Friday, August 26, 2011

The History of Camouflage Part I

Modern Day A.C.U Digital Camouflage
Part I...The Birth of Camouflage  

It's this blogs namesake, a fashion statement but most important, Camouflage is one of the most essential components of modern military combat. So what's the story behind this stealthy combat art form?

Well, to my surprise the history of camouflage in combat goes way back to the 17th century and I am sure it probably goes back even further to the early stages of man who would use his surroundings to hide and hunt for prey. But for historical purposes, the gamekeepers from the Untied Kingdom seem to be one of the first to adopted drab colors to blend(camouflage) into their environment during a time of war. 
Depiction of Rifleman of the 95th,
in 1815 from wikipedi
Later examples of camouflage in combat would be seen in the Napoleonic wars, in which Rifleman from the 95th, adopted green jackets in contrast to the Line's regiment of scarlet tunics. Just looking at the picture to the left, I can say we have come a long way in combat uniforms. I wonder if that thing on top of the helmet was a way to look like a tree branch?
World War I Helmet w/ Camo Pattern applied

Would you believe that modern day khaki colored uniforms date back to British troops in 1857 in India? British soldiers starting dying their white drill uniforms with mud, colored inks and even morning breakfast beverages like coffee and tea, in order to blend into the brown terrain of India. These dye methods resulted in colors that ranged from grey to a light brown and by 1885 these brown and tan colors otherwise known as khaki became standard uniform for the British Indian Army troops stationed in India and even Africa. This "khaki" trend was then soon adopted by the United States during the civil war when rifle units opted out of their green jackets and also countries like Germany, Portugal and Italy started to use colored uniforms to match their surroundings. 

A page from inside Abbot's Book - talk about
But it's not till the First World War that we see influences of modern day camo as we know it and we have Abbott Thayer to thank for this. Abbot was a artist and zoologist and he published a book in 1909, titled Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom: A Exposition of the Laws of Disguise Through Color and Pattern. His book became essential reading for all military leaders, who wanted to find new ways to conceal or "camouflage' not only their troops but military equipment as well. If you are up for a good long read the book is actually available for your review here, it's about 500 pages so enjoy! From this book and various other artistic movements like Cubism and Impressionism modern day camouflage was born. 

In Camobloge's next post on the history of Camouflage, I will delve into Camouflage during the Twentieth Century and how it evolved through the different wars. Who knew there was so much history behind the subject of Camouflage. 

Kristy Dineen @Rothco

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