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Olive Drab and Its Association With the Military

Olive Drab and Its Association With the Military

For thousands of years, military combat was something like a game of strategy. Namely, each side would be more or less equally armed, and the final outcome would be much more about who had either more people or a better battle plan. Because of this, uniforms weren’t ever really intended to mask the wearer, but rather to keep them from getting shot by their own side. In fact, American troops used largely blue and khaki uniforms until World War I, when they switched to a dark green for its camouflaging properties before making the switch to olive drab for WWII. Keep reading to learn more about olive drab and its association with the military.

World War I

With World War I introducing aerial combat into the ever-evolving landscape of war, the United States Army knew they were going to need something to keep their soldiers safe from air gunners. Since it wasn’t practical to cover everyone head-to-toe in bulletproof armor, the idea they came up with was to make them harder to see. Much of Europe, where WWI was fought, is covered in trees and plains. Military scientists thought that the simplest war to hide their troops from enemies was to make them blend in with their surroundings. This is where the original green uniforms come in. And with the uniforms, the military would also deck out their vehicles in these colors. They did prove to be effective, but the darker green color would be phased out by the next World War.

World War II

In the twenty years between the end of WWI and the United States’ involvement in WWII, the military had some time to retool their uniforms for the new age of war. At the beginning of WWII, the Army was using OD3, OD meaning “olive drab.” By 1943, these uniforms had been replaced by OD7, which was slightly darker.


This color took the US military into Korea, but it was once again replaced during the war in 1952. For almost thirty years, this would be the uniform of the United States Army. This time it would be a camouflage pattern featuring olive drab as one of the colors. Even in current times, drab is still used in the palette of the standard camouflage used by the army on uniforms, vehicles, and has even expanded into printing camouflage for weapons.

Even after the Army had decided to remove olive drab from their uniforms for most of the 50s and into the 80s, the color was still iconic enough to bring back into the camo uniforms, where it remains to this day. Olive drab and its association with the military is a long and multi-faceted story. While we know almost nothing about who designed uniforms or who came up with the colors, the uniforms have nonetheless become instantly recognizable. If you’re looking to repaint your classic Willys Jeep or just give your modern Jeep a classic appearance, look no further than Army Jeep Parts’ own OD green paint.