Razzle Dazzle Camouflage Made WWI Ships Psychedelic

Imagine you're a sailor on a military ship during a world war. Armed enemies are closing in, and your ship is the target of their weaponry. Would you want to be in a ship that was painted with psychedelic swirls and designs in loud colors? For the U.S. military in WWI, the answer was yes. This is "razzle dazzle" camouflage, and boldly contrasting the ocean's waves was exactly the point.

USS West Mahomet

Give 'em the Old Razzle Dazzle

Though it might seem like a death wish to paint a military ship in whimsical patterns and colors, there's a strategy to dazzle camouflage. It's a form of disruptive camouflage, an example of which can be found in nature on zebras (the animals starkly contrast their tan, grassy surroundings).

Because the colors of the ocean water and the horizon are always changing, blending a ship into the natural backdrop is almost impossible. So WWI ships went the opposite route. Because the ships were painted in disorienting patterns with strange shapes, it made them harder to identify as a target. The somewhat illusionary patterns made it difficult to know which way the ships were sailing, how fast they were going, how many there were, and if they were turning or going straight.

The Sabotage Operation Of Dazzle Camouflage

Seems backwards, doesn't it?

Razzle Dazzle Painted Ships

They're very fun to look at, at least.

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Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

Disruptive camouflage at work.

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Written by Curiosity Staff October 26, 2016