Dazzle Painting

December 27, 2005

The invention of dazzle camouflage is credited to artist Norman Wilkinson, who was on Royal Navy patrol duty in the English Channel during WWI. Dazzle camouflage was first implemented on the merchant ship SS Industry, and HMS Alsatian became the first “dazzle” Navy ship in August 1917 . The US Navy adopted the technique the following year.

While it looks great, dazzle camouflage’s specific purpose was to make it difficult to estimate a target ship’s speed size/type and direction by disrupting the performance of the visual rangefinders used for gunnery at the time. (Anyone who bought OMD’s “Dazzle Ships” when they were younger already knows this.)

The effectiveness of dazzle is not entirely certain. The British Admiralty came to the conclusion that the scheme had no material effect on submarine attacks, but proved to be a morale boost for crews. American naval leadership expressed the dissenting opinion that dazzle camouflage was effective. Dazzle camouflage continued to be used until the end of World War II.

-Condensed mostly from Wikipedia.


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