The Original Camouflage: Khaki Part VIII – The North Vietnamese Army


While khaki was typically the color uniform of colonial powers, it was also used – alongside with the sun helmet – by the forces of North Vietnam during the conflict with the United States. In 1958 the PAVN (People’s Army of Vietnam) – also known as the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) began a modernization following its war that saw Indo-China “liberated” from French rule. This modernization included efforts to standardize its uniform.

While dark green is typically the color associated with PAVN forces, in the 1965-73 conflict with the United States, khaki and tan uniforms also became prevalent, especially among officers.

The standard PAVN uniform thus consisted of a dark green cotton shirt and trousers; but the same uniform was also manufactured in tan-khaki cloth. This was originally an “export” model issued to Pathet Lao and Khmer Rouge forces; as well to PAVN forces operating alongside those forces in their respective countries.

However, khaki/tan was also used by officers and POW camp guards – as well as by political officers and other branches of the PAVN.


A PAVN officer’s four button pocket shirt with shoulder boards for a junior officer (Author’s collection)


A current issue short sleeve khaki shirt jacket. Today officer’s continue to wear khaki while NCOs and other ranks wear the dark green full sleeve tunics.

Khaki/tan sun helmets were manufactured as well and this appears to have been the “early” pattern of the helmets – before the widespread adoption of green helmets.

The sun helmet was one of the few items actually produced by the North Vietnamese during the war – as most of their uniforms came from China. These helmets were made of a synthetic material called “phenolic,” which was a cardboard impregnated with resin under pressure. During manufacture an outer cloth layer was permanently bonded to the helmet.



An early pattern PAVN sun helmet, featuring a later PAVN cap badge. This one features a blue chinstrap, which according to sources indicates use by prison camp guards and military police (Author’s collection)


The inside view of the above helmet shows the early pattern liner. The PAVN continued to use these helmets even after the unification of the country in 1975 (Author’s collection)

 Peter Suciu

One thought on “The Original Camouflage: Khaki Part VIII – The North Vietnamese Army

  1. Cali

    Hi I have one very similar and with a label on Vietnamese inside that I would love to know more about .how can I send you some pics?? Thanks


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.