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The Differences in US Military Camo Patterns

A Guide to the Evolution of Military Camouflage


Avoiding detection by the enemy is the reason U.S. military forces use military camouflage for their uniform, gear and even temporary installations. Military camo patterns vary on the diverse uniforms of military branches in the United States.

Although you'll see some colorful variations in camouflage patterns among hunters and other civilians, U.S. military camo rules prescribe specific camo patterns for each branch.

History of Military Camouflage

Military camouflage is said to date back to World War I, although widespread use, first noted in 1942, occurred during World War II.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1942 demanded large numbers of jungle camouflage uniforms for soldiers assigned to the Pacific Theater.

This camo pattern was double-sided, with multiple shades of green and other hues on one side, and browns and tans on the other side.

Water-repellant ponchos and shelter covers were produced with similar double patterns. World War II parachutes were made with the dominant green pattern only.

Dozens of designs and many decades later, U.S. military camouflage patterns had evolved to precise camo patterns for each branch.

Marine Corps Camo Patterns

The digital camouflage pattern used by Marines is a digital pattern that can be recognized by pixels (versus spots of color). Digital pattern camouflage is often referred to as digi-cam.

The MARine PATtern, known as MARPAT for short, represented two separate designs to accommodate different terrain - woodland and desert patterns. Today, only the woodland pattern is worn by Marines.

Fans of the old desert patterns can find it featured on a reversible camo beanie, with USMC seal on one side, from SGT GRIT.

The woodland camouflage pattern is used on the teddy bear "uniform" of our Sgt. Sleeptight Camouflage bear, which can be personalized with a name. Each purchase of this bear wearing a woodland camo uniform and cover helps support children who have lost a parent in the line of duty.

Army Camouflage

The Army Universal Camouflage Pattern, also known as ACUPAT (for Army Combat Uniform Pattern) is a digi-cam pattern.

Navy Uniform Camouflage Patterns

Navy uniforms rely on a variety of multi-color digital print patterns. For shipboard use, blue is the predominant color.

Sailors can be assigned digital woodlands or desert digital patterns, depending on their assignment to varying environments.

However, Navy Seals also rely on traditional (non-digital) woodland patterns.

Air Force Camo Regulations

The Air Force relies on its own digital camo pattern - a combination of green, gray and tan with narrow blue stripes.

Space Force Camo

When the newest branch known as Space Force announced its official camo pattern in 2020, criticism followed at the branch relying on woodland camo used by the Army and Air Force - the focus of many being that there are no woods in outer space. Space Force officials said using existing Army camo patterns was a money-saving decision.

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