Military history is, in a very real way, the history of technological advances throughout human history. This video gives us a curious look at how art and optics became an important part of WWI naval history.
From the beginning human advancement has gone hand in hand with technological developments. When humans first developed the ability to create fire from natural resources, they soon discovered that they could melt metals from certain kinds of rocks and then shape and harden them into useful tools, most importantly, into harder, sharper, more technologically advanced weapons.
Those who developed bronze weapons became more powerful and skillful hunters and warriors than those who were still using stone points on their arrows and spears. Those with the more advanced technologies became more powerful than their less advanced neighbors or enemies. And likewise, those who discovered the ways to make steel and new weapons, like swords, would overwhelm those who still used bronze.
As the world entered into the 20th century weapons technology was advancing exponentially. For example, WWI was the first war to use tanks, airplanes, submarines and, most troublingly, chemical weapons, as weapons of war. Nation states, which had achieved immensely powerful new technologies and wealth through the advancements of the Industrial Age, now competed in technological terms to develop more lethal and destructive weapons never seen or imagined before.
Well, with the advancement of offensive weapons of war, there must also be ever increasing skills and technologies to try to defend against the effects of those offensive weapons.
Some of the defenses being developed today are equally technological and scientific. We see that more and more.
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But many defensive ideas are surprisingly simple, yet very effective, as is the case in this video. In WWI, with the rise of the U-boat as a terrifying and very effective weapon to disrupt seaborne cargo and supplies, as well as warships, the British and American Merchant Marine and Navy’s developed a camouflage system for their ships called “Dazzle.”
It involved painting the starboard and port sides of ships with geometric patterns in a wide variety of colors to confuse the perspective of the U-boats viewing them through their periscopes at distances.
The video will explain how it works and how even artists were drawn into the development of more and more effective designs. Artists? As strange as it may seem, the art world already had much to offer in terms of both perspective and how to trick the eye into seeing things like depth, which really isn’t there.
Though this Dazzle camouflage was quite effective in WWI, with the development of more powerful periscopes, radar and other “dazzling” technologies, this Dazzle camouflage idea is no longer part of modern naval defenses. But this video gives us an interesting footnote in the annals of naval military history.
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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.