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Razzle Dazzle Camouflage
November 4, 2005 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Razzle Dazzle Camouflage
"During World War I, the British and Americans faced a serious threat from German U-boats, which were sinking allied shipping at a dangerous rate. All attempts to camouflage ships at sea had failed, as the appearance of the sea and sky are always changing. Any color scheme that was concealing in one situation was conspicuous in others. A British artist and naval officer, Norman Wilkinson, promoted a new camouflage scheme that was derived from the artistic fashions of the time, particularly cubism. Instead of trying to conceal the ship, it simply broke up its lines and made it more difficult for the U-boat captain to determine the ship's course. The British called this camouflage scheme 'Dazzle Painting.' The Americans called it 'Razzle Dazzle.'"
posted by hall of robots (31 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Via yesterday's BoingBoing, no doubt. good stuff, but most of us read the same sites you do.
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:12 AM on November 4, 2005


I don't read BoingBoing and was grateful for the link. Cool stuff, thanks.
posted by davros42 at 11:13 AM on November 4, 2005


It's amazing the Navy agreed to try this out. Once again: art saves lives!
posted by Lockjaw at 11:15 AM on November 4, 2005


Via yesterday's BoingBoing, no doubt. good stuff, but most of us read the same sites you do.


It was via Land 0 Links -- does it matter?
posted by hall of robots at 11:17 AM on November 4, 2005


Kinda, yeah. This was also brought up recently in AskMe.
posted by item at 11:18 AM on November 4, 2005


The article never mentioned how effective it was. Did it work? I suppose I could assume that it did work since multiple ships used it, but I'd hate to make an ass out of U and me. Is there any statistical data of torpedo misses going up once these were deployed?

I can just imagine what a torpedo targeter (is 'targeter' a word?) was thinking the first time he came across one of these...
posted by afx114 at 11:22 AM on November 4, 2005


There's several books out about Dazzle Camouflage but I particularly enjoy this book.

It must have been amazing to go to one of these shipyards while the ships were being painted. But alas, with the advent of technology such as radar, camouflage was rendered obsolete. Too bad.
posted by quadog at 11:27 AM on November 4, 2005


The article never mentioned how effective it was. Did it work?

Yes, it worked very effectively. I don't have the information with me at the moment but there was a reason that entire fleets were painted. I seem to recall there was a test group that performed very effectively and after that success many, many other ships were camouflaged. I'm sure it was surreal for the enemy to see one of these for the first time - and probably insanely frustrating to target.
posted by quadog at 11:31 AM on November 4, 2005


Via yesterday's BoingBoing, no doubt.
...
I don't read BoingBoing and was grateful for the link.


It has been conclusively proven that nobody gives a damn about either, nor that because you read it there its where it came from.

Also AskMe found a possible source for the painting from the BoingBoing article.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:34 AM on November 4, 2005


Havent seen this before, and it is wonderful. Thanks for posting!
posted by outsider at 11:35 AM on November 4, 2005


Anyone else read Excession by Iain Banks? It reminds me of the culture warships with the "tattoo" camoflauge stored on Pittance.
Pretty fucking cool, hall of robots. Some people read the same sites as you, some people suck it haters....
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:40 AM on November 4, 2005


I betcha AskMe started it, too.

This was new to me -- funky passenger liner painting. Like something out of an Italian light opera.

Here are some US submarines in Razzle Dazzle (search the page). And here's a Chieftain Tank.
posted by dhartung at 11:46 AM on November 4, 2005


I remember Herman Wouk making an offhand mention of razzle-dazzle ships being grotesquly visible, but I don't have a citation for that, and it may have just been his opinion anyway.
posted by COBRA! at 11:47 AM on November 4, 2005


The article never mentioned how effective it was. Did it work?

That was my first reaction, too. Then I clicked on the picture and thought "Wow, I bet it did!"

Cool!
posted by halcyon_daze at 11:47 AM on November 4, 2005


Nice set of links, thanks.

(All you via people: go back to BoingBoing.)
posted by OmieWise at 11:47 AM on November 4, 2005


What about the pink ships? Hey, whilst we're on the subject of pink camouflage what about the WWII-era SAS using pink Chevy trucks and the more recent "pink panther" Land Rovers? Camouflage is weird - the new CADPAT and MARPAT digital camouflage is pretty interesting too.

I'll stop now.

I am so bored at work right now.
posted by longbaugh at 11:51 AM on November 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


Kinda, yeah. This was also brought up recently in AskMe.

Hmm. I've got no way of knowing who reads what, though. To what extent do I deliberately seek more 'obscure' sources? Surely Land O Links got it from someone who got it from someone else who got it from someone else, and so on. Is there a policy on this? FWIW, I hadn't seen the AskMe post either.
posted by hall of robots at 11:53 AM on November 4, 2005


The article never mentioned how effective it was. Did it work?

Some people say yes, some people say no.

Many point out that it actually made boats more visible, but miss the actual objective of RDC, which was to confuse course and speed. Here are some eyewitness testimonies of its effectiveness from enemy reports.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:55 AM on November 4, 2005


Nice post, thanks. I don't read BoingBoing.
posted by marxchivist at 11:55 AM on November 4, 2005


Bismarck had some dazzle features (seen in this model), including a fake bow wave that, seen through a periscope, could lead to the sub captain's miscalculating anything from target distance to even what ship was being fired on.
posted by Mike D at 12:02 PM on November 4, 2005


Hall of Robots: Its been discussed on Metatalk -- there appears to be no consensus though attribution to popular sources would keep one out of hot water.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:07 PM on November 4, 2005


A British artist and naval officer, Norman Wilkinson, promoted a new camouflage scheme that was derived from the artistic fashions of the time

Curiously, this approach is being revived. In keeping with current artistic fashions, the Nimitz is going to be encased in flesh-colored latex, and the Carl Vinson will be painted white with overlaying text of a prose poem about a sack of puppies being beaten. There are plans to shove a bullwhip up the ass of the Theodore Roosevelt, but the logistics of this present some problems.
posted by COBRA! at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


This is awesome. Thanks!
posted by Freen at 12:43 PM on November 4, 2005


This is cool. I've read that it was somewhat effective against U-boats, and the Allies were pretty desperate for anything that could curtail the huge loss they were taking in tonnage up until 42-43 or so.

Now here's a geek challenge: somebody paint a 3,000 point dazzle army for WH40K.
posted by bardic at 12:46 PM on November 4, 2005


Thanks, Hall of Robots, this is really fascinating stuff. Loved your pink links, too, longbaugh.
posted by maryh at 1:18 PM on November 4, 2005


That was so crazy, I thought it had to be a hoax at first. Wild.

Yes, I saw it on BoingBoing too. But they often recycle MeFi links... so... it's all good.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:54 PM on November 4, 2005


Here's more info on the painting in the article.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 2:11 PM on November 4, 2005


quadog writes "But alas, with the advent of technology such as radar, camouflage was rendered obsolete."

Obsolete may be too strong a word there is still lots of call for camo if for no other reason than you never want to be the first to light up.
posted by Mitheral at 2:33 PM on November 4, 2005


This almost makes me want to paint my car in razzle-dazzle. Except, of course, that if it worked as camoflage I'd probably start getting into accidents.
posted by hattifattener at 4:23 PM on November 4, 2005


Thanks for the link! I'd been aware of the razzle-dazzle design for ages thanks to the OMD album 'Dazzle Ships', but never bothered to research it further.
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:44 PM on November 4, 2005


Excellent post!

I imagine the effect of viewing one of these ships from a mile or so away would be similar to a moiré pattern - and would be a nightmare for a uboat commander trying to focus a targeting sight on or judge the vessel heading.

Perhaps this is what Bush was thinking of when he wore that tie.
posted by rawfishy at 8:48 PM on November 4, 2005


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