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What is Olive Drab?

A frequently asked question is, "What does Olive Drab mean? Why did you name the web site Olive-Drab.com?" This page has the answer.

Small arms ammunition case, Olive Drab color
Small arms ammunition case, Olive Drab color.

Today in WW II: 21 Aug 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt informs the US Congress on the content of the Atlantic Charter.  More 
21 Aug 1943 Southeast Asia Command (SEAC) set up as Supreme Allied command for Asia, with British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander.
21 Aug 1944 US Army Transportation Corps creates the huge Red Ball Express trucking operation, moving supplies to the ETO front around the clock.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

Olive Drab is the Basic U.S. Army Color

Grease, Rifle in Olive Drab color can

For someone of World War II vintage, it is hard to believe that anyone does not know what "Olive Drab" or "OD" means. But I have been asked often enough to understand that not everyone remembers the Army when the watchword was "If it moves, shoot it. If not, paint it OD."

Olive Drab is a color, often called just OD. It is the basic U.S. Army dark olive green that was also used by the other U.S. armed services and the military of many countries around the world. The background of the heading on every Olive-Drab.com page is as close to OD as you can get on a computer screen. It does not look the same on all computer screens, but it is supposed to be a deep, dark green, similar to certain green olives. The can of rifle grease in the left photo is typical of U.S. military use of the color.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees on the definition, so you will find many more or less similar greens all called Olive Drab. Even within the U.S. military there has been "drift" in the definition of the color, as it evolved through World War II and then following changes in the FS-595 paint standard that now defines the color.

Olive Drab has a Past

M-211 6x6 truck owned by Bobby Pendleton. Photo: Courtesy of Sean Bathrick.
M-211 6x6 truck owned by Bobby Pendleton.
Photo: Courtesy of Sean Bathrick.

It is difficult to document exactly what the Olive Drab color was in the past. When reproduced in a color photograph, what you see may not be the same as what was seen with the naked eye at the time. The photographic process alters colors. If you have a military item from the past, the paint or dye may have faded over the years or changed in unpredictable ways.

All U.S. vehicles, field clothing, web gear, ammo cans and so on were in the OD color for many years. When used as a vehicle paint during World War II, it was flat, lustreless. After WW II and prior to the adoption of the modern camouflage scheme, U.S. Army vehicles were like the truck on the left, a dark shade of OD semi-gloss with white lettering and stars. Today, vehicle camouflage patterns still include OD as one of the colors and many equipment items retain the color as well. (see the Olive-Drab.com Olive Drab Paint for Military Vehicles page.)

When fabrics were dyed Olive Drab for uniforms or equipment, it was one of several colors of that name (see the Olive-Drab.com WW II Web Gear page).

Because the color Olive Drab was so universally associated with the military, the Olive-Drab.com website has adopted the name.

Factory photo of fresh Olive Drab paint job on a gasoline trailer being prepared for delivery to the Army Air Corps at Heil and Co., Milwaukee, WI, February 1943
Factory photo of fresh Olive Drab paint job on a gasoline trailer being prepared for delivery to the Army Air Corps at Heil and Co., Milwaukee, WI, February 1943.

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