Τρίτη, 31 Μαΐου 2016

Didn’t know how they worked, until now: Dazzle ships, to confuse the U-Boat range finders

 


Nature always knows best.
That dazzle did indeed work along these lines is suggested by the testimony of a U-boat captain:
It was not until she was within half a mile that I could make out she was one ship [not several] steering a course at right angles, crossing from starboard to port. The dark painted stripes on her after part made her stern appear her bow, and a broad cut of green paint amidships looks like a patch of water. The weather was bright and visibility good; this was the best camouflage I have ever seen
U-boats were equipped with two periscopes, one for searching out enemy ships, the other with a more powerful lens but narrower field of vision for use in combat. Though the use of periscopes allowed the U-boat to remain safely underwater while carrying out an attack, looking straight out at misty sea level, which was rarely level at all made accurate vision very difficult. Hitting anything with a torpedo this way is as much a testament to luck as it is to skill.
Wilkinson advocated "masses of strongly contrasted colour" to confuse the enemy about a ship's heading.
Wilkinson advocated “masses of strongly contrasted colour” to confuse the enemy about a ship’s heading.
Even so there were those among the allies who thought they knew how to shift the odds even further. Naval ships were already being painted gray to blend in between the ocean and sky as much as possible. But a ship at sea cannot really be camouflaged as colors change along with the light throughout the day and when silhouetted against a blank horizon it is impossible to hide. But since ships were almost always moving targets U-boat commanders had to aim their torpedos at where they thought the ship would be when it reached it, not at the point where the ship was seen. This involved careful calculation of distance, heading, and speed based on the coincidence principal, and this is where Norman Wilkinson thought they could be deceived.