Dazzle camouflage was fantastically weird. It was also surprisingly smart.

WWII saw another kind of strange history unfold: a meme (yes, really). Watch our video on it here:

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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. 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. 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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46 Comments

Vox

July 17, 2020

WWII saw another kind of strange history unfold: Kilroy – a meme (yes, really) – traveled the globe with servicemembers. He even makes an appearance in this video: http://bit.ly/2Co9DEu

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Glenn Jones

July 17, 2020

Nice…😆

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James Aseltine

July 17, 2020

Now that's just stylish!

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David Plater

July 17, 2020

I’m practicing painting dazzle camouflage on my model ships, not working very well yet though.

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elias jensky

July 17, 2020

Citi commercial

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sharan VJ

July 17, 2020

😮👏😁👌

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Admiral Big Fish

July 17, 2020

I'm trying to paint my boat like this, wish me luck

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SIDEKICKDUSTY

July 17, 2020

Did anybody else here look this up because of the Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark album? (Its my favorite of theirs)

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kick derel

July 17, 2020

So basically every war movie we watched was inaccurate 🙈

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Anakin Skywalker

July 17, 2020

Bruh i see no boat

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Andrew Mcluvin

July 17, 2020

Can I dazzle my credit cards from my gf?

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Midgard Eagle

July 17, 2020

They should've painted the white parts blue, then the enemy u-boat captains would be confused as to whether they should hunt a dark and blue ship, or a white and yellow ship.

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Anton Dereke

July 17, 2020

I couldn't see anything but words and the ocean…

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The Fail Ninja

July 17, 2020

Ww1 dudes like using skins in wars

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George Chu

July 17, 2020

canadian navy has come full circle

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KennethVG

July 17, 2020

Vox explaining history in minutes my teacher explaining history in weeks and still don't get what my teachers are telling about

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Patrick Wang

July 17, 2020

if there was a boat with some silly moving optical illusion that makes your view broken, that would be nice.

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Patrick Wang

July 17, 2020

no, that is just an empty picture

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Em edição

July 17, 2020

Op Art of war

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Dora ,the creator

July 17, 2020

nice

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Pokémon in your recommendation Logic is the answer

July 17, 2020

Why not make the ship like a mirror so you could blind yourself and others

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Omkar Sangle

July 17, 2020

Ultrasonic made it easy

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Polish Cat

July 17, 2020

Vox really needs to step up there game, all these "photographs of camouflage ships" are just photographs of the ocean smh…

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Silh S

July 17, 2020

Its fashion baby!

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Guillian Brosens

July 17, 2020

4:07 "flying boat" i think u mean a plane

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GST GAMEING

July 17, 2020

3:39 titanic’s sister ship was the rms Olympic if anyone is interested

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Yanchumbe Yanthan

July 17, 2020

This is false fact

The true fact is that the ships opens crates and even from battle pass and this is how they got them ship camouflage

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racecraftr

July 17, 2020

animals: i shall now blend in to my natural surroundings and not make a noise whatsoever.
boats: Z E B R A

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potatosquad

July 17, 2020

Man they should have dazzled the titanic so the iceberg didn't know where to hit.

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Wjgood

July 17, 2020

I like how you thumbnail is a French cruiser form WW2 but it says WW1.

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Lucas Herrington

July 17, 2020

This was not only used in ww1, take the Bismarck for example. A famous ww2 German battleship.

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Roachaximus

July 17, 2020

Why doesnt the navy do this anymore? Its camoflauge and it works

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Miniature Ben

July 17, 2020

This looks like World of Warships Promotion because of the skins

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*Shaking My Fucking Head*

July 17, 2020

Lol the color made it more noticeable

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Hot Sky

July 17, 2020

The first thing that this camouflage isn't about make the ship hard to spotted but rather than about make it harder to predict is blowing my mind.

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Simple THEO

July 17, 2020

It sounds different if you say it in afrikaans

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Decayed Guardian

July 17, 2020

If it's against a U-boat, why not be like the Olympic? Which rammed a U-boat head first lol

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Eagle Playz BD

July 17, 2020

I wish I had 8.02million subscribers😌

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The Safire rabbit

July 17, 2020

Me: wears patterned shirt

Torpedo flying towards me: hmmmm, nobody here

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bob bobby

July 17, 2020

Camoufleur: what shade of color should we use?
Camoufleur2: We'll use them all!

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S Miller

July 17, 2020

Never taught us this in art class or history…🔱 🎨🖌️⛴️⚓ Haven't seen Dazzle camouflage in any museum either.

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Eric J

July 17, 2020

One major purpose of dazzle was to confuse optical rangefinders. Basically you were looking through a set of widely spaced binoculars and you adjusted them until the images merged – the system would then measure the angles you'd moved each optic and automatically calculate the range. This was harder to do if you had chaotic paint breaking up the target ship's lines so you couldn't get the images to merge properly. By the middle of WWII they were primarily using radar for rangefinding so it was no longer relevant.

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KennethSNSDSone SMTOWN

July 17, 2020

so… there's an original ships painted with dazzle?! 🤔

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Moe Lester

July 17, 2020

Hey dude I think you need some sleep just by looking at your eye sockets

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Youtanwa Rose

July 17, 2020

maybe many people still dont understand that explanation but if you ever play world of warship you can really feel how confusing the camuflages are

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FLUXXEUS

July 17, 2020

This ship will bedazzled

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