Military History: 10 of the Most Insane Military Disguises That Worked

Modern militaries use relatively standard camouflage patterns and netting to try to hide themselves from prying forces, but not all camouflage and disguise is so boring. Some military disguises that actually worked were outlandish and ridiculous.

10. Israeli Commandos Fooled Sentries By Cross-Dressing

In 1973, Israel launched Operation Spring of Youth as part of a larger operation targeting the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as revenge for the massacre of Israeli athletes at Munich. The operation, which targeted PLO leaders living in Lebanon, had to be very stealthy.

The Sayeret Matkal special operations force tasked with carrying out the assassinations had to sneak past Lebanese security forces and PLO guards without arousing suspicion. To do this, the Israelis turned to a ridiculous disguise: cross-dressing.

After coming ashore on the Lebanese coast on April 9, 1973, some of the Israeli commandos put on dresses and wigs. Pairing up with some of the other commandos, they pretended to be loving couples.

After being driven to their targets by Mossad agents, the commandos blasted down the doors and entered the houses of their targets. Other commandos, some still dressed as women, guarded the outside of the residences. The operation was a complete success, with only two Israeli commandos killed.

9. Explosives Disguised As Flour That Could Be Eaten

flour

With the OSS aiming to disrupt Japanese operations in Southeast Asia, they turned to chemist George Bogdan Kistiakowsky. He created the perfect explosive that could be disguised as, of all things, flour—and it could be used to bake as well.

The “Aunt Jemima” mixture of three parts explosive and one part flour could be sneaked past Japanese soldiers without suspicion. If they did get suspicious, a realistic looking and tasting loaf of bread could be made and eaten to prove to the Japanese that the flour was “just flour.”

Although the flour could be ingested, the original mixture would have made people very ill. This was amply demonstrated in an incident when a Chinese cook disobeyed orders and ate a muffin, becoming so ill that he nearly died.

Ultimately, a second version of “Aunt Jemima” was developed that was far less toxic than the first variant and could be consumed safely in quantity. In the end, more than 15 tons of the stuff was smuggled into Japanese-controlled areas with the Japanese none the wiser.

8. Dazzle Camouflage

dazzle

By 1917, with German U-boats having sunk a good 20 percent of the British merchant fleet, Britain needed to stem the losses any way it could. Although previous attempts to disguise merchant ships had failed spectacularly or been impractical in hiding the ships entirely from U-boats, artist Norman Wilkinson’s “dazzle” camouflage was designed to obscure the bearing of the ship instead.

If a U-boat couldn’t tell where a ship was heading relative to itself, the U-boat couldn’t target the ship effectively with a torpedo. Geometric shapes in varying shades of black and white accomplished this by obscuring the bow and other angles on the ship that the U-boat normally used to determine the bearing of the ship.

Wilkinson proposed his idea to the admiralty, who were desperate to stop the U-boats. As a result, they put the idea into practice without much testing. Hundreds of ships were painted with dazzle camouflage, each with a unique pattern to keep the Germans from being able to identify ship classes based on their camouflage patterns.

In the end, there was no official measurement of their effectiveness. But anecdotal evidence and more recent research has indicated that the dazzle camouflage was effective.

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