"Camouflage" as stated in Military Intelligence Service Information
Bulletin No. 13, "is any and every means of hiding or disguising yourself from
the enemy; misleading him as to your position, strength, and intention; confusing
him so that he wastes his blows and falls into your ambush." A British source
states, "not concealment, but invisibility is the object." These two quotations
appear to cover the whole scope of camouflage. The following are some practical
notes on a phase of military activity which can not be too firmly impressed upon
troops in the field. Not only our own lives, but the success of a vital operation
may depend on the intelligent understanding of camouflage and also upon strict
b. German Instructions for Concealment of a New Main Defensive Zone
The following directive, issued by the commanding general of the 164th
Light Division on the 19th of October, 1942, in Africa, is of interest as an
illustration of the pains taken to conceal the shifting of the main defensive zone to the
rear. (Aircraft observation had however disclosed the movement to the British
before the order was issued.)
164 Light Africa-Division.
Div Hq., October 19, 1942
Subject:- Concealment of the New Main Defensive Zone
To: Regt. and Bn. Comdrs
The whole process of moving the main defense zone to the rear will only
have served its purpose in the long run if we succeed in deceiving the English
for as long as possible and in concealing the whole move from them. Otherwise
the troops will have to suffer from enemy fire just as much in the present
unfinished positions as they did before.
I therefore make regimental and battalion commanders personally responsible
for doing everything in advance which will make the rearward move achieve
its essential purpose.
To this end the following points must be observed:
(1) Prevention of obvious movement in sectors under enemy observation.
(2) Thorough camouflage and complete cessation of all movement on the
appearance of enemy aircraft. Enemy fighters too have eyes and take photographs.
In such cases every man will take full cover and will not come out and run around
just to watch the performance in the air, as almost invariably happens at present.
(3) Good reconnaissance and judicious layout of the supply routes, as far
as possible running forward over dead ground to the various sectors.
(4) Erection of notices "Caution," "Look out," "Enemy observation";
and if necessary, fencing off, or the posting of traffic guides.
(5) Camouflage of Hqs. No bunching to attract attention.
(6) In contrast with the main defence zone, no complete cessation of
hitherto normal movement in the new main line of resistance. Since the troops in front
in the old positions are now numerically weaker they will have to give signs of
(7) Extremely close watch by all infantry and artillery OPs. Nothing
which the enemy is doing must escape notice. Is the enemy intensifying his
reconnaissance activity in the next few days?
(8) Observation of enemy shelling. Is he firing onto the new main defence
zone? Where? How many rounds?
Only if every man in the Division follows these instructions will the
better situation of the main defense zone be made to result in greater security at
all points with consequent benefit to the troops.
Another order from Hq xth Corps (German) to the Pavia Division reads
We must give the enemy the impression that new forces have arrived from
the south, and that we intend to take the initiative there. The following measures
should be taken:
(a) All motor transport and a few tank units should move about day and
night in the forward area.
(b) Bring motor transport at present in forward bases right up to the line,
and make dummy transport and tank positions, using blankets and other material.
NOTE: According to another source the tanks of one tank regiment were
camouflaged as trucks by means of steel frames and canvas-painted sides, and
were well forward. Stationary dummies made of cardboard were well behind.
c. Camouflage of an Allied Advance Headquarters
A scheme for the camouflage of an advance division headquarters on the
African desert which appears to have been completely successful illustrates the
use of simple materials, locally available. The headquarters was far
forward--within a mile of the front line, and consisted of a number of elephant iron*
Quonset shelters dug in to ground level. (*Huts made of a half-cylinder of
massive, corrugated-steel sections.)
Positions were chosen behind small rises, some no more than 2 or 3 feet
high. Digging was done at night and the construction of 8 to 10 dug-outs was
carried on at one time. By day, the holes were covered with a fully garnished
net, consisting of about 30 percent of white rags, and the remainder of burlap.
On each of these was sewn a patch of worn-out tentage large enough to completely
shut out the shadow.
Part of the spoil was put into sandbags for office partitions, and part was
carried away in bags to be laid out irregularly between low camel-thorn bushes
where sand was sprinkled over them. [It is worth noting that, in this case, the
freshly dug sand was not scattered out, since the difference of texture between
the excavated material and the surface sand might have shown up on an
air-photograph. The bagged sand resembled stones or sand hummocks.]
d. Field Works
Block-houses of heavy reinforced concrete have been found, designed to
resemble the typical local North African house with a courtyard in the center.
Two loopholes for machine guns were pierced low down at each corner. An
antitank emplacement was designed to resemble a native well complete with
the uprights and a pulley.
e. Tank Camouflage
Tanks have been observed in advanced areas camouflaged as trucks with
steel frames and painted canvas sides, while dummy tanks made of cardboard
were placed in the rear.
Groups of derelict smashed tanks have been used for covering 88-mm
guns, toward which British tanks were lured by weak German tank patrols. Incidentally,
tank pennants are reported to have provided excellent sighting points
in the dusk for enemy gunners.
....In German minefields, the mines were so camouflaged
that it was impossible to tell within 10 feet of where they lay--a fact confirmed
by photographs on the spot.
From a recent German document, it is clear that air-photo interpreters
take special note of army tracks or roads that twist and turn suddenly for no
reason apparent in the nature of the ground. From such twists and turns the
interpreters infer the probable existence of a minefield, and they warn their
troops to avoid giving away the position of the minefield in such a manner. While
there is nothing new in this ruse, it may provide a timely reminder that there is a
simple, cheap and effective way of misleading the enemy as to the general plan of
defense and the location of real minefields in the defended areas. Dummy tracks
with these characteristic twists in association with lightly disturbed soil in plausible
locations might be successful as decoys.
A British commentator complained that in the Western Desert, British
minefields were not only identified by being surrounded by a barbed-wire fence,
but even the location of individual mines was obvious, even by moonlight. He
suggested that for each real mine placed at least two dummy mine-locations should
be made by scratching up the surface of the ground.
g. German Training in Camouflage
Camouflage and concealment are given the greatest importance in all
German military training. In defense, for example, it is even regarded as being
preferable to use ground less favorable from a tactical point of view, if by so
doing the intentions and organization of the defense become less apparent to the
enemy than they would be in a more suitable defensive position.
Throughout training, special emphasis is laid on the individual aspect of
concealment. It is stressed that the negligence of the individual rifleman may
lead to the premature disclosure of his squad. Particular attention is therefore
paid to squad training and dress.
During training, periods devoted to instruction in concealment and camouflage
are usually spent teaching the use of natural materials, such as branches,
rather than the use of artificial methods. An exercise has been observed in which
the troops taking part were sent off individually to see how far they could go along
a certain road before they were seen. The man who got the farthest was promised
half a day off. Great stress was laid on realism in training. Even during an
exercise, a squad leader was made to lead his squad through a ditch full of water if
better concealment was obtained thereby.
h. Personal Concealment
The German steel helmet is camouflaged with leaves, grass, or whatever
foliage is at nand. A rubber band is provided to hold these in position, as it is
found, when a man is lying down on the ground, that his helmet reflects the light
and is then the only part of him to be seen. Each soldier has a waterproof sheet,
disruptively painted. Coloring of equipment and even of faces to blend in with the
various types of background is encouraged.
Individual camouflage equipment which is much used by personnel of the
Japanese Army consists of a body net and head net, either or both of which are
used according to circumstances. The former consists of a net approximately
1 x 1 1/2 yards in size, made of a greenish-covered straw fiber cord or ordinary
twine with a square mesh something under two inches in size. The head net is of
a size which will allow it to fit snugly over a steel helmet or cap, and is of the
same material, mesh, and color as the body net. In addition to those pieces of
individual equipment, there is a net for the horses. Branches, leaves, grass, and
other local vegetation are stuck into the nets.
i. German Attempts to Camouflage Cities
A huge structure was erected on the Charlottenburger Chaussee in Berlin,
a broad avenue leading westward from the Tiergarten park into the heart of the
area occupied by government offices, an ideal landmark for pilots. Along its
entire length of 5 miles, wire netting covered with green cloth was installed. In an
effort to lure British bombers away from Berlin, it is reported that the Germans
have built a fake city to deceive the enemy pilots. Outside the city is a forest
which has been cut through with lanes so that at night, from the air, it is apt to
look like the Tiergarten. Fake roofs of cloth and paper are stretched between
the trees and on the ground are low lights like those of a blacked-out city. Looking
down at night, a flyer might think he was over the center of Berlin.
In their efforts to camouflage landmarks all over the city of Hamburg, the
Nazis drained Binnen-Alster (a small lake near the harbor) and on it built
imitation houses. Wooden bridges have been built on the Aussen-Alster Lake to
simulate the well-known Lombards Bridge, which in turn, has been disguised to
resemble the Jungfernsteig (a boulevard) complete even to a replica of the Alster
Pavilion, Hamburg's most famous cafe.
Again, between Laufen an Neckar and Nordheim, it is reported that a large
railway station, complete in every detail, was erected in a large field, about a
mile and a half away from Laufen toward Nordheim. It was exceedingly realistic,
and at night had dim, colored lights to represent signal boxes, signals, etc. Fires
were lit to deceive the airmen after raids. It was ineffective, inasmuch as Laufen
has suffered heavy air raids.
j. Decoy Town
The important Ploesti oil wells are situated on both sides of the Bucharest-Ploesti
Road, and 3 miles before reaching the last named town. The distance of
the oil wells from the road is about 600 yards. In an attempt to confuse the
enemy airmen as to the precise situation of the oil wells, the Roumanians are
reported to have camouflaged them by erecting a new town nearby, constructed of
wood and fitted with the necessary electric installations to make it appear
moderately lighted at night. The dummy town was situated about 4 miles southeast of the
Ploesti railway station and is of the same size as Ploesti itself.