RIAC On The M1942 Reversible Spot Pattern


Development of Frog Skin Camo

Before American entry into World War II, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) undoubtedly saw the writing on the wall. As the decades after World War I came to a close, a new threat dawned with the rise of Nazi Germany, growing Japanese adventurism, and massive economic upheaval globally. Increased tensions worldwide hurried the development of new military technologies and the USACE took this opportunity to begin research and development on a camouflage pattern to be used by U.S. troops in the event of military action.

By the end of the 1930’s, our then nemesis—Germany—had been fielding camouflage patterns for the better part of the decade, to great battlefield effect. As mentioned in the article on the Blurred Edge pattern, Germany enlisted the knowledge of not just scientists, but experts on color and shading as well. Their tapping of art expert Johann Georg Otto Schick led to the development of several patterns that received accolades when used.

Not to be outdone, the United States requested assistance of horticulturist Norvell Gillespie in designing America’s new pattern. Gillespie used his aesthetic expertise (honed during his time spent as the gardening editor for “Better Homes and Gardens”) to develop a pattern that used colors and shades found in the natural world. The result was a pattern resembling the skin of a frog, hence its nickname.

The similarities between the first American pattern and Germany’s camouflages does not end there; when implemented, Frog Skin was printed on reversible fabric displaying two different color pallets on either side. One side displayed a 5-color pattern consisting of green and brown shades, the other displaying a 3-color pattern consisting of shade of brown. As with German camouflage, this proved useful to the brass in charge of supply lines: troops only needed one Herringbone Twill (HBT) uniform for any potential conditions.

Deployment of Frog Skin Camo

December 7th, 1941, made front page news in America when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The time had come for the U.S. to enter the fray of World War II. In 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of South Pacific Forces, put an order to the government for 150,000 camouflage uniforms for use in the dense jungles of the South Pacific Theater. Frog Skin, which had existed for 2 years at this point, would be worn by Marine Raiders during the Solomon Islands campaign in 1942.

Initial rollout saw Frog Skin printed on one piece jumpsuits which were constructed without a flap on the rear, much to the dismay of troops suffering from a variety of jungle-born gastrointestinal maladies. This, mixed with other negative reviews, led to the release of a standard two piece fatigue printed in Frog Skin. Troops liked the reversible nature of the Frog Skin garments, considering that fighting could change from sand (like that of Iwo Jima) and thick jungle (like that at Guadalcanal) quickly.

While Frog Skin became synonymous with Marine Corps Raider activities in the Pacific, it also saw use in Europe later on, albeit to much less fanfare. Some infantry and armored infantry units were equipped with Frog Skin uniforms during the invasion of Normandy.

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