Greece

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Hellenic Republic (Greece)

Greece is officially known as the Hellenic Republic (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία) and was known as Hellas (Ελλάς) in ancient times. Much of classical European tradition can be traced to the Republic and the ancient city states that made up this southern region. Greek culture also heavily influenced the Roman Empire. Long after the decline of her empire, most of Greece fell under the control of the Byzantines from the 8th until the 14th centuries, when control was wrested from them first by the Serbs and then by the Ottomans. The Turks retained control of this region until the Greek War of Independence (1821-1832), a long, drawn-out campaign that was ultimately resolved after the intervention of Russia, the United Kingdom and France. The First Hellenic Republic was officially recognized in 1830.

In the late 19th century, following years of unrest and minor revolts, Greece declared war on the Ottomans in order to liberate the Greek-speaking provinces still under its control. This ill-fated campaign, the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, ended in defeat. Greece fought with the Triple Entente during the First World War and later attempted to wrest control of parts of Asia Minor from what remained of the Turkish empire in the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. This again ended in defeat for the Greeks. This war coincided with a period known as the "Greek genocide," during which several hundred thousand Greek-speaking residents of Asia minor were killed. A subsequent mass exodus of remaining Greeks from Asia minor brought an end to the long-term dispute over who should control those regions.

Although technically a dictatorship at the time of the Second World War, Greece remained on favorable terms with the United Kingdom and resisted attempts by the Axis to control her territory. The Greco-Italian (1940-41) pitted fascist Italian forces against the Hellenic Armed Forces, who defeated and drove them into neighboring Albania. Although its territory was ultimately occupied by the Nazis, the Greek National Resistance movement continued to operate throughout the Mediterranean for the remainder of the conflict, waging unconventional war against the Axis and earning a reputation as one of the most effective resistance movements in the war. Greek forces in exile also fought alongside Allied forces. This campaign, among other things, gave birth to the Sacred Band (Ιερός Λόχος) or "Sacred Squadron," a special forces unit trained in the manner of the British Special Air Service, and the precursor to the modern Greek Army Special Forces.

Following the end of the war, Greece was ravaged by civil war between communist and anti-communist forces for thirty years. A coup d'etat in 1967 established a military junta (the Regime of Colonels) which remained in power until 1974. When the fragile regime collapsed, the Greek-controlled island of Cyprus was invaded by Turkish forces, a move that ultimately established the Turkish sector in the north part of the island (today the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey). Relations with Turkey have remained strained.

Greece is a member of NATO and the European Union. The Hellenic Armed Forces (Eλληνικές Ένοπλες Δυνάμεις) consists of the Hellenic Army (Ελληνικός Στρατός), Hellenic Navy (Πολεμικό Ναυτικό) and Hellenic Air Force (Πολεμική Αεροπορία), each of which maintains a comprehensive range of conventional and unconventional (special operations) forces.

The Hellenic Armed Forces have largely been influenced by the camouflage developments of other nations, namely France, Portugal and the United States. Yet most of the camouflage clothing adopted by the Greek military is stamped with a particularly indigenous style of its own. Both the French tenue leopard pattern developed in the 1950s, and the Portuguese M1963 "vertical lizard" patterns have influenced Greek designs, and in recent years elite units of the Greek Army and Navy have also adopted copies of pixelated camouflage patterns developed by the United States.

Greek Camouflage Patterns

  • The first camouflage pattern produced locally was a copy of the original French tenue leopard or "lizard" design, introduced in the mid-1970s. The design seems to use the original late French lizard pattern drawings and colors, and was printed on a heavy HBT cotton fabric.

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  • Subsequently there was introduced a variation of the original French drawings incorporating a slightly more disruptive element to the stripes in the pattern. Several color variations have been documented, ranging from a very tan to a distinctly olive green background color. All variations utilize the same screens, one unique feature of which is a distinctive pattern of stippling to some of the stripes. Overlapping brushstrokes of dark brown & dark olive green complete the design, and all versions seem to be printed on medium-weight twill fabric. This camouflage pattern - as well as the variations later adopted - is generally the most commonly associated with the Hellenic Armed Forces, being worn at various times by Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. In common parlance it is generally referred to as "Greek lizard" pattern, despite the wide number of variations documented.

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  • A second series of "lizard" camouflage was adopted at some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s. These variations are printed on a lighterweight ripstop cotton fabric, and the design has lost some of the unique stippling features that were evident in the previous design. Nevertheless, a similar variability in coloration can be found depending on when and by what factory the fabric was produced.

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  • Although somewhat speculative, it appears Greek camouflage design was at some point influenced by the Portuguese "vertical lizard" patterns which emerged in the early 1960s. At least two Greek camouflage patterns of similar vertical design originated in the mid or late 1970s. Of these, the more commonly seen is this version worn by the 32nd Marines Regiment (today the 32nd Marines Brigade, or 32η Ταξιαρχία Πεζοναυτών), consisting of dense vertical stripes of blue-black & two shades of olive green on a tan background. This has been nicknamed "Greek seaweed" pattern by a few collectors, due to its obvious similarity to hanging strands of the aquatic plantlife, and remained in use until the 1980s.

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  • Another vertical design, apparently very short-lived, is that seen here. This has been attributed to use by the Greek Navy Special Forces (DYK), and incorporates a very similar color scheme to the standard Hellenic "lizard" pattern, but in a sparser concentration and vertical alignment.

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  • A variation of the standard Greek lizard pattern was introduced in the 1990s specifically for the Hellenic Air Force. This design incorporates dark grey & orange-brown horizontal stripes on a medium blue background. A later variation of the pattern features grey-green and blue stripes on a pale grey background.

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  • Mostly recently introduced is this desert version of the Greek lizard pattern, issued to all personnel of the Hellenic Armed Forces deployed to arid regions. The design features brown & yellow-tan horizontal stripes on a sandy background.

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  • First appearing in 2012, a "pixelated" version of the standard Hellenic lizard pattern has been fielded by members of the Greek Army Special Forces and Navy special operations units. It does not appear to have been officially adopted with any conventional units as of this writing.

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Other Camouflage Patterns worn by Greek Forces

  • Dating to the 1990s, some members of the Greek Navy Special Forces (DYK) have worn American m81 woodland pattern uniforms.

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  • Greek Air Force and Navy special operations personnel have occasionally adopted ex-British DPM pattern uniforms for training and deployment purposes.

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  • More recently, another unit of the Greek Navy Special Forces (DYK) have employed a copy of the USMC MARPAT Temperate camouflage pattern.

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  • Likewise, some Navy Special Forces (DYK) and Air Force Special Operations (31 MEE) have deployed with ex-USA surplus desert camouflage uniforms in the standard US tricolor desert pattern.

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  • Circa 2007 to present, members of the Greek Army Special Forces (ETA) have been observed wearing the US Army's Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP).

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