effective. Natural materials, such as tree branches, bundles of leaves, piles of hay or small bits of urban wreckage can be highly effective when the vehicle is in a defensive position.

The British Army adopted a disruptive scheme for their vehicles operating in the stony desert of the North African Campaign and also Greece, retrospectively known as the "Caunter scheme". This used up to six colours applied with straight lines.

Ship camouflage

Until the 20th century, naval weapons had a very short range, so camouflage was unimportant for ships or the men on board them. Paint schemes were selected on the basis of ease of maintenance or aesthetics, typically buff upperworks (with polished brass fittings) and white or black hulls. At the turn of the century the increasing range of naval engagements, as demonstrated by the Battle of Tsushimamarker, prompted the introduction of the first camouflage, in the form of some solid shade of gray overall, in the hope that ships would fade into the mist.

First World War

These schemes were used on merchant ships and smaller warships. Battlefleets continued to be painted in various shades of gray.
  • Admiralty dazzle camouflage was intended as an anti-submarine measure for merchant ships sailing independently.
  • Mackay Low Visibility System was violet with red or green patches or speckles.
  • Mackay Disruptive/Low Visibility System had solid blue on the lower hull, with green, orange and white in bold, undulating shapes above.
  • Toch Disruptive/Low Visibility System had parallel, curving diagonal stripes of gray, green, purple, red, brown and white. Used for troop transports.
  • Warner Disruptive Dazzle System had large, curving shapes in red, blue and green, mixed in with white or gray shapes. Used for troop transports
  • USN Dazzle Painting was similar to the Admiralty system, but used medium size polygons and more muted colors.

Second World War


In 1935, the United States Navy Naval Research Laboratory began studies and tests on low visibility camouflage for ships. Research continued through World War II to (1) reduce visibility by painting vertical surfaces to harmonize with the horizon and horizontal surfaces to blend with the sea, or (2) confuse identity and course by painting obtrusive patterns on vertical surfaces. Some camouflage methods served both purposes:
  • Measure 1 - Dark Gray System was dark gray overall except for white structures above bridge level.
  • Measure 2 - Graded System was dark gray on the hull and light gray on the superstructure and turrets.
  • Measure 3 - Light Gray System was light gray overall. Replaced by Measure 23.
  • Measure 4 - Black System for Destroyers was black overall. This was intended for destroyer night operations but it was found that even on very dark nights, black ships were more noticeable than gray ones.
  • Measure 5 - Painted Bow Wave was a false bow wave to give the impression of high speed at all times.
  • Measure 6 - Light Cruiser to Simulate Heavy Cruiser was used to make a Brooklyn or St. Louis class cruiser resemble a New Orleans class cruiser.
  • Measure 7 - Old Cruiser to Simulate Old Destroyer was used to make an Omaha class cruiser resemble a Clemson class destroyer.
  • Measure 8 - Modern Cruiser to Simulate Modern Destroyer was used to make a Brooklyn or St. Louis class cruiser resemble a two-funnel destroyer. This measure was discontinued after causing station-keeping confusion among ships operating in formation.
  • Measure 9 - Black System for Submarines was black overall for submarines and is still in use.
  • Measure 10 - Gray System for Submarines was ocean gray overall for submarines that operated beyond the range of enemy aircraft.
  • Measure 11 - Sea Blue System was sea blue overall, including the decks. It was used in the Pacific and Mediterranean for concealment from aircraft. During the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midwaymarker, ships wearing Measure 11 came under attack less often than ships wearing Measure 12. On the advice of United States aviators, the Sea Blue color was darkened to Navy Blue and designated Measure 21.
  • Measure 12 - Graded System with Splotches was sea blue low on the hull, ocean gray at about the main deck level, and haze gray above that. With experience, sea blue was substituted for the dark gray, and the Sea Blue was darkened to Navy Blue. During low visibility conditions, the Navy Blue was a near match to the water, and the splotchy gray blended well with the horizon. This measure was used widely in the Atlantic and Pacific until early 1943. This measure was found less effective against aerial observation during the early carrier aircraft battles of Coral Sea and Midway, and Measure 11 and its replacement Measure 21 became preferred in the Pacific. Measure 12 could have regular or irregular boundaries between the different colors. Replacement Measure 22 used a flat horizontal boundary.
  • Measure 13 - Haze Gray System was haze gray overall. This was the least used solid color measure during World War II. This was found to provide reasonable protection in the widest range of conditions, and became a standard paint scheme after the war under assumed conditions of RADAR observation.
  • Measure 14 - Ocean Gray System was ocean gray overall. This was used on supply ships, and became a standard paint scheme after the war.
  • Measure 15 was an irregular patchwork of greens, whites, and other colors. It was used in the summer and autumn of 1942, and was replaced by Measure 33.
  • Measure 16 - Thayer System was white with large polygonal patches of light sea blue (called Thayer Blue.) This measure was most useful in Arctic latitudes with extended twilight and frequent fog and cloud cover. Purity of color was important for full realization of the Purkinje effect where some colors appear lighter and some appear darker at low levels of illumination. Darkening the pattern increased course deception, but increased visibility at night and in haze. This measure was used extensively through 1943 and early 1944 in North Atlantic and Aleutian waters. Replaced by Measure 33.
  • Measure 17 was a dazzle pattern of blues, grays and whites. Not widely used.
  • Measure 21 - Navy Blue System was navy blue overall, including the decks. This measure was used extensively in the western and southern Pacific from mid-1942 through 1945 to minimize detection and identification by enemy aircraft. Measure 21 also proved effective under artificial illumination during night actions. Upper surfaces of aircraft operating from carrier decks were painted a similar shade of blue. Sailors were ordered to wear dungarees rather than white uniforms when topside. This largely replaced measure 11.
  • Measure 22 - Graded System was navy blue low on the hull below the first continuous deck, with haze gray above that. This bold contrast on a horizontal line near the horizon reduced visibility to surface observers and created the illusion of greater range. This measure largely replaced Measure 12 where aerial observation was unlikely. This system was considered most effective for gunnery engagements with surface units or shore batteries. This measure was used in the Atlantic and European coastal waters from the end of 1942 through the end of World War II. It was worn by shore bombardment ships in the Pacific from late 1944 after the destruction of Japanese naval aviation capability at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
  • Measure 23 - Light Gray System was light gray overall, used by anti-submarine vessels in the tropics or subtropics. Replaced by Measure 33.
  • Measure 31 - Dark Pattern System was an army-style pattern of greens, browns and grays used by smaller ships like landing craft and PT boats that operated close to shore.
  • Measure 32 - Medium Pattern System was a mixture of obtrusive polygons in navy blue or black, against background polygons of lighter grays and greens. This measure emphasized mistaken identity and course deception to complicate submarine attack. Patterns were carried across the bow, and light gray was used aft to blend with the wake. This measure was based on the World War I dazzle system modified by observations in the western Pacific. Measure 32 was applied to most surface ships in Pacific during 1944 and 1945. Different patterns were devised for classes with large numbers of ships so the pattern would not identify the class of ship.
  • Measure 33 - Light Pattern System was a mixture of polygons in various grays and lighter greens. This was very suitable for northern waters and replaced Measures 15, 16 and 23.
Except in measures 11 and 21, decks were a blue gray shade.


A Royal Norwegian Navy craft, in a splinter camouflage pattern
Between the wars, British naval ships were generally dark gray in northern waters, and light gray in the Mediterranean or tropical waters. In the first year of the war British captains largely painted their ships as they saw fit. As the war continued, the Admiralty introduced various standardized camouflage schemes.
  • Western Approaches Scheme was white with large polygonal patches of light sea blue or light sea green. This was very suitable for the North Atlantic.
  • Mountbatten pink was invented by Captain Louis Mountbatten. Its effectiveness was much disputed.
  • Admiralty Disruptive Patterns were a wide range of patterns in blues, grays and greens with mottled boundaries between the various color patches.
  • Admiralty Standard Schemes were light gray overall, except for a sea blue patch low on the hull, either between the main gun turrets or the entire length of the hull. They were much like the American measure 22.
  • Admiralty Alternative Scheme was a dark gray hull with light gray turrets and superstructure, like the American measure 2. It was popular in the Mediterranean.
  • Home Fleet Destroyer Scheme was like the Western Approaches Scheme but used darker shades of blue and gray on the rear third of the ship, to assist in station-keeping.
British decks were usually dark gray.

An experimental coating able to change colour was tested on Royal Navy submarines.On suggestion by Professor Leslie Cromby, lead oxide was applied to the hull, enabling it to become black on application of a solution of sulphite and sea water for night operation.For day sailing, a solution of hydrogen peroxide and sea water would be applied, producing sulfate and returning the hull to a white colour desirable for diurnal conditions.

Other navies

The Royal Canadian Navy experimented with variable diffused illumination of one side of ships to match horizon light levels and minimize silhouettes during prolonged arctic twilight or aurora borealis.

Kriegsmarine ships before the war were either light gray overall or had dark gray hulls. Many retained this scheme during the war. Others had dazzle camouflage, usually in combinations of pale gray, dark gray and sea blue. Smaller ships were painted a very pale gray to blend in with the mists of northern European waters. Larger ships often had their bows and sterns painted a different shade from the rest of the hull. German decks were a very dark gray.

Mussolini's navy retained its pre-war scheme of light gray overall for its smaller ships, but the larger units mostly had dazzle camouflage of dark gray, light sea blue, light sea green and light gray. Italian foredecks had a high-visibility pattern of red and white diagonal stripes so that their own aircraft would not attack them.

Japanese ships largely retained their pre-war dark gray paint scheme, although some major units like aircraft carriers changed to a dark sea green. Some aircraft carriers had their flight decks painted in a dazzle camouflage, but this seems to have been ineffective.

Soviet ships were dark gray overall, sometimes with medium gray upperworks.

The French Navy used light gray before the war and under the Vichy regime. Free French ships that operated with the British adopted one of the British schemes. Those that were refitted in American shipyards were usually repainted in the American measure 22.

After the Second World War, the universal adoption of radar made camouflage generally less effective. However, camouflage might have helped United States warships avoid hits from Vietnamese shore batteries using optical rangefinders.

Aircraft camouflage

The design of camouflage for aircraft is complicated by the fact that the appearance of the aircraft's background varies widely depending on the location of the observer (above or below) and the nature of the background. Many aircraft camouflage schemes of the past used countershading, where a light color was used underneath and darker colors above.

Other camouflage schemes acknowledge that the aircraft will be twisting and turning while in combat, and the camouflage pattern is applied to the entire aircraft. Neutral and dull colors are preferred, and two or three shades selected, depending on the size of the aircraft. Though air-to-air combat is often initialised outside of visual range, at medium distances camouflage can make an enemy pilot hesitate until certain of the attitude, distance and maneuver of the camouflaged aircraft.

The higher speeds of modern aircraft, and the reliance on radar and missiles in air combat have reduced the value of visual camouflage, while increasing the value of electronic "stealth" measures. Modern paint is designed to absorb electromagnetic radiation used by radar, reducing the signature of the aircraft, and to limit the emission of infrared light used by heat seeking missiles to detect their target. Further advances in aircraft camouflage are being investigated in the field of active camouflage.

Military camouflage in fashion and art

The transfer of camouflage patterns from battle to exclusively civilian uses is not a recent phenomenon. The first military camouflage was used by the French on their trucks and automobiles (the only military vehicles of the day) and within three weeks of the German invasion of France in 1914, the couturiers of Paris, having observed them, had turned those abstract patterns into women's clothing. It symbolized modernity to them, the first industrial war. Ironically, this means that it was used for civilian clothing long before it was used for uniforms. Dazzle camouflage also inspired a trend of dazzlesque patterns used on clothing in England, in 1919 Chelsea Arts Club held a "Dazzle Ball", those attending wore disruptively patterned black and white clothing. The earliest camouflage artists were members of the Post- Impressionist and Fauve schools of France. The camouflage experts were, for the most part, painters like Forain, Camoin, Villon and Marcoussis, sculptors like Boucher and Despiau, and theatre set artists [222897]. Camouflage schemes of the First World War and Interwar periods that employed disruptive patterns were often described as "cubist" by commentators, and Picasso is even said to have claimed "We invented that (camouflage)". Despite this, there is little evidence that the cubists themselves were employed as camoufleurs.

While many hundreds of artists were involved in the development of camouflage during and since World War I, the disparate sympathies of the two cultures restrained the use of "militaristic" forms in works other than those of war artists. Since the 1960s, however, artists have seized upon camouflage as a means to twist and subvert it away from its military origins and symbolism. The concept of camouflage - to conceal and distort shapes - is also a popular artistic tool.

Artists using camouflage include:

Camouflage garments had a similarly hesitant adoption, although military styling has a long history of civilian use. Military patterns initially found civilian markets amongst hunters and, through military surplus, in those seeking clothing that was tough, well-made, and cheap in the United States and other countries. The steady output from countries using a national service model was influential, and several countries (initially the 'winning' sides of World War II, where there was less negative connection with military-wear) became significant markets. In the United States in the 1960s, military clothing became increasingly common (mostly olive drab rather than patterned camouflage); interestingly, it was often found worn by anti-war protestors, initially within groups such as Vietnam Veterans Against the War but then increasingly widely as a symbol of political protest. In the years after the Vietnam War, camouflage military clothing became very popular among many people, replacing olive-drab military clothing.

The "rebellious" links of civilian camouflage diminished through the 1970s and beyond as more mainstream groups adopted a style seen as youthful and anti-establishment. Fashion has since become increasingly eager to adopt camouflage - attracted by the striking designs, the "patterned disorder" of camouflage, its symbolism (to be celebrated or subverted [vide its use by Hello Kitty]), and its versatility. Early designers include Jean-Charles de Castelbajac (1975-), Roland Chakal (1970), Stephen Sprouse (using Warhol prints, 1987-1988), and Franco Moschino (1986), but it was not until the 1990s that camouflage became a significant and widespread facet of dress from streetwear to high-fashion labels - especially the use of "faux-camouflage". Producers using camouflage in the 1990s and beyond include: John Galliano for Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Comme des Garçons, Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, Issey Miyake, Armani, Yves Saint-Laurent, and others.

Certain companies have become very closely associated with camouflage patterns (such as Maharishi and mhi, Zoo York, Addict, 6876, A Bathing Ape, Stone Island, and Girbaud), using and overprinting genuine military surplus fabric, and have also extended the patterns by creating their own designs or integrating camouflage patterns with other symbols. The use of original patterns in new (often bright) colors is also common.

Some countries such as Barbadosmarker, Arubamarker, and other Caribbeanmarker nations have strict laws that prohibit camouflage clothing from being worn by non-military personnel, including tourists and children. These laws may be motivated by the fear that a tourist might be mistaken by government troops for insurgents, or vice versa, and fired upon.


Further reading

  • Naval camouflage, 1914-1945 : a complete visual reference / David Williams (2001) ISBN 1557504962

External links

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