Feb 4, 2010

The History of Razzle Dazzle Camouflage

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The Situation

You’re the Fleet Admiral of the Navy in World War I. Your ships are being sunk at an alarming rate by the devastatingly effective German U-Boat. The traditional camouflage isn’t working because your environment (sea and sky) changes with the weather. What do you do?

 

german-u-bat-wwi
This is the German U-Boat Sinking your Battleships

 

The Insight

It’s not where you are it’s where you’re going

World War I occurred from 1914–1918; back then sinking an enemy battleship was a three-step process:

Step 1: Locate your target’s position and plot its course.
Step 2: Determine the ship’s speed and confirm the direction it is heading
Step 3: Launch torpedo not directly at the ship, but where you think it’s going to be by the time the torpedo reaches the ship.

*Remember this is early 20th century warfare, weapons don’t travel at the speed they do today

So what’s your solution Fleet Admiral?

HIT THEM WITH THE RAZZLE DAZZLE

Forget about not being seen, that only solves their first problem. Focus on confusing them so they don’t know where you’re going. Then their torpedoes will be shot in vain because they thought you zigged when you really zagged.

British Artist and naval officer Norman Wilkinson had this very insight and pioneered the Dazzle Camouflage movement (known as Razzle Dazzle in the United States). Norman used bright, loud colours and contrasting diagonal stripes to make it incredibly difficult to gauge a ship’s size and direction.

It was cheap, effective, and widely-adopted during the War. Check out the incredible photographs below.

*NOTE: Unfortunately the images are in black and white, being from the early 1900s and all, so the loud, bold colours will require a little imagination. Can you picture a fleet of electric yellow, orange and purple ships coming to get ya!

 

 

normal-wilkinson-inventor-of-dazzle-camouflage
The Father of Dazzle Camouflage Norman Wilkinson

 

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zebra-striped-camouflage

 

world-war-one-camouflage

 

world-war-1-dazzle-camouflage

 

razzle-dazzle-paintjob

 

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war-clover-dazzle-camo-sketch

 

war-clover-dazzle-camo-actual

 

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To give you an idea of colour, here’s a sketch, actual and render

 

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razzle-dazzle-boat

 

example-of-dazzle-camouflage-ship

 

razzle-dazzle-camouflage-sketch

 

dazzle-painting-ship

 

dazzle-painting-a-boat

 

dazzle-camouflage-sketches

 

dazzle-camouflage-ship

 

dazzle-camouflage-boat

 

cubism-razzle-dazzle-camouflage-painting

 

crazy-camouflage-paint-job

 

As sonar and radar technology improved, the once effective dazzle camouflage was rendered obsolete. By WWII the dazzle camouflage was an afterthought. Thankfully contemporary artists like Jeff Koons have kept the style alive with outrageous boats like this:

 

jeff-koons-razzle-dazzle-boat
Photograph by monacoeye.com

 

 

SOURCES

- Information: http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/articles/dazzle.html
- Information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazzle_camouflage
- Photographs: http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/nhcorg11.htm

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, the Sifter highly recommends:

 
Hiding Air Bases, Factories and Plants in WWII

 

 

 

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