Tiger Stripe Camouflage
The term "tiger stripe" refers to the family of camouflage designs developed in Southeast Asia (particularly the Republic of Vietnam) during the 1960s which were derived from the original French tenue du leopard or lizard design of the 1950s. The term also refers to the multitude of derivatives produced by a number of countries well into the present period. French camouflage uniforms were in fact supplied to Colonial Vietnamese personnel during the First Indochina War. The Vietnamese referred to these different designs as Sọc Răn (striped uniform). The term "tiger stripe" (or "tiger pattern") no doubt refers to the rudimentary similarity between the narrow brush strokes of the camouflage design and the naturally occurring hide design of the genus Panthera tigris.
South Vietnamese Tiger Stripe Camouflage Patterns
- The very first tiger pattern was a locally-made copy of the French lizard pattern produced for the Vietnamese Marine Corps (Sọc Răn Thữy Quân Lục-Chiến). The pattern incorporates bold black stripes over lesser brownish-drab stripes & light green trace elements, with an olive green base color. Production of this design ended in 1967, although units continued to wear the pattern until 1970. Illustrated below are the original pattern (far left), followed by two variants designated "sparse" and "dense."
- The tiger patterns seen below emerged in 1962 and continued in production until 1975. Johnson has named this John Wayne pattern, owing to its specific use in the film The Green Berets starring John Wayne himself . The pattern features bold black stripes over a background comprising dark green & dull brown with tan trace elements. The "sparse" version of the pattern is seen to the left, and the "dense" version to the right.
- The tiger pattern illustrated below has been named Tadpole Sparse pattern in Johnson's book. It was introduced circa 1964 and saw production until the end of the war. The pattern features bold black (or dark blue) stripes over a background comprising dark green & brown with pea green trace elements.
- A variation of the above is seen here, which Johnson calls Tadpole Dense pattern. The pattern features bold black stripes over a background comprising bright green & light brown with dull pea green trace elements.
- Another distinctive tiger pattern to emerge towards the middle of the war (circa 1968) has been named Advisor's Type Dense. This pattern saw service primarily with CIDG units, ARVN Rangers & Special Forces, and featured bold black stripes over a background comprising bold black stripes over a background comprising dark green & dull brown with dull tan trace elements. Two versions are illustrated below.
- The Advisor's Type Sparse variant of the above pattern is seen below.
- The distinctive pattern seen here has been named Late War Lightweight Sparse (LLS) in Johnson's book. Introduced in 1969, the design features bold black stripes over a background comprising bright green & light brown with dull pea green trace elements. The design next to it is the "sparse" variant, of which there were several fabric weights produced (light, medium and heavy).
- Another tiger pattern seen here has been designated "zig-zag" pattern. This design was introduced in 1964, and saw service primarily with CIDG & other regional militia forces.
- Introduced mid-war (1969), the "splotched" tiger pattern seen here, featuring splotchy black stripes over a background comprising dull green & dull greenish-grey with pale greyish-white trace elements, apparently saw service only with CIDG units.
Other Tiger Stripe Camouflage Patterns
- Outside of Vietnam, Thailand has been one of the most prolific manufacturers of tiger stripe designs since the Vietnam War. Illustrated below are a handful of these patterns.
- Another major producer of tiger patterns has been Ecuador, well known for its "red" or "orange" tiger designs seen below.
- El Salvador produced its own crude copy of tiger stripe camouflage during its long civil war.
- Members of the Guyana Defence Force wear a bright green tiger pattern.
- The Philippines have also produced quite a number of variants of tiger pattern over the years, some of which are still in use by special units.
- Special operations units of the Russian Ministry of Interior and Armed Forces have worn variations of the tiger stripe design since the early 1990s.
- Dating to the 1960s or early 1970s, the vertical pattern seen below was produced either in South Korea or Japan and is printed on heavy cotton HBT fabric. Surviving samples of this pattern suggest it was privately acquired by US military personnel and may have been worn in theater during the Vietnam War, or on TDY in Asia.
- Richard D. Johnson: Tiger Patterns (Schiffer Military, Atglen PA, 1999) p. 112