Vanishing Wars: The Affect of Camouflage in Nature
Biology 342 Fall 2014
An Introduction to Camouflage
noun: concealment by means of disguise
It seems that lately almost anywhere you go you can find someone either wearing Realtree, the camouflage reminiscent of a forest painting, or woodland, the old camo of the US Army. How these patterns ever became a fashion crazy is difficult to understand but you might be asking yourself where people came up with the idea for camouflage came from, and it might shock you to learn that part of the camouflage trend stems from the Animal Kingdom. Animals have been sporting camouflage since before it became a bizarre Realtree based fashion trend. But why did animals have this not so stylish fashion before it was cool you ask? In order to find out click on the tab that says "Origins" on the left side of the screen, read below to learn more about human camouflage.
In just about every action movie known to modern man, there are characters wearing what most people would call camo, or camouflage. These individuals are dressed in clothing that has different patterns of green, brown, and khaki and can be found among all members of the cast. These are usually used to denote characters that have some sort of military background or are a part of some kind of secret organization. Camouflage is used here to symbolize a certain degree of authority and as a way to help set the mood. It is a way to simplify character development by using references to connect what is on the silver screen to life outside of the movie theater.
In the real world camouflage has been a staple of world militaries since around World War I. This was the time period when people had really been able to develop weapon systems with enough range, accuracy and speed that using the old coloring schemes of bright colors and large visible banners didn't seem quite the right way to do things anymore. Infantry uniforms were initially changed to be mono-colored clothing such as khaki or ranger green. This helped to reduce the visibility of soldiers and remained the standard way to produce military clothing for many countries until after the end of the Vietnam War. However, it wasn't long after camouflage systems were proven to work on military equipment that putting camouflage onto uniforms began to take off.
Some of the earliest usage of camouflage patterns on military uniforms came about was seen during World War II. Nazi Germany had done a great deal of research on camouflage technology in their attempts to further their evil agendas and this led to the adoption of Flecktarn by the Waffen SS. Flecktarn was designed to provide superior concealabitlity while inside a forest in either autumn or summer. Many other countries were also bringing out experimental camouflage patterns during WWII as well. The United States had developed a pattern nicknamed Frog Skin by GIs that was meant to help conceal them in combat. Frog Skin was first tested out by the Marine Raiders in 1942. One unique aspect of Frog Skin was that it had both a Jungle and Beach version printed onto a reversible uniform, meaning if the jacket was turned inside out then it would display a different version of Frog Skin. These early camo precursors led the way for militaries to begin adopting camouflaged uniforms en masse.
What is arguably the most recognizable camouflage in the world today is the United States woodland pattern, (as seen in the photo on the right). This camouflage pattern came into being in the early 80's as the United States Department of Defense began to transition from worrying about combat in Vietnam to fighting the Soviet Union in central Europe. Woodland was a pattern designed to conceal soldiers who were waiting for an advance of USSR forces that would likely be coming at them from a great distance away. The woodland pattern was at the time a good way to help conceal troops who were further away from the enemy. However there were some key drawbacks to woodland. The pattern isn't very effective when a person is standing closer than 100 meters in front of an individual wearing woodland. And it isn't even all that effective in forest environments, (see photo on left). Testing was conducted by NATO in the 90's that determined the best camouflage pattern available at the time was one developed by the Canadian government, called CADPAT. This all lead to woodland being phased out by the United States Marine Corps in the early 21st century and being replaced with a recoloring of CADPAT, which the service labeled as MARPAT. Over time the United States Army and the United States Navy both adopted CADPAT derivatives as their primary service patterns. Most of these recolorings, not including the version adopted by the US Army, have proven to be very effective and have increased the survivability of US service members.