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Hiding in plain sight: WWI, WWII, and surprising history of camouflage.

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.

BUT DID DAZZLE DO THE JOB? ACCORDING To NAVAL RESEARCH AFTER THE WAR, ONLY ONE PERCENT OF DAZZLE SHIPS WERE SUNK BY TORPEDOS.

PLENTY OF OTTERS COLLIDED WITH EACH OTHER.

TECHNOLOGY MOVED ON: TORPEDOS ARC WON ELECTRONICALLY GUIDED NOT AIMED.

THE HUMAN EYE HAS A HARPER TIME PROCESSING A HIGH - CONTRAST OBJECT MOVING QUICKLY.

BUT RECENT RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT DAZZLE MAY ACTUALLY WORK AS INTENDED FOR FAST MOVING OBJECTS.

DISRUPTIVE MILITARY CAMOUFLAGE MAY HAVE ITS ROOTS IN DAZZLE, BUT IT WON'T END THERE.

THE WORLD WARS ALSO MARKED THE WIDESPREAD ADOPTION OF CAMOUFLAGE UNIFORMS, ESPECIALLY FOR SNIPERS.

FINLAND HAD "GHOST PATROLS" IN THE 1940S THAT WOULD SKI TOWARDS EMERIES and fire ON THEM WITH TELESCOPING PACIFIC.

BUT THE JAPANESE TOOK THIS Jo ANOTHBR LBVEL IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC,

THE JUNGLE THEATER PROVED To BE UNLIKE ANYTHING AMERICAN SOLDIERS HAD EVER ENCOUNTERED BEFORE.

THE HIDDEN JAPANESE WOULD SHOUT IN ENGLISH, LEAVE WOUNDED SOLDIERS AS TRAPS, AND THROW FIRECRACKERS AT NIGHT.

THE JAPANESE OFTEN HID IN FOXHOLES, MACHINE-GUN NESTS, AND MANY, MANY TREES.

THE BRITISH MADE RUBBER "SNIPER SUITS" THAT WERE COVERED IN BRUSH AND BLENDED INTO THE COUNTRYSIDE.

FIGHTING AGAINST THE AUSTRALIANS, BRITISH, AMP AMERICANS, THE JAPANESE USED ADVANCED CAMOUFLAGE WELL-SUITED TO THE JUNGLE.

MANY WERE SAID TO HAVE BEEN INVISIBLE EVEN WITHIN 50 FEET.

THEY WERE EQUIPPED TO FIGHT BY THEMSELVES, OFTEN BEHIND ENEMY LINES, FOR AS LONG AS A MONTH.

SNIPERS WERE FOUND WITH:

RIFLE WITH SMOKELESS AMMO

ROPE

BRANCHES LASHED IN FOR COVER

MEDICAL SUPPLIES

WICKER BASKETS WITH SUPPLIES

MESS KIT WITH TOOTHBRUSH

FULL-BODY NETTING

COFFEE, RICE, AND FIELD RATIONS

CLIMBING SPURS

ULTIMATELY, THE JAPANESE FORCES HAD POOR FIELD INTELLLIGENCE AND COMPLETELY INFLEXIBLE PLANS.

DEVASTATING LOSSES FOR THE JAPANESE CULMINATED IN THE BOMBINGS OF THE HOME ISLANDS.

BUT JUNGLE GUERRILLA, WARFARE CONTINUED TO EVOLVE THROUGH CONFLICTS IN KOREA, VIETNAM, AMD ELSEWHERE.

Josh Kramer is a cartoonist and journalist. He self-publishes The Cartoon Picayune, an anthology of comics journalism, and his work can be found at JoshKramerComics.com.

This story was created in partnership between The Wilson Quarterly and Narratively.

WORDS & PICTURES BY JOSH KRAMER
COPYRIGHT 2015 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kramer, Josh
Publication:The Wilson Quarterly
Date:Jan 1, 2015
Words:732
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