Chapter 15 - Camouflage: Military UsesWe are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. - Ray Bradbury
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Chapter 15 - Camouflage:
In Nature
1   2   3   4   5   6   Chapter 15 - Camouflage:

Chapter 15 - Camouflage:
Military Uses

Just as lower animal life has unconsciously survived or evolved by being fitted to do so, mankind has consciously, or at least instinctively, applied camouflage of various kinds to fool his prey or his enemy. Many of us in hunting ducks have concealed the bow of our sneak-boat with mud and weeds, or in the season of floating ice, with a white cloth. In our quest of water fowl we use decoys and grass suits. The Esquimau stalks his game behind a piece of ice. In fact, on every hand we find evidences of this natural instinct. The Indian painted his face and body in a variety of colors and patterns. Did he do this merely to be hideous? It seems very possible that the same instinct which made him the supreme master of woodcraft caused him to reap some of the advantages of concealment due to the painting of his face and body.

In past wars there is plenty of evidence that concealment and deception were practiced to the full extent justifiable by the advantages or necessity. In the World War the advent of the airplane placed the third dimension in reconnaissance and called for the application of science in the greatly extended necessity for concealment and deception. With the advent of the airplane, aerial photography became a more important factor than visual observation in much of the reconnaissance. This meant that camouflage had to meet the requirements of both the human eye and the photographic eye in order to be successful. In other words, the special characteristics of the colors used had to be similar to those of nature's colors. For example, chlorophyll, the green coloring matter of vegetation, is a peculiar green as compared with green pigments. When examined with a spectroscope it is seen to reflect a band of deep red light not reflected by ordinary pigments. In considering this aspect it is well to bear in mind that the eye is a synthetic apparatus; that is does not analyze color in a spectral sense. An artist who views color subjectively and is rarely familiar with the spectral basis may match a green leaf perfectly with a mixture of pigments. A photographic plate, a visual filter, or a spectroscope will reveal a difference which the unaided eye does not.

Some time before the Great War began, it occurred to the writer that colored filters could be utilized in aiding vision by increasing the contrast of the object to be viewed against its surroundings. [Color and Its Applications, 1915 and 1921; Light and Shade and Their Applications, 1916, M. Luckiesh.] Studies were made of various filters, made with the object of the experiment in mind, in viewing the uniforms of various armies. Further developments were made by applying the same principles to colored lights and painted pictures. Many of these have been described elsewhere. With the development of the science of camouflage, filters came into use for the detection of camouflage. As a result of the demand for avoiding detection by photographic plates and by various colored filters, some paints provided for the camoufleur were developed according to the spectral requirements. Many other applications of science were developed so that camouflage can now be called an art based upon sound scientific principles.

Natural lighting is so variable that it is often impossible to provide camouflage which will remain satisfactory from day to day; therefore, a broad knowledge of nature's lighting is necessary in order to provide the best compromise. There are two sources of light in the daytime, namely, the sun and the sky. The relative amounts of light contributed by these two sources is continually changing. The sky on cloudless days contributes from one-tenth to one-third of the total light received by a horizontal surface at noon. Light from the sky and light reflected from the surroundings illuminate the shadows. These shadows are different in color than highlights, although these finer distinctions may be ignored in most camouflage because color becomes less conspicuous as the distance of observation increases. In general, the distribution of brightness or light and shade is the most important aspect to be considered.

The camoufleur worries over shadows more than any other aspect generally. On overcast days camouflage is generally much more successful than on sunny days. Obviously, counter-shading is resorted to in order to eliminate shadows, and where this is unsuccessful confusion is resorted to by making more shadows. The shape and orientation of a building is very important to those charged with the problem of rendering it inconspicuous to the enemy, but little attention has been paid to these aspects. For example, a hangar painted a very satisfactory dull green will be distinguishable by its shape as indicated by its shadow and shaded sides. In this zone a hangar, for example, would be more readily concealed if its length lay north and south. Its sides could be brought with a gradual curve to the ground and its rear, which is during most of the day in shadow, could be effectively treated to conceal the shadow. A little thought will convince the reader of the importance of shape and orientation.

Broken color or pattern is another fundamental of camouflage which, of course, must be adapted to its environment. For our trucks, cannon, and many other implements of war, dark green, yellow, dark blue, light gray, and other colors have been used in a jumble of large patterns. A final refinement is that of the blending of these colors at a distance, where the eye no longer resolves the individual patches, to a color which simulates the general hue of the surroundings. For example, red and green patches at a distance blend to yellow; yellow and blue patches blend to a neutral gray if suitably balanced, but if not, to a yellow-gray or a blue-gray; red, green, and blue if properly balanced will blend to a gray; black, white and green patches will blend to a green shade, and so on. These facts are simple to those who are familiar with the science of light and color, but the artist, whose knowledge is based upon the mixture of pigments, sometimes errs in considering this aspect of color-blending by distance. For example, it is not uncommon for him to state that at a distance yellow and blue patches blend to make green, but the addition of lights or of juxtaposed colors is quite different in result from the addition of pigments by intimately mixing them.

In constructing such a pattern of various colors it is also desirable to have the final mean brightness approximate that of the general surroundings. This problem can be solved by means of the photometer and a formula provided, which states, for example, that a certain percentage of the total area be painted in gray, another percentage in green, and so on. The photometer has played an important role in establishing the scientific basis of camouflage. The size of the pattern must be governed by the distance at which it is to be viewed, for obviously if too small, the effect is that of solid color, and if too large it will render the object conspicuous, which is a disadvantage ranking next to recognizable.

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Where the artist is concerned with a background which does not include the sky, that is, where he deals only with illuminated objects on the earth, his trained eye is valuable provided the colors used meet the demands made by photographic plates and visual color-filters. In other words, the sky as a background gives trouble to all who are unfamiliar with scientific measurements. The brightnesses of sky and clouds are outside the scale of brightnesses ordinarily encountered in a landscape. Many interesting instances of the artist's mistakes in dealing with these backgrounds could be presented; however, the artist's trained eye has been a great aid in constructing patterns and various other types of camouflage. One of the most conspicuous aspects of the earth's surface is its texture. From great heights it appears flat, that is, rolling land is ironed out and the general contour of the ground is flattened. However, the element of texture always remains. This is the chief reason for the extensive use of netting on which dyed raffia, foliage, pieces of colored cloth, etc., are tied. Such network has concealed many guns, headquarters, ammunition dumps, communication trenches, roadways, etc. When this has been well done the concealment is perfect.

One of the greatest annoyances to the camoufleur is the lack of dullness or "flatness" of the paints, fabrics, and some of the other media used. When viewed at some angles the glint of highlights due to specular reflection renders the work very conspicuous. For this reason natural foliage or such material as dyed raffia has been very successful.

Systems of network and vertical screens have been extensively employed on roadways near the front, not for the purpose of concealing from the enemy the fact that the roadways exist, but to make it necessary to shell the entire roadway continually if it is hoped to prevent its use.

Although the camoufleur is provided with a vast amount of material for his work, many of his requirements are met by the material at hand. Obviously, the most convenient method of providing concealment for a given environment is to use the materials of the environment. Hence, rubbish from ruined buildings or villages supplies camouflage for guns, huts, etc., in that environment. In woods the material to simulate the woods is at hand. Many of these aspects are so obvious to the reader that space will not be given to their consideration. The color of the soil is important, for if it is conspicuous the camoufleur must provide screens of natural turf.

In this great game of hocus-pocus many deceptions are resorted to. Replicas of large guns and trenches are made; dummy soldiers are used to foil the sniper and to make him reveal his location, and papier-mache horses, trees, and other objects conceal snipers and observers and afford listening posts. Gunners have been dressed in summer in green flowing robes. In winter white robes have been utilized. How far away from modern warriors are all the usual glitter and glamour of military impedimenta in the past parades of peace time! The armies now dig in for concealment. The artillery is no longer invisible behind yonder hill, for the eyes of the aerial observer of the camera reveal its position unless camouflaged for the third dimension.

In the foregoing only the highlights of a vast art have been viewed, but the art is still vaster, for it extends into other fields. Sound must sometimes be camouflaged and this can only be done by using the same medium - sound. In these days of scientific warfare it is to be expected that the positions of enemy guns would be detected by other means than employed in the past. A notable method is the use of velocity of sound. Records are made at various stations of the firing of a gun and the explosion of the shell. By trigonometric laws the position of the gun is ascertained. It is said that the Germans fired a number of guns simultaneously with the "75-mile" gun in order to camouflage its location. The airplane and submarine would gladly employ sound camouflage in order to foil the sound detector if practicable solutions were proposed.

The foregoing is a brief statement of some of the fundamental principles of land camouflage. Let us now briefly consider the eyes of the enemy. Of course, much concealment and deception is devised to foil the observer who is on the ground and fairly close. The procedure is obvious to the average imagination; however, the reader may not be acquainted with the aerial eyes from which concealment is very important. As one ascends in an airplane to view a landscape he is impressed with the inadequacy of the eyes to observe the vast number of details and of the mind to retain them. Field glasses cannot be used as satisfactorily in an airplane as on solid ground, owing to vibration and other movements. The difference is not as great in the huge flying boats as it is in the ordinary airplane. The camera can record many details with higher accuracy than the eye. At an altitude of one mile the lens can be used at full aperture and thus very short exposures are possible. This tends to avoid the difficulty due to vibration. When the plates are developed for detail and enlargements are made, many minute details are distinguishable. Furthermore, owing to the fact that the spectral sensibilities of photographic emulsions differ from that of the eye, contrasts are brought out which the eye would not see. This applies also to camouflage which is devised merely to suit the eye. Individual footprints have been distinguished on prints made from negatives exposed at an altitude of 6000 feet. By means of photography, daily records can be made if desired and these can be compared. A slight change is readily noted by such comparison by skilled interpreters of aerial photographs. The disappearance of a tree from a clump of trees may arouse suspicion. Sometimes a wilted tree has been noted on a photograph which naturally attracts attention to this position. It has been said that the belligerents resorted to transplanting trees a short distance at a time from day to day in order to provide clearance for newly placed guns. By paths converging toward a certain point, it may be concluded from the photographs that an ammunition dump or headquarters is located there even though the position itself was well camouflaged. Continuous photographic records may reveal disturbances of turf and lead to a more careful inspection of the region for sapping operations, etc. By these few details it is obvious that the airplane is responsible for much of the development of camouflage on land, owing to the necessity which it created for a much more extensive concealment. The entire story of land camouflage would overflow the confines of a volume, but it is hoped that the foregoing will aid the reader in visualizing the magnitude of the art and the scientific basis upon which terrestrial camouflage is founded.

Chapter 15 - Camouflage:
In Nature
1   2   3   4   5   6   Chapter 15 - Camouflage:

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About This Book Preface Chap 1, Introduction Chap 2, The Eye Chap 3, Vision Chap 4, Geometrical Chap 5, Figures Chap 6, Angles Chap 7, Depth/Distance Chap 8 Brightness/Contrast Chap 9, Color Chap 10, Lighting Chap 11, Nature Chap 12, Painting/Decorating Chap 13, Architecture Chap 14, Magic Mirror Chap 15, Camouflage

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