During World War I, and to a certain extent, World War II, many ships were painted in garish “dazzle” paint jobs as a form of camouflage.

io9 brings us an interesting gallery of some of the more interesting examples.

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged Ships

As the first commenter notes, the goal wasn’t so much to hide the ship, but rather make a successful engagement more difficult. Remember, prior to the turn of the 20th Century, optical fire control was so primitive as to be effectively useless. But by the advent of World War I, the science of “rangekeeping” had advanced by leaps and bounds. Any techniques that made the use of optical rangefinders more difficult were employed.

In World War II, dazzle patterns were again used, but as radar became ubiquitous, optical rangefinders were relegated to back up status, and the difficulty of maintaining a dazzle paintjob was no longer worthwhile.



3 responses to “Dazzling

  1. I was watching “Gung Ho” earlier this week on TCM, and there was a scene where the company commander was standing in front of one of the buildings in San Diego…which was painted in dazzle paint.


  2. I enjoy building 1/700 scale ships. i have a JOHN C BUTLER in Measure 31/3D http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/g100000/g172880c.htm And a BALTIMORE in Measure 21, the overall Navy Blue.scheme At a distance of 8 feet, with the ships at waist level (about 1 scale mile in 1/700 scale),while the BUTLER clearly stands out in her stripes,but the shape of the BUTLER is scrambled by the paint scheme, making difficulty in IDing the ship, while the BALTIMORE is just an amorphous blob. Squatting down, the Measure 31 comes into it’s own, with it being very difficult to say which heading the ship is on, or even what kind of ship it is, while the Baltimore is a crisp silhouette on the horizon, which shows why the Navy went to the Measure 21, in early 1945, as there no longer was a surface threat, but the Kamikazes coming out in droves.