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A Brief History Of Camouflage

Camouflage is a major part of the modern military. Almost every country on the planet has their own form of camouflage uniform -- even woodland camo netting has become a standard military tool! And though it may be hard to imagine, camouflage is a relatively new invention for modern wars.


Camouflage was touched upon by Shakespeare in Macbeth, written in the early 1600s, where Malcolm's invading army uses foliage to hide their advance. Soon after, this technique started to spread to other parts of the world, too. The new world, in particular.

The French and Indian War and Beyond

If you think about it though, remembering back to your early American history, one of the reasons the native Americans were such an important ally during the French and Indian War was their ability to camouflage. Those lessons later came in handy during the American revolution where the revolutionary force was too poor to afford fancy uniforms and often wore woodland browns and greens compared to the striking red of British army uniforms.

Learning from Animals

Modern camouflage is often attributed to the modern scientific realization that animals have been camouflaging themselves for eons to increase their chances of survival. A tiger's coloring and stripes confuse their prey and camouflage them against the long grasses they stalk through. A zebra's stripes don't cause the animal to hide in plain sight but instead confuses predators.
In 1890, a British zoologist by the name of Sir Edward Poulton wrote the first book about animals and camouflage. Poulton discussed not just the general color of the animal but also the placement of the color. Animals are often lighter colored on their belly than on their back. This allows them to blend against the light of the sky and the shade of the ground.

The First World War to Today

The timing of Poulton's book means his theories were still widely under debate during the start of the first World War. As the war took hold, military leaders began to realize the importance of camouflage and the revolutionary Khaki uniform became standard. Over the next 100 years, camouflage continued to transform the nature of war. Different types of camouflage were discovered and all had different uses. Snipers began using Ghillie suits to hide their location. These massive camouflage suits resemble a pile of leaves or brush and can weigh up to ten pounds. The army started utilizing camo netting for winter, woodland camo netting, or even desert camouflage netting to hide high-risk targets during modern war campaigns.
Whether it came down to woodland camo netting or painting zebra-like stripes on the side of a naval warship. The military's use of camouflage has transformed the art of war in this modern era.