Education

Camouflaged Tank "Judge Jeffrey" in France, March 24, 1918


Historical Context
Camouflage has been used for decades as a means of concealing soldiers, equipment, and supplies.  Although the fighting on the Western Front (in areas like France) is generally associated with slow-moving or even static trench warfare, camouflaging equipment such as the tank in this photograph was still important at times.  Although the camouflage material covering the tank to the left of the building can be seen in the photograph, the goal of most camouflage is to keep people or objects hidden from viewers at a distance.



Camouflage works by covering or disguising the color and or shape of a person or object that might otherwise be seen and recognized easily.  Military uses of camouflage often serve one of two purposes.  Camouflage can be used to hide persons or things so that their position will not be noticed or attacked, or it can conceal fighting forces waiting to ambush an enemy.  The tank in the photograph is camouflaged in a hedge.  Although an enemy might notice the camouflage cover at close range, the tank may still remain out of sight of enemy soldiers, artillery observers, or even airplanes looking on from a distance.



Photograph of Lieutenant McGuire's tank "Judge Jeffrey" of the 10th Tank Battalion camouflaged in a hedge near Bihcourt, Somme, France.  The tank was hit by a German shell on March 25, 1918; one day after this photograph was taken on March 24, 1918.
Essential Question
How does war influence changes in technology?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and discuss the impact of this technology on the outcome of the war.
[click to enlarge]
Camouflaged Tank, New York State Archives, NYSA_A3166-78_B1_F18_HedgeTank
Document Description
Lieutenant McGuire's tank "Judge Jeffrey" of the 10th Tank Battalion camouflaged in a hedge near Bihcourt, Somme, France, March 24, 1918.
Questions
  1. What is the purpose of camouflage?
  2. How does camouflage work?
  3. For what two purposes might the military use camouflage?
Historical Challenge
Why did most armies use bright colors for uniforms before the early 1900s?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Militaries use camouflage in the same ways that several organisms do: hiding from danger or to have the advantage of surprise within their environments. Search in books or online for two organisms that use camouflage for different purposes and share with the class.
Technology: The technology of camouflage is constantly evolving. Research and discuss emergent technologies such as adaptive camouflage.
Math: Designers of camouflage take many factors into account when making a pattern. Pick a specific geographic area of any country. What shapes, colors, and proportions of colors might you use to blend in in that area? Could this pattern and blend be used in other areas?
Resources
  1. Hartcup, Guy. Camouflage: A History of Concealment and Deception in War. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England: Pen & Sword Military, 2008.
  2. Newark, Tim. Brassey’s Book of Camouflage. London: Conway, 2009.
  3. http://science.howstuffworks.com/military-camouflage.htm