Modern methods of air operations--including developments in aerial photography--have
enormously increased the importance of camouflage.
In the last war the air was used more for reconnaissance than for bombing, and
consequently troop movements were more important to conceal than factories and
airdromes. It has needed the intense bombing attacks of this war to develop the
art of concealing large structures such as railway stations and hangars.
The Germans have evidently studied the problem very closely, and with their usual
thoroughness have resorted to elaborate schemes of concealment and deception wherever
they consider such measures justified by the importance of the target. Thus it is now
becoming the rule rather than the exception to see landing fields and airdromes presenting
from the air the most convincing impressions of woods, roads, ditches, hedges and
cultivation patches. Brown, light green, and yellow substances are sprayed over the
ground to give the effect of plough or vegetation. Dummy farms and other buildings are
disposed around airdromes to conceal workshops or isolated aircraft outside their
hangars, while papier-mache cows and beds of real flowers are used to add a convincing
note. Dummy cottages are erected or painted on the tops of hangars, the vertical
sides of which are sloped off by a lattice of steel wires garnished
with green-dyed jute, sometimes shaped possibly to resemble trees. Great attention
is always paid to changing the color of the garnishing by spraying so as to
correspond with the changing colors of the seasons.
It is well known that Berlin has been extensively camouflaged, not only the city itself
but also the outskirts. One example is the most important distinguishing landmark in
Berlin, namely the wide avenue running east and west through the city and called
the "Axis." The pavement of this avenue has been sprayed with a dark green paint to
blend with the trees in the Tiergarten (a large park), along the avenue and throughout
the western section of the city. The Victory Monument (Siegesäule), in the center of a
circle on the Axis, has been painted with a dull color so as not to reflect light. An
overhead cover of wire matting, interwoven with green materials to resemble
vegetation, covers the avenue for a considerable distance. The wire netting is
about 18 feet high and is interspersed with artificial shrubs and trees. About
every 30 yards the coloring and texture of the greenery has been changed. To
eliminate shadows, netting has also been hung from the sides at an angle of
about 20 degrees.
To create an opposite effect namely to simulate a street where in fact there is
none, wire netting has also been used. These dummy streets are frequently connected
with the real ones which then disappear into artificial woods. In one instance it is
reported that a "woods" was created by fastening artificial sprigs about 1 foot high
and about 1 to 2 inches apart to a wire net. Through these "woods" a system of "roads" was
painted in brown on the mesh of the net.
In Berlin many important buildings have been camouflaged by covering them with nets, and by
placing artificial barns, farm buildings, and trees on the roofs.
It has also been reported that dummy installations on a very large scale have been
erected at a distance of about 40 kilometers from the center of Berlin in an area
about 400 kilometers square. These dummies include not only structures simulating
railway stations, etc., but also installations to give the effect of city lights, and
for causing fires to give the impression of effective bombing.
The principal railway station at Hamburg had a complete false roof built over it in the
shape of a small hill. This false roof was completely covered with material resembling
green grass, and artificial paths were made over the "hill". A hangar at Rheine in
Northwest Germany had no other form of camouflage than two dark patches painted on
top of the northern edge. These patches combined with the shadow to break up the
regular shape of hangar and shadow together. Painted disruptive camouflage of this
type is very simple, and surprisingly effective when viewed under favorable lighting conditions.
Camouflage of a landing-field surface is begun at the earliest possible moment, even
when extensive construction work is still going on. A good example of this is
at Laval, south of Cherbourg, where the excellent camouflage of that area of the
landing ground which is now finished could only have been carried out under
considerable difficulty, in view of all the other levelling and drainage work involved.
Water is recognized as an easily distinguishable landmark, and lakes and canals in
important industrial areas are covered by rafts and netting, painted to blend with
The importance of avoiding regular outline is appreciated, and applied not only to the
breaking up of the form of large buildings, but also to the parking of motor transport.
Though considerable effort is apparently devoted to training the individual soldier to
camouflage himself by the use of whatever material he may find, comparatively little
information has come in concerning the methods adopted by German troops in European
campaigns. There are two reasons for this: first, they have almost always been on the
offensive, so that the necessity of constructing and concealing defensive positions has
not arisen very frequently; and second, they have, at least until recently, enjoyed air
superiority, so that the need of concealing themselves from air observation has hardly
Considerable ingenuity was shown in Poland and France in concealing minefields and
artillery, but disruptive painting of motor transport and armored vehicles was apparently
little practiced. The use of dummy positions appears to have been very common. Field guns
were concealed in dummy haystacks, antitank guns and limbers were disguised as carts and
even driven by soldiers disguised as civilians. On the other hand parachutes with straw
dummies attached and canisters with bogus instructions were dropped to create alarm. There
appears, in fact, to have been a frequent offensive use of camouflage to enable all
kinds of ruses to be carried out.
German practice in Libya was affected by lack of unchallenged air superiority and by
the fact that they have had to engage in positional warfare. Much ingenuity in concealing
weapons, war materials, and minefields has been shown, aided very frequently by the
favorite German method of using dummies.
In the desert more attention has had to be devoted to concealment from the air, which
has been achieved in two ways. Either vehicles and war material are camouflaged with
nets or local material, or else resort is had to wide dispersion. At first dispersion
was bad owing to lack of training, but lessons have been quickly learned and dispersion
is now generally excellent. The use of dummies is very frequent and popular.
In Section II of this publication, the report of the encirclement of Kiev mentions the
use of this stratagem and its importance in the tactics adopted. Here, it is to be observed
that dummies simulating boats and bridging equipment were constructed by the Germans in the
crossing of the Dnieper in order to deceive the Russian observers as to the area chosen
for the initial crossing.
Near Capuzzo in July 1941 guns were located among abandoned Italian artillery
which had been left there from previous battles. These guns were not
noticed until they opened fire. It is reported that at Derna planes destroyed in
previous fighting had been recovered and placed on the airdrome as dummy
targets. Dummy motor transport parks and coast defense guns had been constructed. A minefield
was recently camouflaged by tracks made with a spare wheel between the mines, and a
British armored car was lured into it. In an Italian sector a post was found manned
with straw-filled dummies in German uniforms stripped from corpses.
Most important is the use of dummy tanks. According to a prisoner these are cardboard
structures built over a motorcycle, but a photograph has been captured showing one
mounted on a light Volkswagen. Probably both are used. They are, of course used
only at a distance, and their purpose is to draw fire, to confuse the enemy as to
the probable point of attack, to conceal the fact that a real tank unit has moved, or
to give an exaggerated idea of tank strength.
Disruptive painting of guns, vehicles, motor transport, and tents is apparently not
very much used. There has been a report that both motor transport and tanks are
painted light khaki and sometimes smeared with grease and sand. There have, however, been
reports of armored cars painted dark green with yellow turrets. This, however, may have
been some form of unit marking. Tents are reported to be the standard dark green
color. Guns are painted yellow; the only concealment is provided by
their sun-covers. Nets have recently been reported in use by the Germans, stretched
over vehicles, and either pegged down or else extended outwards on poles. These
nets are garnished with small bushes, and the like. A net or screen has also been
used to disguise the presence of armored cars lying in ambush. Food and fuel dumps are
concealed in pits about 18 inches deep, which are dug well away from any
landmark, are well dispersed, and covered with nets and brushwood.
A recent report mentions a large gasoline dump camouflaged by a net or screen, behind which an
enemy patrol, consisting, it is thought, of three trucks mounting guns, lay concealed. When
the gasoline was fired on, the screen disappeared and fire was returned.
A report written by the commanding officer of a German infantry battalion throws interesting
light on the difficulties caused by excessive orderliness of mind and lack of practice in
individual concealment. He complains of the necessity of combating the herd instinct--"Not
only man and beast fall victim to it, tents and vehicles do so also". He enlarges at
considerable length on both the bunching and symmetrical dispersal of tents and
motor transport, practices to which the Germans are addicted. He also gives careful
instructions on the construction of narrow and deep trenches, which must have no
parapet and must be covered over, citing British positions as examples to be imitated.