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Why Ships Used This Dazzle Camouflage In World War I

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Dazzle camouflage was a surprisingly effective defense against torpedoes. In this episode of Vox Almanac, Phil Edwards explains why.World War I ships faced a unique problem. The u-boat was a new threat at the time, and its torpedoes were deadly.

image/text credit: Vox

That led artist Norman Wilkinson to come up with dazzle camouflage (sometimes called “razzle dazzle camouflage”). The idea was to confuse u-boats about a ship’s course, rather than try to conceal its presence.

In doing so, dazzle camouflage could keep torpedoes from hitting the boat — and that and other strategies proved a boon in World War I.This camouflage is unusual, but its striking appearance influenced the culture, inspired cubist painters’ riffs, and even entered into the world of fashion.

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Though dazzle camouflage lost its utility once radar and other detection techniques took over from u-boat periscopes, for a brief period in time it was an effective and unusual way to help ships stay safe.

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