The Depot

Tiger Stripe Camo: Does It Hold Any Significance?

five US military soldiers in Tiger Stripe Camo during Vietnam era

Tiger stripe camo. If you’ve been around the military for any length of time the mention of the tiger stripe camouflage pattern, also known as tiger stripe camo, conjures images of Navy SEALs or Special Forces personnel doing spooky stuff in the jungles of Vietnam. The tiger stripe camo uniforms have always been associated with special operators and of course Hollywood took notice and clothed many memorable movie and television characters like Capt. Ben Willard and Navy SEAL Thomas Magnum in tiger stripe camo.

The tiger stripe camo pattern was aptly named because the pattern resembles the stripes on a big cat, like a tiger. The pattern was never fully recognized as an official pattern and unlike OCP or the Air Force’s old ACU, the pattern was simply unofficially called tiger stripe camo pattern.

The first tiger stripe camo uniforms were created in the 1950s for the Vietnamese military. Derived from French leopard and lizard camo patterns dating to World War II, the Vietnamese version was better able to distort a soldier’s body shape. Combined with some British uniform components, the tiger stripe camo pattern was the preferred uniform pattern of choice in the bush.   

During the Vietnam War, in the early 1960s, tiger stripe camo was embraced by U.S. military advisors, mostly Special Forces working with South Vietnamese military members. Special operators liked the way the pattern blended into the jungles better than the standard issue olive drab fatigues being issued to regular Army soldiers.

U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines all wore some type of tiger stripe camo uniform during Vietnam depending on their units and on their military occupational specialty. Many of the uniforms were made and purchased in country or made in the region.

US military soldier calling in support during Vietnam era

Although designed in 1948, the Army’s ERDL pattern (Engineer Research and Development Laboratories) did not come onto the battlefield in Vietnam until 1967 and it was limited to elite units in country. The ERDL was the predecessor of the woodland camo pattern BDU, but it was also known as a type of tiger stripe camo.

Once the war in Vietnam ended, so did the use of tiger stripe camo. The woodland camp pattern would be implemented for use in 1981 by the U.S. Army and the tiger stripe camo would become the adopted camo pattern of OPFOR (opposing force) personnel in the U.S. military.