Republic of Nicaragua
The Republic of Nicaragua (República de Nicaragua) belongs to the larger region of Central America claimed as Spanish territory in the 16th century and designated the Captaincy General of Guatemala. Granted independence from Spain in 1821, the nation later briefly joined the Mexican Empire along with its neighbors (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Chiapas). All but Chiapas chose to leave after a short period to form the United Provinces of Central America. When this union began to dissolve, however, the nations chose to go their seperate ways and in 1840 Nicaragua became an independent republic.
The United States first became involved in Nicaraguan politics in 1909 when it provided support to a group of insurgents rebelling against the government. This involvement ultimately led to a military intervention, with US Marines occupying Nicaraguan soil from 1912 until 1933 and occasionally clashing with the anti-conservative guerilla movement led by General Augusto César Sandino. The Guardia Nacional (National Guard) was trained and supplied by the US military, and Anastasio Somoza García put in charge of the new organization, in the hopes of ensuring their loyalty to US interests.
Somoza engineered his election as president in 1937 after eliminating his political and military opponents, marking the beginning of the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua, which lasted until 1979. When he was assassinated in 1956, his son Luis Somoza Debayle was appointed president by Congress and ruled for a few years before his death by heart attack. Shortly thereafter, his brother Anastasio Somoza Debayle took control of the presidency and ruled the nation with an iron fist much as his father did.
Established in 1961, the socialist Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (Sandinista National Liberation Front) or FSLN experienced marked growth in support after the 1972 earthquake left Managua devastated while Somoza siphoned off relief money for the benefit of himself and his supporters. Responding to the increasing brutality and intimidation by the government and members of the National Guard, the FSLN or Sandinistas led a popular revolt which ended in the party siezing power in July 1979.
Dissatisfied with the Marxist ideals of the Sandinista government and its close relationship with Cuba, in 1981 the United States began a covert program to train and support anti-Sandinista guerillas (nicknamed contrarrevolucionarios). The Contra movement, as it came to be known collectively, consisted of three primary paramilitary groups, the FDN, ARDE, the Misurasata movement of indigenous Indians. The war between the Contras and the Sandinista government would last until 1990, with both sides repeatedly being accused of innumerable human rights abuses.
Camouflage Patterns of Nicaragua
- The Guardia Nacional received significant military assistance from the United States, of which uniforms were only a small part. In the late 1970s, part of this assistance included a substantial supply of M1967 ERDL camouflage jungle uniforms and surplus fabric, which fell out of use with US military personnel once the Vietnam War was over.
- Another pattern worn by the National Guard during the Somoza period was a tiger stripe design, with both horizontal and vertical alignments. Unfortunately the specific origins of this pattern may be lost, although in all likelihood they were copied form Vietnam-era paterns. These tiger stripe designs were primarily worn by elite Comandos de la Escuela de Entrenamiento Básico de la Infantería (EEBI) - Commandos of the Infantry Basic Training School.
- Under the Sandinista government, the military of Nicaragua was completely restructured. The new armed forces were called the Sandinista People's Army (Ejército Popular Sandinista or EPS) and received training from Cuba, the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. Camouflage uniforms were largely of the leaf variety, having various colorations from bright to dark, and appear to have been procured from a variety of sources. The version seen below is a very dark pattern.
- Also common among the EPS was a "brown leaf" pattern having black, dark brown & tan leaf shapes on a reddish-brown base.
- A rare pattern distributed to the Brigadas Especiales contra Actos de Terrorismo (Special Counter-terrorist Brigades) or BECAT and worn by some Nicaraguan advisors to Southern Africa featured medium brown, light brown and sandy-grey puzzle shapes on a tan background.
- Contra groups were supplied with a wide variety of military uniforms and equipment, and many individuals deployed into combat wearing a combination of military and civilian clothing as well as personal affectations. Commercial tiger stripe pattern uniforms were supplied through the US-assistance program in some quantities.
- The m81 woodland camouflage BDU was obtained in greater quantities by Contra units and time wore on. By the end of hostilities it was probably the most widely-distributed camouflage pattern in the country.
- The MISURA were a Contra unit composed almost entire of Miskito, Sumo and Rama Indians from the Atlantic Coast. Special Forces units of the MISURA obtained duck hunter camouflage uniforms (possibly ex-Honduran issue).
- The National Army of Nicaragua (Ejército de Nicaragua) has worn a copy of the m81 woodland camouflage since 1995.
- The current Nicaraguan Navy wear a woodland variant incorporating black, dark blue & blue-grey woodland shapes on a pale blue background. The pattern is essentially the same as that worn by the Salvadoran Air Force, although a slightly darker variation has also been documented.