Uniforms Which color of uniforms were better camouflage, gray or blue?

major bill

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It would seem that butternut color uniforms might be fair camouflage in some areas but not in other areas. What about gray uniforms or blue uniforms? Again this would depend on the area they were being worn. As far as I know no major nation's army had conducted any studies to determine on the subject of if the using the color of uniforms made soldiers more difficult to see in a combat environment.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Gray hands down. If the right shade, it'll blend into the surroundings better than a "butternut" color of any shade.

Just look at WW2 color film of German soldier in their gray, or field gray, uniforms. They could blend enough into the countryside whether it was summer, fall or winter.

Gray is just an all around good camo color because of how prevalent it is in nature, and how other colors in nature blend with it. In my experience, blue stands out just as much as red...

:CSA1stNat:
 
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major bill

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I have seen World War One studies that show light blue, and gray were about equal in their camouflage abilities with brown, khaki, and blue having about the same camouflage abilities.

I am not being smart, but is your view based on opinion or military studies?
 

major bill

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First hand accounts, and experience from reenacting.

Thank you. I am trying to remember where I seen this subject discussed from a detailed study. If I am remembering right it was from the World War One era with Austrian green gray, French horizon blue, German field gray, and British dark khaki being about the same. Blue, light gray, light khaki, and blue were not as good of color for camouflage. This of course was dependent area, smoke, mist, and other factors.
 

major bill

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Perhaps we have a forum member who has studied camouflage in some detail. In the military I only studied the use of olive drab and woodland style camouflage uniforms. Olive green was better in some uses, while woodland style camouflage was better in other uses. If a soldier remains stationary then woodland style camouflage is better, while if a soldier was moving olive green uniforms were better.
 

Rhea Cole

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The challenge of camouflage is that a design that works perfectly in one context stands out like a billboard in another, an aircraft with brown & green camouflage does look like a flying tree at 20,00 feet. From the position of the Chicago Board of Trade position at Stones River where we do our artillery demos, the tree line where the Confederate infantry began their final assaults is about 800 yards away. I have often noticed that butternut uniforms are easy to see against the dark cedars. Once they moved into the broom sedge in the field, which is reddish brown, they are much harder to make out. On the other hand, against the dark cedar trees the counter shaded Union uniform of light blue pants & dark jackets disrupts profile. When we have done Signal Corps programs at Lookout Mountain, I have also noticed how the countershaded Union uniform made the figures hard to make out against the skyline. Camouflage does not need to make a man invisible, it only needs to disrupt his profile & make him difficult to target. That is how dazzle camouflage works. My experience is that the answer to the question of which uniform is the best camouflage is the dreaded, "It depends..."


plates_Page_093_Image_0001.jpg

The only service that made camouflage a priority during the Civil War was the Signal Corps. There was an understandable need to shield the signals from preying eyes & discourage sniping by by artillery. There really is a "Here I am please kill me!" quality about waving a flag on a battlefield, don't you know?

What is not generally understood is that signalists manned stations of observation. They were tasked with secretly observing enemy movements, intercepting "sigs for contrabands", i.e., intercepting & decoding enemy messages. Signalists also acted as forward artillery observers, routinely designating targets & adjusting fire.

Page On Porter:Sherman Code.jpeg

Odds are that none of you all have ever seen this before. This is page one of the signal code used to adjust the fire of Porter's gunboats by signalist of the Army of Tennessee. From a hidden position, signalists used the Combined Service Code to communicate with the gunboats. During riverine combined operations, it is easy to understand how adjusting the fire of the gunboats would be a powerful force multiplier.

combined services code.jpeg



 
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major bill

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Thank you for this thoughtful post. Although I have military training in the art of camouflage, my training in the color of uniforms is limited. We did have to attempt to observe soldier in a snow environment wearing all white and a white top and dark olive green over trousers. As you pointed out terrain greatly impacted the ability to see the soldiers. All white works well in open areas for both for stationary and moving soldiers. The whie top and dark trousers works better in wooded terrain. White top and dark trousers also works well in hilly areas. The two tone mix helps break up the human form.

By the way sking around in snow covered fields and woods during sub zero weather, while trying to see "enemy" soldiers, is not nearly as much fun as it sounds. But I did get paid fairly well to do it.
 

nc native

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I'd say gray uniforms especially when you consider smokeless powder was not around during the Civil War. I could imagine that gray uniforms would be very hard to see through smoke on the battlefield and the early morning fog on occasion. There was one Union unit that had something that was probably the best thing to wear on the battlefield for concealment, especially in wooded terrain. Berdan's
Sharpshooters wore forest green uniforms that would have been hard to spot in a treeline or in other natural backgrounds.
 
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Rhea Cole

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The only camouflage that will make an object disappear is the Yahooty Effect. It involved placing lights on the forward parts of an aircraft that would match the brightness of the surrounding sky. An aircraft with Yahooty lights was impossible to see. It was used to attack U boats before the lookouts had time to make an alarm. It was short lived because radar made it obsolete.
 
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Waterloo50

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I have seen World War One studies that show light blue, and gray were about equal in their camouflage abilities with brown, khaki, and blue having about the same camouflage abilities.

I am not being smart, but is your view based on opinion or military studies?
I don’t suppose that the colour of uniforms during WW1 was much of a concern, they all ended up covered in mud and blood. From the reports that I’ve read, most soldiers were plastered in mud within seconds of being on the front line. If you consider the situation at somewhere like the Somme, there was really nothing to blend in with other than mile upon mile of mud, endless unceasing mud.
 

Waterloo50

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The only camouflage that will make an object disappear is the Yahooty Effect. It involved placing lights on the forward parts of an aircraft that would match the brightness of the surrounding sky. An aircraft with Yahooty lights was impossible to see. It was used to attack U boats before the lookouts had time to make an alarm. It was short lived because radar made it obsolete.
Razzle dazzle camo was pretty good for a while.
 

Waterloo50

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I'd say gray uniforms especially when you consider smokeless powder was not around during the Civil War. I could imagine that gray uniforms would be very hard to see through smoke on the battlefield and the early morning fog on occasion. There was one Union unit that had something that was probably the best thing to wear on the battlefield for concealment, especially in wooded terrain. Berdan's
Sharpshooters wore forest green uniforms that would have been hard to spot in a treeline or with other natural backgrounds.
Gray uniform is a pretty smart choice, the Germans had many different shades of gray uniform, wait for the jokes (Fifty shades of gray) but legend has it that the German army chose gray because it made It harder for the enemy to spot the troops at a distance, its also a bit of a misconception that the German army stuck with gray, during WW1 quite a few troops were issued with various shades of green. I think that the old black and white photos give the impression that German troops mostly wore gray uniforms but many wore gray green.
 

jackt62

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Didn't think the art of camouflage extended to the color of CW uniforms (think of the burst of red in Zouave uniforms) to say nothing of actual camouflage as for example the US Army desert uniforms from the 1980's.
 

ucvrelics

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It would depend on the time of the year and the area you were in.
 

7thWisconsin

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Camophlage was not a consideration for Ciil War uniforms. You needed to be able to see your own troops on the smoke filled battlefield. Some period descriptions feel that butternut blends in the best, but it's a byproduct not the intent. The green uniforms of the USSS were something of a camophlage attempt; they also had black rubber buttons so they wouldn't shine.
 
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