Timothy O'Neill (camoufleur)

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MARPAT was designed by O'Neill in 2001 and brought into service from 2002. MARPAT woodland pattern.jpg
MARPAT was designed by O'Neill in 2001 and brought into service from 2002.

Timothy R. O'Neill (1943 – November 9, 2023) was an American U.S. Army officer, professor and camouflage expert, responsible for designing the digital camouflage pattern MARPAT. [1] [2] He has been called "father of digital camouflage". O'Neill wrote two works of fiction. In 1979 he published The Individuated Hobbit: Jung, Tolkien, and the Archetypes of Middle-Earth .



Timothy O'Neill was educated at The Citadel, Charleston, gaining a bachelor's degree in political science; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying MACT and experimental psychology; and after joining the army, the University of Virginia, where he gained his PhD in Experimental Psychology with a concentration in visual biophysics, writing his dissertation on "visual attraction of Blumian symmetry axes of visual forms". [3] He served in the U. S. Army for 25 years from 1966. He served initially as a commander of tank and armoured cavalry units. He gained a doctorate in camouflage, testing his ideas in the field at Fort Knox, Kentucky. In 1976, this work gained him a post as instructor at the West Point military academy, where he founded and was the first director of the program in engineering psychology. His work on digital camouflage led to the camouflage used on Army Combat Uniform. He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. He retired from the army in 1991. [1] [4]

He then worked in industry, in Provant, Inc, and in U. S. Cavalry Security Gear and Systems, Inc. From 2001, he has frequently served as a camouflage consultant, working for the U. S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps; the FBI; and the armed forces of Afghanistan, Canada, New Zealand, and Qatar. He assisted in the design of hunting camouflage for W. L. Gore Associates, [1] [4] creating the Optifade pattern, based for the first time on study of the vision of deer, i.e. the animals that are to be fooled by the camouflage: it combines macro- and micro-patterns, and is said to work "amazingly well". For Hyperstealth Corp., he and the company's founder Guy Cramer designed the Razzacam pattern, said by David Rothenberg to be based on World War I dazzle camouflage "with pixelated and dithered patterns that are dizzying to look at, confounding our ability to parse their organizational structure". [5] Also with Cramer, O'Neill developed a snow camouflage pattern for the U. S. Marine Corps. [6]

O'Neill was married to Eufrona O'Neill and they lived in Alexandria, Virginia, [4] and later in Roswell, Georgia. [7]

He died on November 9, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. [7]

Digital camouflage

In 1976, O'Neill created a pixellated pattern named "Dual-Tex". He called the digital approach "texture match". The initial work was done by hand on a retired M113 armoured personnel carrier at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland; O'Neill painted the pattern on with a 2-inch (5 centimetre) roller, forming squares of colour by hand. Field testing showed that the result was good compared to the U. S. Army's existing camouflage patterns. At a distance, the squares merged into a larger pattern, breaking up the vehicle's outline and making it blend into the background of trees. Closer up, the pattern successfully imitated smaller details of the landscape, appearing as leaves, grass tufts, and shadows. [1] [8]

O'Neill was quoted in a report by an American government watchdog, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which was critical of wasteful Pentagon spending. O'Neill is reported as stating of the camouflage pattern then in use: "Desert designs don't work well in woodland areas and woodland patterns perform poorly in the desert." [9] In O'Neill's view, "it is best to tailor the spatial characteristics and color palette of a camouflage pattern to the specific environment and tactical position where those using the camouflage would be inclined to hide." [10]


The Individuated Hobbit: Jung, Tolkien, and the Archetypes of Middle-Earth (1979) is a critical study of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. [11] Tolkien scholar Thomas Honegger called it "the unsurpassed standard work on the subject" (2019). [12]

He is the author or two novels. Shades of Gray (1987) is about a West Point psychologist investigating mysterious happenings on campus. Mandala (2014) concerns a mysterious structure in Montana that has psychological and mythic properties.


O'Neill has been called the father of digital camouflage. He is featured in the 2015 Australian documentary film Deception by Design. [13]


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Smaug is a dragon and the main antagonist in J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit, his treasure and the mountain he lives in being the goal of the quest. Powerful and fearsome, he invaded the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor 171 years prior to the events described in the novel. A group of thirteen dwarves mounted a quest to take the kingdom back, aided by the wizard Gandalf and the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. In The Hobbit, Thorin describes Smaug as "a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bag End</span> Fictional location in Tolkiens novels

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vafþrúðnir</span> Norse mythical character

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Frodo Baggins is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's writings, and one of the protagonists in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo is a hobbit of the Shire who inherits the One Ring from his cousin Bilbo Baggins, described familiarly as "uncle", and undertakes the quest to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor. He is mentioned in Tolkien's posthumously published works, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.

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J. R. R. Tolkien's presentation of heroism in The Lord of the Rings is based on medieval tradition, but modifies it, as there is no single hero but a combination of heroes with contrasting attributes. Aragorn is the man born to be a hero, of a line of kings; he emerges from the wilds and is uniformly bold and restrained. Frodo is an unheroic, home-loving Hobbit who has heroism thrust upon him when he learns that the ring he has inherited from his cousin Bilbo is the One Ring that would enable the Dark Lord Sauron to dominate the whole of Middle-earth. His servant Sam sets out to take care of his beloved master, and rises through the privations of the quest to destroy the Ring to become heroic.

J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of the bestselling fantasy The Lord of the Rings, was largely rejected by the literary establishment during his lifetime, but has since been accepted into the literary canon, if not as a modernist then certainly as a modern writer responding to his times. He fought in the First World War, and saw the rural England that he loved built over and industrialised. His Middle-earth fantasy writings, consisting largely of a legendarium which was not published until after his death, embodied his realism about the century's traumatic events, and his Christian hope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Psychological journeys of Middle-earth</span> Analysis of Tolkiens fiction

Scholars, including psychoanalysts, have commented that J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth stories about both Bilbo Baggins, protagonist of The Hobbit, and Frodo Baggins, protagonist of The Lord of the Rings, constitute psychological journeys. Bilbo returns from his journey to help recover the Dwarves' treasure from Smaug the dragon's lair in the Lonely Mountain changed, but wiser and more experienced. Frodo returns from his journey to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom scarred by multiple weapons, and is unable to settle back into the normal life of his home, the Shire.


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  9. Ortiz, Erik (21 June 2017). "Pentagon Accused of Wasting Up to $28M on 'Inappropriate' Afghan Soldier Uniforms". NBC News.
  10. "Afghan National Army : DoD May Have Spent Up To $ 28 Million More Than Needed To Procure Camouflage Uniforms That May Be Inappropriate For The Afghan Environment" (PDF). SIGAR. June 2017., which cites also O'Neill, Timothy. Innovative camouflage measures for the United States Marine Corps. MARCORSYSCOM under Sverdrup Technology Agreement Number 0965-36-01-C1. p. 36.
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  13. Rindfuss, Bryan (19 July 2017). "Blue Star Sheds Light on the History of Camouflage with a Screening of 'Deception by Design'". San Antonio Current. Retrieved 24 August 2017.