Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Hiding in Plain Sight: WWI, WWII, and Surprising History of Camouflage

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Hiding in Plain Sight: WWI, WWII, and Surprising History of Camouflage

Article excerpt

From zebra-like patterns on military ships to using Hollywood-style effects to disguise California, World Wars I and II were the dawn of a new age of camouflage.

COUNTER SHADING

FOUR CASE STUDIES SHOW HOW THE FIRST AMD SECOND WORLD WARS WERE THE DAWN OF a new AGE OF a CAMOUFLAGE THAT CONTINUES TO UNFOLD, SHAPED BY TECHNOLOGY.

CAMOUFLAGE, OR HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT, HAS ALWAYS BEEN AROUMD IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER.

BUT THE WIDESPREAD USE OR CAMOUFLAGE HAS A RELATIVELY SHORT HISTORY.

ONE OF THE. FIRST MEM TO ADAPT THE TECHNIQUES HE SAW IN MATURE WAS ABOTT H. THAYER OF DUBLIN, NH.

AROUND 1900, HE DEVELOPED HIS THEN-RADICAL CONCEALMENT THEORY WHILE OBSERVING AND PAINTING LOCAL ANIMALS.

HE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST TO NOTICE THAT ANIMALS HIDE BY RESEMBLING COLORS IN NATURE...

... PATTERNS THAT EXPLOITED THE HIGH-CONTRAST

... AND PATTERNS THAT DIDN'T HIDE, BUT DISRUPTED THE IMAGE AND CAUSED CONFUSION.

ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING EXAMPLES OF CAMOUFLAGE OCURRED DURING WORLD WAR ONE.

TO ISOLATE THE BRITISH AND THEIR ALLIES RROM RECEIVING FOOD, OIL, WEAPONS AND OTHER SUPPLIES, GERMAN/ BEGAN UNRESTRICTED SUBMARINE ATTACKS IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC.

A U-BOAT TORPEDO GUNNER HAD TO ASSESS THE SPEED AND DIRECTION OF THE TARGET SHIP.

TORPEDOS TOOK SEVERAL. MINUTES TO ARRIVE.

BUT AT IMPACT TORPEDOS WERE DEVASTATING. 60 VESSELS HERE SUNK EVERY WEEK AT THE HEIGHT OP THE U-BOAT ATTACKS, MANY WERE AMERICAN.

IN AUGUST 1917, THE BRITISH UAVY ADOPTED A DISRUPTIVE PATTERNING SCHEME- AFTER A FEW TRIALS, 50 TROOP TRANSPORTS WERE PAINTED WITH WHAT CAME TO BE CALLED...

RAZZLE DAZZLE

THE PATTERNING WASN'T INTENDED TO HIDE SHIPS, & UT TO CONFUSE U-BOAT GUNNERS LOOKING THROUGH THE PERFSCOPE.

THROWING OFF THE CALCULATIONS, EVEN SLIGHTLY, WAS ENOUGH TO CAUSE A MISS.

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE OF BEING ABOARD A DAZZLE SHIP MAY NAVE SEEN EVEN MORE EFFECTIVE THAN THE CAMOUFLAGE PATTERN.

UNIQUE DESIGNS WERE NECESSARY TO REMAIN UNPREDICTABLE. SOON 25 ARTISTS WERE PAINTING SCALE MODELS.

SUBMARINE CAPTAINS TESTED THE MODELS' EFFECTIVENESS IN MOCK PERISCOPES.

DESIGNS WERE TAKEN TO PORT, WHERE ARTISTS OFTEN SUPERVISED THE PAINTING OF THE SHIPS.

BY THE ARMISTICE IIN 1918, OVER 3600 BRITISH AND AMERICAN SHIPS HAD BEEN CAMOUFLAGED IN DAZZLE.

AND WHILE DAZZLE WAS LARGELY FORGOTTENN DURING the WARS, BOTH NATIONS USED IT AGAIN IN WORLD WAR TWO. OTHER FACTORS HELPED DEFEAT THE U-BOATS INCLUDING THE CONVOY SYSTEM. …

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