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"Notes on Camouflage and Concealment" from Intelligence Bulletin, July 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on camouflage on the Italian front and jungle concealment in the Burma theater was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 11, July 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



This section consists of two paraphrased reports, one dealing with camouflage problems on the Italian front and the other concerning jungle concealment in the Burma theater. Both reports stress the importance of individual as well as group camouflage and the strong relation of troop discipline to the maintenance of concealment and secrecy during movement of small units.


The following "Camouflage Notes" were prepared mainly from observations made during the Sicilian campaign and during training exercises back of the Italian front:

It is apparent that many [British] units in Tunisia and Italy, especially those with training and experience in desert warfare, have not appreciated the necessity for employing camouflage techniques and disciplinary measures radically different from those used in desert areas. For example, it was found that some units were still relying on dispersal alone for protection against air attacks. This practice in Tunisia and Sicily led to disclosure of headquarters locations and other strategic spots to the enemy.

The conduct of offensive operations over terrain covered by woods or undergrowth, or broken by hills, calls for new emphasis on certain aspects of camouflage. Complete concealment in the desert was impossible, but in such country as that described above excellent opportunities are offered. If these opportunities are not utilized, they will be turned into blatant advertisements of the arrival and presence of untrained and poorly disciplined units.

This change in terrain also means that greater attention must be paid to concealment from ground observation. Operations are now taking place where the enemy frequently has the advantage of high ground; and, with the use of field glasses, his powers of observation are great.

It should be the aim of each unit to reach such a standard of camouflage discipline that the whole business of elementary camouflage becomes a drill. To achieve this, it is essential that junior commanders possess a quick appreciation of natural features, background, and shadows, and that the men under them have an intelligent appreciation of the instruction they receive.

Therefore, it is essential that camouflage training be an integral part of day-to-day training and tactical exercises.

In training, particular attention must be paid to the use of cover provided by trees, hedges, and buildings. Every possible use must be made of the concealment afforded by the terrain. Most important of all, track discipline must be strongly enforced.

Figure 21 illustrates the need for stressing individual concealment down to the smallest detail. Note (1) the unbroken outline of the helmet and (2) the shining magazine. A few blades of grass and twigs placed in the helmet net will break the outline. Remember that it is necessary always to keep all shiny metal a dull color.

[Figure 21. Individual Camouflage.]
Figure 21. Individual Camouflage.

The use of camouflage nets must be encouraged, and care must be taken to insure that their full value is obtained in relation to the ground. However, it must be emphasized that concealment can often be gained from natural means afforded by the terrain--without artificial material, which is often unavailable in mobile operations.

The quickest way by which a unit can advertise its arrival and presence on what was previously undisturbed and peaceful ground is to allow its vehicles to move "anywhere and anyhow." The simple remedy is a track plan.

It is desirable that headquarters and units should detail an officer to be responsible in any reconnaissance party (for halting places and staging areas, and so on) for laying down a track plan. This track plan must then be followed carefully by all vehicles.


Presented below is a paraphrase of a British camouflage officer's report dealing with concealment in the Burma theater. The report deals primarily with problems of concealment which face a patrol operating in jungle country.

The report emphasized at the beginning that it is impossible to take any camouflage equipment on such patrols, and that troops, therefore, must learn to conceal themselves without it.

The paraphrased report:

It has been established in maneuvers that discipline--ordinary soldierly discipline--rather than equipment is the basis of good concealment in the jungle. In one instance, the "enemy" was able to follow a column for two days because of the refuse and other terrain "scars" left behind by the column.

The following points regarding concealment discipline should be noteworthy:

a. No talking above a whisper by any one.

b. Don't use trails or paths. If their use is necessary, have the patrol move 20 yards inside the jungle on either side and permit only the leading man (navigator) to use the path. This prevents clouds of dust and footprints.

c. Conceal all refuse and footprints. This must be impressed on every officer and man. This applies particularly to ration wrappings, empty cigarette packs, cigarette butts, pieces of cellophane, human excreta, burned-out fires from old bivouac sites, and so on. It is an officer's job to see that such things do not happen where the enemy can pick up a trail.

d. Fires are nearly always a matter for tactical handling by the commander. He will generally know if enemy patrols are likely to be near him. If they are--no fires and no coffee or tea. During the early morning, fires from a patrol occupying 200 square yards of jungle create a fog of smoke, even among thick trees, and are very obvious from a point of vantage overlooking the area. Surprisingly enough, fires in thick jungle or in hollows cannot be seen for more than 70 yards during darkness, but in all cases at night no fire should be lighted unless authorized by an officer.

One of the most encouraging lessons from a particular exercise was the fact that two or three large patrols often bivouacked or rested within 300 yards of each other but were never aware of the presence of one another because of good concealment discipline.


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