Sunday, December 13, 2020

Robert G. Skerrett on WWI ship camouflage at its best

Robert G. Skerrett, HIDING SHIPS WITH PAINT: How protective coloring causes Fritz [the German Navy] much waste of torpedoes. It is camouflage at its best in Popular Science Monthly (1918) Vol 92, pp. 514-516—

The first illustration [in the panel above] shows how closely related the problems of a submarine commander are to those of a duck hunter. He must estimate the speed and course of his target and shoot enough ahead to allow for them. The center picture shows the appearance of a ship at 2,000 yards, seen through the periscope of a submarine under ideal conditions. The range is determined by the height of the smokestacks above the waterline. The two side illustrations are examples of the way the camoufleur changes the light and shade on the hulls, funnels, etc., of vessels, thereby confusing an observer both as to the length of the ship and the angle of her approach or departure. The ordinarily high lights are toned down. and the naturally dull portions  are thrown up by painting them in bright colors. At the bottom is seen a complete camouflaged boat, and one that was painted by a master-hand. The whole idea is to give the impression of a sinking ship, and to merge the ship proper into the background. It will be noticed that the dark shaded patches on the hull would convey, at a distance, the impression of a funnel and waterlogged hull, while the sham “sea” merges into the real sea and makes it appear that the alleged steamer is in a sinking condition. A more common one is to paint the hull of a smaller vessel of radically different dimensions on the hull of the boat, or to “paint off” the stern and raise up the apparent waterline.

USS Huntington in harbor 1918 (AI digital coloring)