Disruptive Coloration Camouflage

Mackay--Disruptive Coloration.jpg

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One of the earliest proponents of adapting land-based camouflage to military naval craft was William A. Mackay, whose "disruptive coloration" or "low visibility dazzle" system is pictured here. Later it was used to re-paint the troop transport US DeKalb during the last year of World War I.

Mackay was an artist who beginning in 1912 used his knowledge of optics and color to improve upon the standard method of painting warships gray—an important consideration given the success of German submarines. His theory was a modified pointillism that created gray through patterned application of red, green, and violet; unlike gray paint it would be perceived by human eyes in relation to differering "warm" or "cool" light conditions as a more adaptible gray. He incorporated elements of British "dazzle" patterns to eliminate sharp corners for the purposes of sighting.

Even prior to the outbreak of the Great War Mackay created a camofleurs' school that inclulded the painter Thomas Casilear Cole, who eventually was assigned to the US Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair during 1918.


Mackay, William A. (1876-1939)




Lindell T. Bates, The Science of Low Visibility and Deception, as an Aid to the Defense of Vessels Against Attacks by Submarines (Submarine Defense Assocation, 1918): following p. 32.

Courtesy of U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command



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