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The ERDL pattern, also known as the Leaf pattern, is a camouflage pattern developed by the United States Army at its Engineer Research & Development Laboratories (ERDL) in 1948. It was issued to elite reconnaissance and special operations units until early 1967, during the Vietnam War.
The pattern consists of four colors printed in an interlocking pattern.
The pattern was initially produced in a lime-dominant colorway, consisting of large organic shapes in mid green and brown, black ‘branches’, and light green ‘leaf highlights’. Shortly thereafter a brown-dominant scheme (with the light green replaced by light tan) was manufactured. The two patterns are also unofficially known as "Lowland" and "Highland" ERDL, respectively.
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) adopted the green "Lowland" version as standard issue in South Vietnam from 1968, and later the U.S. Army introduced it on a wide scale in Southeast Asia. A third variation, unofficially known as "Delta" from an alleged use in the Mekong Delta area of South Vietnam, was issued in the early 1970s. It was simply a color variation and not specifically developed for the Delta region. It was common for Marines to wear mixes of ERDL and OG-107 jungle fatigues, which was authorized owing to periodic shortages. Australian and New Zealand SAS were also issued U.S.-issue Tropical combat uniforms in ERDL during their time in Vietnam. By the end of the Vietnam War, American troops wore camouflage combat dress as the norm."Delta" ERDL is the same as "Highland" pattern, but the black "branches" appear thicker and less detailed. The ERDL-pattern combat uniform was identical in cut to the OG-107 jungle fatigues it was issued alongside.
Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military from South Vietnam in 1973, the U.S. Army no longer routinely issued camouflage clothing. However, soldiers in the 1st and 2d Ranger Battalions (1/75 & 2/75 Ranger [Airborne]) received ERDL jungle fatigues of all three varieties as organizational issue, and the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment wore the ERDL-leaf pattern as an experiment in the early 1970s in Baumholder, Germany. During this same period the 82d Airborne Division and 36th Airborne Brigade (Texas National Guard) were issued the ERDL jungle fatigues until replaced by BDUs. 1st Battalion (mechanized), 41st Infantry, wore the ERDL's in 1974-1975. This unit was the tip of the spear for the Second Armored Division with assignments at Ft. Hood, Texas and Hohenfels, Federal Republic of Germany. In 1976, the Marines obtained the leftover Vietnam-era ERDL pattern uniforms which became general issue, replacing the solid OG "sateen" utility/fatigue uniform. As there was never an ERDL pattern Marine-style utility cap, the Marines continued to wear the solid OG utility hat until the adoption of the BDU pattern. It was to be used to equip the United States Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) while on tropical missions. Photographs during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis showed U.S. Embassy Marines wearing the RDF version ERDL uniforms when they were taken prisoner by Iranian revolutionaries.
It was not until 1981 that the Army approved another camouflaged uniform. That year it officially introduced the battle dress uniform (BDU) in M81 Woodland pattern, an enlarged and slightly altered version of ERDL-leaf, to supply all arms of the US Forces. The last batches of the ERDL fatigues saw service during Operation Eagle Claw, Beirut, and the Invasion of Grenada.
Garment types, designs, and use in Southeast Asia (1967–72)
The ERDL pattern was used on official and unofficial U.S. Military garments in Southeast Asia (SEA), in both ground and aviation garment versions, from 1967 to the war's end.
On official ground combat garments, the ERDL pattern was first applied to the Tropical Combat Uniform (third model) around 1967, and was printed onto a lightweight cotton poplin textile material. This poplin uniform was very short-lived, but it did see combat use in SEA by various U.S. Special Operations and some other units. Soon afterwards, the ERDL pattern was again applied to the Tropical Combat Uniform (third model), but was printed onto the standard rip-stop cotton textile material. This ERDL rip-stop cotton Tropical Combat Uniform version thus saw wide use in SEA after 1968, with Special Operations units and also regular units, especially as ground combat operations continued throughout the war up to late 1972.
On official aviation combat garments, the ERDL pattern was used on the USAF Type K-2B Flying Coveralls, in a cotton poplin textile version. The USAF ERDL Coveralls saw some use in SEA from 1967–69, until replaced by the USAF Nomex Coveralls in 1970. The Navy also produced an official ERDL aviation garment in their Flying Coverall 'MIL-C-5390G' pattern, produced in a cotton twill textile. This Navy ERDL Coveralls saw very limited SEA use from 1967–68, as their Nomex Coveralls were already in use.
On unofficial and commercial garments, the ERDL pattern was copied and used by U.S. commercial textile manufacturers in the late 1960s, and applied to various commercial camouflage garments for hunting or unofficial military use. Some commercial ERDL garment examples were made using cotton poplin material, and others were made in the standard rip-stop cotton material. Many commercial ERDL garment examples of the time were made in the pattern mirroring the U.S. Military OG-107 Fatigue Uniform, with a standard tucked-in shirt, and conventional trousers design. These commercial ERDL OG-107 Fatigue-style garments did see some combat use in SEA, such as with U.S. Navy tactical jet aviators in the 1968 timeframe. Some USAF aviators also purchased local/in-country tailor made ERDL garments and Coveralls, for combat and off-duty use.
Additionally, some Tropical Combat Uniforms were made by local/in-country tailors in the ERDL rip-stop material, which were particularly useful when a classified mission required the use of 'sanitized' or 'sterile' apparel, and equipment.
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