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|Home Shop by CategoryINTERESTING FACTSHistory of Camouflage Battle Uniforms|
History of Camouflage Battle Uniforms
Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) in the United States was the standard military uniform worn into combat, battledress as opposed to 'display' dress uniforms worn at parades and functions. BDUs may be either plain fatigues or in camouflage colors.
History of Camouflage Battle Uniforms
United States National Guard troops during an exercise, wearing standard woodland-colored BDUs. In the United States Army, the Battle Dress Uniform has been replaced with the Army Combat Uniform.
U.S. Air Force security troops training at Fort Huachuca in BDUs.While the Italian Army was the first military organization to issue camouflaged clothing, the Germans were noted for their efforts in this field before the Second World War. After much trial, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (abbrev. OKW) authorized Heeres-Splittermuster 31, more commonly known as 'splinter pattern', for use in shelter-quarters (Zeltbahnen) in the 1930s. In 1940, SS-Verfügungstruppe (abbrev. SS-VT; renamed Waffen-SS designed, tested and issued its own distinctive patterns not long after.
The United States Marine Corps received its first military camouflage pattern in 1942, when the reversible beach/jungle three- and five-color frog skin uniform was issued, based on a 1940 trial design. The U.S. found it to be ineffective and the pattern was withdrawn in 1944 — in part because of anticipated friendly fire incidents before D-Day. Camouflaged helmet covers and shelters were issued in the 1950s in "wine leaf" and "brown cloud" patterns. The US army also trialed a lesser known camoflauge uniform during D-Day and throughout Normandy, similar to the Marine Corp's uniforms, but it was replaced by the M43 uniform before seeing that much use.
Enter the United States military's four-color "ERDL" pattern. During Vietnam, it saw limited use amongst specialist units in the Army, though most were issued the solid olive green OG107 sateens or jungle fatigues, while the Marines adopted the pattern service-wide after 1968.
The ERDL pattern fatigues were identical in cut to the third-pattern OD jungle fatigues, and were available in both a highland pattern (more brown), and a lowland pattern (more green), though the lowland pattern was eventually phased out. Other, unofficial, patterns utilized in Vietnam included black-dyed jungle fatigues, often used by special purpose forces, and various Vietnamese Tigerstripe patterns (themselves being based on French Army airborne and Foreign Legion patterns and a British design utilized in Malaysia), or commercial "duck hunter" patterns.
The actual Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) appeared in September 1981 in a woodland pattern. A four-color development of the ERDL pattern, it used two shades of green, one of brown, and black on a cotton-nylon mix. It was issued in two variants, a lighter temperate-weather design, and a heavier cotton winter-weight variant.
Since 1981, changes have included the elimination of buttoned waist adjustment tabs, the size reduction of the collar, and refinements in stitching and fit.
The U.S. military has run trials on many patterns (some of which have been used by other nations) and issued some environment-specific ones, notably the six-color chocolate-chip camouflage (designed in 1962) and "night-time desert grid," both of which saw use in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Both were discontinued just after the conflict in 1991. Desert uniforms using a three-color desert camouflage were introduced and saw use notably during operations in Somalia in 1993 and Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. This 3-color desert uniform is known as the Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU), or colloquially by the troops that wear them, "coffee stains". Three-color Desert BDUs replaced the six-color pattern throughout the 1990s, although some items of six-color desert camouflage (such as helmet covers) have been seen in use by U.S. troops as recently as the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It is interesting to note that the New Iraqi Army, being trained by U.S. and multinational forces, uses the chocolate-chip camouflage. This is likely because much of their equipment so far is surplus American and allied gear.
The development of more modern camouflage patterns and a wish for the service branches to differentiate themselves has had each branch looking for replacements for the BDU in recent years.
The Marine Corps was the first to choose a replacement. The Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform uses the computer-generated MARPAT pattern and has front pockets that lean inward as well as other enhancements. Approved for wear in June 2001, the change-over was completed October 1, 2004.
An Army program running from 2005 to 2007 has largely replaced the BDU with the new Army Combat Uniform (ACU). This new uniform uses a pixelated pattern like MARPAT, but uses less saturated colors. The neutral colors, foliage green and sand, are designed to be used in desert, woodland, and urban combat situations.
In 2007, the Navy will begin issuing a pixelated pattern uniform in blue and gray. To meet the Navy's cold-weather requirement, the new working uniform will include fleece jacket, pullover sweater, and parka options. In addition, the Navy will also implement woodland and desert digital-pattern uniforms specially for sailors who need to work ashore (e.g. hospital corpsmen or SEALs). These uniforms will replace the seven different working uniforms currently in use, including the relatively new and unpopular utility uniform that itself replaced the time-honored "dungaree" uniform in 2000 .
In 2004 and 2005, the Air Force experimented with, but rejected, a blue tigerstripe uniform. In 2006, an earth-tone color "semi-pixelated tiger pattern" uniform, called the Airman Battle Uniform, was approved. Although this pattern utilizes bright earth tones, it still retains blue as one of the colors. Based upon the old BDU design uniform, this uniform features a few additional pockets for tools. It is in production and will be available in 2007. .
The Coast Guard, on the other hand, has introduced the new Operational Dress Uniform (ODU) uniform in 2004 to replace the winter and summer "Undress Duty" uniform. Resembling law enforcement SWAT fatigues, the new ODU uniforms retains the basic design of the old-style BDU uniforms, but with the lower pockets on the blouse being eliminated and the uniform being worn tucked into the trousers, similar in nature to the old-style OG107 cotton sateen fatigues. The sleeves can be worn "folded up" in a manner similar to the old Army and Air Force BDUs (since disallowed with the new Army ACU) and the trousers "bloused" into the boots (unless boating shoes, especially for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, who patrols for the Coast Guard onboard privately owned watercraft), with the ODU black belt and blackend buckle being worn with the metal tip 2 to 4 inches from the buckle, another Marine Corps regulation. The dark blue Coast Guard unit ballcap is worn with this uniform. The ODU also has all of its allowable insignia sewn on, eliminating the chance of puncture wounds created by the pins if the individual suffers a blow to the chest while wearing a PFD.
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