Monday, August 10, 2020

Fighting the U-Boat with Pattern, Disruption and Paint

Waldemar Kampffert, Fighting the U-Boat with Paint: How American and English artists taught sailors to dazzle the U-boat in Popular Science Monthly. Vol 94 No 4 (April 1919), p. 17ff—

When the German U-boats began their depredations, it became desperately necessary to provide some protective coloration for transports, food ships, and the hundreds of vessels that were carrying munitions to Europe.

Battleship gray having proved utterly useless, naval officers turned instinctively to artists for advice and assistance. If an artist, with his trained eye, knows how to apply color, knows how to trace lines on canvas so that they become the counterfeit presentment of the thing he sees, couldn’t he reverse the process and devise some way of blotting out the thing to be looked at?

Above Camouflage pattern applied to USS Chibiabos (c1918), US Shipping Board.

It so happened that American artists interested themselves in devising schemes of protective coloration as soon as the U-boat began to sink on sight. The pioneers among them were William Andrew Mackay, Maximilian Toch, Gerome Brush, Everett L. Warner, and Lewis Herzog.

Above Dazzle camouflage applied to USS Beaumont (c1918), US Shipping Board.


Lindell T. Bates, MARINE CAMOUFLAGE BROUGHT TO PERFECTION IN AMERICA: First Authentic Account of the Development of Illusion in Foiling Hun Pirates Written by Leader in the Work Here—Scientific Explanation of Colors, Curves and Lines Used. The New York Sun. January 19, 1919, p. 11—

In the course of the war several American artists, noting the rapid development of land camouflage, became interested in its marine possibilities. William A. Mackay and Lewis Herzog, both of New York, appear to have been the pioneers of elaborate camouflage both of this country and abroad, although in 1917 attention was beginning to focus on this question simultaneously in many quarters. Gerome Brush, Maximilian Toch and Everett L. Warner soon entered the new field. Mr. Mackay even established a marine camouflage school in New York City, the first of its kind.

Above Dazzle camouflage applied to USS La Forge (c1918), US Shipping Board.

• Note Restored black and white US Government photographs have been colorized using AI digital coloring (not literally accurate).