Monday, July 24, 2017

Scandalous Camouflage Bathing Attire 1919

You may recall earlier posts that included photographs and news reports on scandalous dazzle-camouflaged bathing suits (see below) that began in the UK at the close of World War I, then spread to the US and elsewhere. We've now located an American newspaper cartoon on the same subject (reproduced above). Created by Walter R. Allman as part of his series called DOINGS OF THE DUFFS, it appeared on page 4 of The Palm Beach Post on August 20, 1919. It shows a woman dressed in the same kind of striped bathing suit that had been sighted on the beach.
William Edward Ross, “America’s Pledge to Humanity’s Cause” in The National Magazine. Vol XLVII No 7 (June 1918), p. 326—

The sudden importance of everything attached to ships has resulted in many new devices for their protection, and perhaps no word coined during the present war has sprung into such instant popularity as the term “camouflage.” Born of necessity, its particular appeal to the need of the hour has rendered it extremely expressive. The general definition of “camouflage” is to deceive the enemy through some subterfuge which leads him to believe that what he sees is not what it is. It has proven one of the most valuable adjuncts to present war tactics, as applied to naval and merchant marine disguise. 

The artists assigned to the camouflage work have a well-appointed studio and theatre [which simulate] conditions that the ships will experience on the ocean as portrayed. It is their duty to devise ways and means, as well as do the actual work, to disguise these vessels in such a way that they will be almost indistinguishable.

Records received from the British Government indicate that camouflage is working even more successfully than was believed possible. A recent test was made when a camouflaged British ship was fired at with blank torpedoes, and the submarine captain insisted that he had made the best shots he had ever made, but the men on the camouflaged vessel hardly knew they were being fired at, the shots went so wide of the mark. On another instance, two vessels were passing each other, one camouflaged, the other au natural. One captain figured that their courses were going to meet. He blew his whistle to signal change of course. The first vessel paid no attention to his signals, and he began to notice that the thing was sliding sideways. They passed about a quarter of a mile apart, although the captain would have sworn the camouflaged ship was coming directly toward him. The entire system is simply a matter of physics and optical illusion. It is what the British call the “dazzle system,” and, when several duly camouflaged ships are passing by in Hampton Roads, it resembles nothing so much as a futurist painting—a conglomerate mass of phantom shapes. The use of camouflage and its value as a protective force furnishes an apt paraphrase on a prominent quotation, namely, “The hand which wields the paint brush saves the ship.”