Articles

The story behind dazzle ships, the Navy's wildest-ever paint job

In 1917, while Britain's Royal Navy was plagued by Germany's formidable U-boat offensive, visual artist Norman Wilkinson realized that traditional camouflages wouldn't help British ships avoid the onslaught. So he proposed the "extreme opposite."


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Wilkinson, a volunteer in the Royal Navy at the time, had the idea for "dazzle ships," or ships painted with high-contrast patterns intended to disorient U-boats.

He wrote the admiralty of the Royal Navy, and soon found himself in Devonport, painting scale models.

Impressed with his ideas, and desperate to save lives as the war in the Atlantic raged, the Royal Navy adopted this novel paint scheme.

Camouflage is meant to make an object blend in with its surroundings. In contrast, the dazzle pattern used stark lines and hard contrasts to make it difficult to judge the speed and orientation of the ship.

Dark and curved lines towards the bow and stern gave way to bright patches, which make it difficult to estimate the exact dimensions of the ship, it's speed and direction of travel, and its type. U-boats hunted enemy ships by periscope in those days, so a dazzle pattern could effectively skew the enemy's targeting.

During World War I, no scientific inquiry could be conducted into the effectiveness of the dazzle ships. But a study from the School of Experimental Psychology found that dazzle paint on moving Land Rovers made rocket-propelled grenades 7% less effective, according to the BBC.

"In a typical situation involving an attack on a Land Rover, the reduction in perceived speed would be sufficient to make the grenade miss by about a meter," Nick Scott-Samuel, the researcher who led the study, told the BBC. "This could be the difference between survival or otherwise."

Here's how the dazzle pattern was designed to fool enemy submarines:

Publicdomainreview.org

Here is the dazzle paint on the HMS Badsworth.

Publicdomainreview.org

The HMS Furious. World War I ended in November 1918, and all of these pictures were taken between 1917 and 1919.

Publicdomainreview.org

The HMS Argus.

Publicdomainreview.org

The HMS Kildangan.

Publicdomainreview.org

The HMS Nariana.

Publicdomainreview.org

The HMS Pegasus.

Publicdomainreview.org

The HMS Rocksand.

Publicdomainreview.org

The HMS Underwing.

Publicdomainreview.org

Britain's Royal Navy was not alone in employing the dazzle design. The USS St. George was one of many US ships to receive the paint job.

Publicdomainreview.org

USS Wilhelmina.

Publicdomainreview.org

USS West Mahomet.

Publicdomainreview.org

USS Leviathan.

Publicdomainreview.org

USS West Apaum.

Publicdomainreview.org

USS Charles S. Sperry.

Publicdomainreview.org

USS Orizaba.

Publicdomainreview.org

The USS Smith.

Publicdomainreview.org

The USS Nebraska.

Publicdomainreview.org

The dazzle paint continued into World War II. Here's the USS Wasp, and other US aircraft carriers at Ulithi atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

Photo: US Navy

Reportedly Pablo Picasso saw a dazzle-painted cannon at a parade in Paris. He claimed that that patterning was influenced by cubism, a school of art he had recently helped pioneer.

GEAR & TECH

The Marines' newly-armed Osprey tests guns, rockets, and missiles

The Marine Corps is now arming its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a range of weapons to enable its assault support and escort missions in increasingly high-threat combat environments.

Rockets, guns, and missiles are among the weapons now under consideration, as the Corps examines requirements for an "all-quadrant" weapons application versus other possible configurations such as purely "forward firing" weapons.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less

It's been 10 years since the Air Force retired the Nighthawk

It's been 10 years since the United States Air Force retired the F-117 Nighthawk (an aircraft so secret, Nevada folklore labeled it a UFO).

"The Nighthawk pilots were known by the call sign 'Bandit,' each earning their number with their first solo flight. Some of the maintainers were also given a call sign," said Wayne Paddock, a former F-117 maintainer currently stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

4 things you didn't know about the epic film 'Apocalypse Now'

In 1979, film-making legend Francis Ford Coppola released one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, Apocalypse Now. The story follows Capt. Willard (as played by Martin Sheen), a man tasked with the dangerous mission of traveling deep into the jungles of Cambodia to assassinate a rogue colonel who military intelligence believes has gone insane.

Immediately, the film captivated audiences around the globe. In fact, you can still find screenings of this film in movie theaters throughout the country today. It's a masterclass in stunning scenery and epic metaphor.

Keep reading... Show less
Humor

7 types of people you meet in a deployed 'tent city'

You'll never get a more true-to-life snapshot of the other branches than the one you get when you begin your deployment. Everyone from every branch (and occasionally every allied nation) is crammed in together in a transient barracks — also known as a "tent city."

It doesn't matter what type of unit you're in, everyone gets put in the same tents and the results are hilarious. Here's who you'll meet in these temporary towns.

Keep reading... Show less

A Navy warship just rescued a sinking luxury yacht

The Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) assisted a distressed vessel in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California April 20, 2018.

The civilian vessel, Mahana, reported it was taking on water at approximately 10:33a.m.

Pearl Harbor, approximately nine nautical miles away from the vessel at the time, coordinated with Coast Guard Sector San Diego and Mission Bay lifeguards during the rescue.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS

NASA just discovered what Uranus smells like

Even after decades of observations and a visit by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, Uranus held on to one critical secret — the composition of its clouds. Now, one of the key components of the planet's clouds has finally been verified.

A global research team that includes Glenn Orton of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has spectroscopically dissected the infrared light from Uranus captured by the 26.25-foot (8-meter) Gemini North telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea. They found hydrogen sulfide, the odiferous gas that most people avoid, in Uranus' cloud tops. The long-sought evidence was published in the April 23, 2018, issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

This new guided-missile frigate packs a lot of punch

USS Freedom (LCS-1), the lead of the Freedom-class of littoral combat ships, brought some much-needed positive attention to the LCS in 2010 when it carried out a deployment in Southern Command's area of operations. In just seven weeks, it made four drug busts while accomplishing a host of other missions.

It's no secret that the development and deployment of the Littoral Combat Ship has been rife with problems. This big success was exactly what the class needed to secure an export order. Well, to be more specific, a modified version of the Freedom has found an international buyer.

Keep reading... Show less