Friday, February 8, 2019

Ship Camouflage and Nature Talk / Hartman Reserve

Above Title slide for a richly illustrated talk that will take place this weekend at the Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls IA. The 50-minute talk begins at 2:00 pm, Sunday, February 10, 2019* and is free and open to the public at the center's Interpretive Building. It focuses on the connection between turn-of-the-century studies of animal camouflage (called protective coloration then) and the development of military camouflage by artists during World War I.

*PLEASE NOTE This event has been postponed because of winter weather. It has been rescheduled for 2:00 pm, Sunday, April 14, 2019. Perfect timing in view of its Easter-themed title.


NEWS OF THE SCHOOLS: Navy Camoufleur at Manual. Brooklyn Daily Eagle. May 6, 1919, p. 14—

Alon Bement, a camoufleur, first class, of the United States Shipping Board, and formerly a teacher at the Teachers’ College, Columbia University, was the speaker at the Senior Assembly of the Manual Training High School yesterday. At the beginning of the war Mr. Bement, who had considerable reputation as an artist, was called to act as a naval camoufleur. He was sent to Washington where he worked out designs for camouflaging ships, using small models for the purpose. If the designers were found to be feasible, they were reproduced on a linen sheet, taken to a shipyard and painted on a ship.

Mr. Bement went into detail to show how portions of the ship were marked out for certain colors by means of a hand mirror when the sun was shining. The camoufleur would stand on the edge of the drydock and reflect the light along the lines which were intended to mark the borders of the various colors. In this way the apportioning off of the ship was readily accomplished.

Mr. Bement told of other schemes which were attempted to combat the submarine menace such as the construction of an outer hull to prematurely explode the torpedo. This means was hastily abandoned because such a hull would slow down the ship to such an extent that it would fall an easy prey to the U-boats.

He also explained why only the transports, freighters and destroyers wore camouflage and not battleships. The big fighters were not daily subject to submarine attack so that it was unnecessary to give them their “make-up” and since it costs $3,000 to paint a battleship, attention was confined to the first mentioned ships.

Mr. Bement told of how in a captured German U-boat, the British found fifty-eight pages of a leaflet in the commander’s cabin, telling what methods the Prussians were taking to combat the camouflage of Allied ships. With this find, the Allied camoufleurs were able to take new steps to offset the year’s calculations of the Germans.