Secret camouflage tips of the WWII Allies: inflatable tanks and rubbish heaps

Strange Harvest has a great collection of scans from a book called Masquerade: The amazing camouflage deceptions of World War II that details the ingenious ways that the Allies used camouflage to fool the Nazis, everything from hidden gun-encampments to inflatable tanks and trucks. Shown here: "A US army HQ disguised as a rubbish pile."

Spence's counterfeit docks proved to be good box office. German planes came over periodically to photograph them, but fighter patrols and antiaircraft kept the intruders at altitudes of thirty thousand feet, and at that height it was virtually impossible for enemy cameras to pick up any remaining flaws. On German prints, the Docks looked authentic. Now and then, Nazi long range artillery on Cape Gris-Nez would even lob a few inaccurate shells at the terminus - and whenever these landed the camouflage crews would create suitable 'fire damage' using sodium flares and mobile smoke generators'
Link, Link to Masquerade (via Plastic Bag)

See also: Razzle-Dazzle: WWI cubist paint-jobs for battleships


  1. In the same vein is the remarkable case of the Abraham Crijnssen, a WWII minesweeper that manged to escape from the Japanese Navy by disguising itself… as a tropical island.

    One wonders what setting on the screws constitutes “island speed ahead”.

  2. And Bill Blass the fashion designer

    In 1942 Blass enlisted in the army. He was assigned to the 603rd Camouflage Battalion with a group of writers, artists, sound engineers, theater technicians, and other creative professionals. Their mission was to fool the German Army into believing the Allies were positioned in fake locations. They did this by using recordings, dummy tanks, and other false materials. The US Camouflage Battalion proved to be more successful than the European Camouflage Battalion.

  3. During the war in Kosovo, the Serbs created decoy tanks and artillery pieces out of plastic and plywood, which NATO then bombed. I don’t know how much it costs to build a decoy, but I’ll bet it costs more to bomb one.

    I’m sure there’s some Wacky Warfare Lab somewhere in the US that’s busy working on backpack-portable inflatable tanks. Issued at a scale of one per man, you just set them down, pull the toggle, and voila! Instant armored regiment!

  4. My grandfather worked at the DeHaviland aircraft factory in Britain during the war. It had bomb damage painted on its roof. I always thought that was cool.

  5. Flying Squid@4 – that was because of the exploits of double-agent Eddie Chapman, who got himself out of jail in Jersey by agreeing to work as a spy for the Germans and was parachuted into Britain to sabotage the DeHaviland factory in Hatfield. As soon as he landed he turned himself in to the authorities and wound up working for MI6, radioing false information back to the Germans.

    To make the Abwehr believe he was still working for them, damage was mocked-up on the factory, I believe by a team led by a former set designer for the English National Opera.

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