Concealment Camouflage From The 1st And 2nd World Wars

Ah yes, camouflage. Perfect for snipers. Or… ships.

Camouflage on ships is actually way more interesting than concealment. The designs are not necessarily meant to conceal the ships as much as it was meant to make it more difficult to determine the actual shape, type, or distance from the ship by changing the silhouette.

It is very difficult to “conceal” something that is 50-200 ft above the surface of the water – particularly if you consider that a submarines is looking at it from a lower angle.

Camouflage on ships serve three purposes: concealment, confusion, and cosmetic.

Concealment is tricky, it’s hard to blend something that big on a canvas as flat and bland (usually) as the sea and sky. Making it even more difficult, particularly in the Second World War, is that the sea is dark and the sky is light: trying to hide your ship against one means not hiding it against the other. Ergo, you have to paint your ship according to the likely threat. In the latter stages of the WW2, for example, the decrease in submarine threats but increase in kamikaze threats in the Pacific meant US ships changed their camo from dazzle (which requires greatly contrasting colours of both dark and light) to regular plain overall dark blues and greys to make them a bit less obvious from overhead.

Confusion comes in the form of dazzle paint schemes (as mentioned by others, used to confuse observers about heading, type, speed, and distance), but not exclusively. Sometimes ships were painted with a false bow wave to make them look like they were speeding along, while other ships had silhouettes of less important ships painted on their sides. One important thing about dazzle patterns is that they have to be visible at combat distances – that means the patterns cannot be so small that they blend together like pixels on your screen. You have to keep the patterns large and distinct.

Finally, cosmetic is used to hide stains and other unattractive “features” of a warship. This is particularly the case for smaller ships today, some of which have exhaust ports low on the hull due to lack of room for a abovedecks funnel. The exhaust would leave a nasty stain on the ship, so they simply paint the area black to disguise it. This is one of the (if not the) reasons why the Americans painted the Freedom variant of their Littoral Combat Ships in camo with the two black spots in the locations that they are. Given the American strategy of forward presence and the importance of maintaining allies, it is in the Americans’ interest to maintain a sharp appearance on their vessels as they visit other countries.

USS West Mahomet 1918

USS West Mahomet 1918

USS Charles S Sperry 1944

USS Charles S Sperry 1944

HMS Kildangan 1918

HMS Kildangan 1918

HMS Underwing c1918

HMS Underwing 1918

 USS Nebraska 1918

USS Nebraska 1918

USS Leviathan 1918

USS Leviathan 1918

 RMS Olympic c1918 - The identical sister ship to RMS Titanic

RMS Olympic 1918 – The identical sister ship to RMS Titanic

USS Suboney 1918

USS Suboney 1918

USS St George c1944

USS St George c1944

USS Smith 1944

USS Smith 1944

HMS London 1918

HMS London 1918

HMS Nairana 1917

HMS Nairana 1917

HMS Argus 1918

HMS Argus 1918

 HMS Badsworth 1941

HMS Badsworth 1941

HMS Furious 1918

HMS Furious 1918

HMS Pegasus 1917

HMS Pegasus 1917

HMS Rocksand c1918

HMS Rocksand 1918

 SS Alloway 1918

SS Alloway 1918

USS Siboney 1918

USS Siboney 1918

USS Orizaba 1918

USS Orizaba 1918

USS West Apaum 1918

USS West Apaum 1918

USS Wilhelmina 1918

USS Wilhelmina 1918

Source.

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