Did you know a World War II battleship was once disguised as houses?

Part of the Tirpitz’s “building” camouflage pattern
(Photo: unknown photographer)

The belligerent nations of World War II used a variety of camouflage paints and patterns on their warships. Some were intended to make the ship blend in with the horizon. Others used sharply contrasting colors in "dazzle camouflage" which didn't make the ship harder to spot, but did make it harder for the enemy to determine its speed and heading. Some were painted to resemble a different ship type. The most bizarre camouflage, however, tried to turn a battleship into a cluster of houses.

Another view of the building camouflage on the Tirpitz
(Photo: unknown photographer)

That battleship was the German Tirpitz, and the unlikely camouflage pattern was used during the winter of 1939, when the brand-new ship was still being fitted out in the Kriegsmarine dockyard at Wilhelmshaven. The port (left) side was decorated with adhesive tape to look like a dockyard building when seen from the water. The event is poorly documented, but it was probably done in an attempt to mislead enemy spies or scouts.

The Tirpitz in dock, with the camouflaged side facing the water
(Photo: unknown photographer)

This was the most spectacular camouflage for the Tirpitz, but not the only one over the course of her career. Spending most of her time in Norwegian fjords ready to sail out and attack Allied convoys headed for the Soviet Union, she was sometimes camouflaged to blend in with the nearby vegetation – which didn't stop British Lancaster bombers (Read our earlier article) from eventually sinking her.

Save 10% with our V-E Day promotion

A priest shows students a newspaper announcing Germany's surrender at a Catholic school in Chicago (Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images)

On May 8, we will celebrate the 79th anniversary of V-E Day, standing for Victory in Europe Day, marking the date of the formal unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in World War II. On this occasion, we are offering all our tours with a 10% discount if you book and pay in full until May 8, 2024. Note that this offer applies only in case of new bookings, and it cannot be combined with other special promotions. If you have any questions related to this or other tours, please contact our travel consultants at info@beachesofnormandy.com or by calling our toll-free number: +1 855-473-1999.

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