Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Women Camouflage Artists

Pictured above is a construction view of a World War I non-ship called the USS Recruit, built in Union Square in New York for use as a landlocked recruiting station. After completion, it was painted battleship gray, but later, at the suggestion of camouflage artist Everett L. Warner, it was repainted in brightly-colored dazzle camouflage. Recently, we found Warner's recommendation of this in an article he wrote titled "Marine Camouflage: Various Methods of Protective Coloration Used to Reduce Insurance Risks" in The Bush Magazine of Factory and Shipping Economy (January 15, 1918. pp. 12-14). He writes—

Its [the Recruit's] coat of Navy gray is well calculated to make it inconspicuous in these particular surroundings. But is this good strategy? Decidedly not. If we follow the proper practice of studying each vessel as a separate problem we immediately realize that the prime purpose of this vessel is to attract attention, and if camouflaged in the bright colors and strong contrast of the dazzle style it would be a nine days wonder in New York, and would be visited and discussed by countless thousands. In all seriousness I present this suggestion to the recruiting arm of the service as well worthy of their consideration.

Soon after (as documented in Isabel L. Smith, "Camouflage in the United States Navy" in Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine Vol LV No 8, August 1921), members of the Women's Reserve Camouflage Corps were given the task of camouflaging the ship. According to Smith—

This was a night's work for the women and was done at the request of the Navy to further recruiting. The camouflage design was worked out in the classrooms of the Corps. One day at sundown New Yorkers saw the ship a tame, neutral gray. The next morning it wore a wild, fantastic design of many colors.