Sunday, July 3, 2016

Camouflaged Ships as Deep-Sea Barbershops

USS Siboney (c1918) in dazzle camouflage
Arthur Capper, Nature, Art and Camouflage in The Topeka Capital (Topeka KS). October 21, 1917, p. 4B—

The new art of camouflage is not limited to land, by any means. One of our boys transported to Europe has described a fine example of this art, in the case of the American destroyers, hunters of U-boats, who came out to meet the transport fleet as it neared the French coast.

The smudge of the destroyers could be seen twenty minutes before they themselves were visible, and when their hulls finally appeared they bore the appearance of a two-stack freighter heavily loaded and low in the water. As a matter of fact the destroyer has four funnels instead of two, but the two not seen at a distance are cleverly camouflaged to give the appearance of a freighter instead of a war vessel. As the boats came nearer the boys thought they were French, owing to their gay and bizarre coloring, or decoration. Their sides were painted in zigzag lines of white and blue, while the rigging and "concealed" smoke stacks were trickily and cockily camouflaged in wavy lines or "snaky ribbons," of green, white and blue. The general effect of the American destroyers on the sea, when transacting business, as soon as they can be closely observed, is suggested by the nickname the American soldiers immediately gave them of "deep-sea barbershops." The U-boat is the "canned Hun."

…The notion that protective coloration of warships must necessarily be a dull sea-gray disappeared long ago… New principles are employed, as in the case of the spiral green, white and blue lines on the stacks of torpedo boats, the zigzag lines of blue and white on the hull, and the same scheme of wavy zigzag, or spiral painted lines and splashes of color in varicolored combinations on cannon behind the front.

Yet the truth is that the new camouflage follows the principles first adopted by the artists of the Barbizon school and soon carried to extremes by radical painters, the principles that later, about thirty-five years ago, developed into the new landscape method of impressionism. Camouflage and impressionism are twin sisters. Nature is in fact colored not on simple, dull principles, but its coloration is greatly mixed, weirdly so, and with no regard to conventional ideas of consistency or harmony. Once in a while, as in this exceptionally brilliant month in Kansas, the true principle of mixed coloration appears to the plain, common eye in viewing the stunning prairie landscape. But to the now initiated artist these colors are present, even when hidden.

Arthur Capper, campaign card for Kansas governor's race