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United States War Department
Field Manual: FM 5-20A
Army Corps of Engineers


Blending With Your Background

concealment CAMOUFLAGE CLOTHES AND THE TERRAINPart I told tell you how to go about dressing for the job of fighting.  Part II shows you how to use the terrain, how to move in it, how to make it work for you.  With camouflaged equipment, you are ready to make the most of the terrain.  Part III deals with combat position camouflage.

Losing your silhouette in the silhouettes of things in the background and making use of the shadows in the background no matter how small they are are the primary means of blending yourself with your background.  Be constantly aware of these two factors, silhouette and shadow.

From a concealment point of view, backgrounds consist of terrain, vegetation, man-made objects, sunlight and shadows and color.  The terrain may be flat and smooth or it may be wrinkled with gullies, mounds or rock outcrops. Vegetation may be dense or nothing but little patches of measly scrub growth.  The size of man-made objects may range from a sign post to a whole city street. There may be many colors in a single background, and they may vary from the almost black of a deep woods to the sand pink of some desert valleys.

Blending with your background means simply to match as many of these things as you can and to avoid all those with which you are in contrast.  Remember, too, that your background is fixed.  It cannot move with you.  Whenever you move quickly against your background; you no longer match it.  It is an easy way of attracting attention to yourself.


CAMOUFLAGE CLOTHES TERRAIN silhouetteThe soldier in Figure 23-A may think he blends with the ground and he does.  But look at his sharp silhouette against the bright river.  Stay off such clearly defined edges.  The correct way to look over the bank is with good background both before and behind you (Fig. 23-B).  The enemy is no respecter of position.  He won't stay in front of you to oblige you.  Assume he is everywhere.  Don't give him an opening like this.

Avoid bright backgrounds of all kinds  (Fig. 24), especially when such backgrounds are unbroken by shadows and dark objects.  In the same way, when you are in a light-colored uniform, avoid contrast with dark, shadowed objects (Fig. 25).  If you must be revealed against a contrasting background, be aware of it, and be there for the shortest possible time.  Select your next point of concealment in advance and get there as quickly as you can.

soldier concealment Background helmet m1 garandThe soldier in Figure 26 has forgotten the first principle of concealment:  Background.   He has foliage in his helmet, true enough, but it isn't anything like what is behind him. This doesn't conceal anything.   It attracts the attention of the enemy. 

In street fighting, hug piles of debris which contain shadows.  Stay on the shady side of such objects, and in the general disorder of an area like that in Figure 27 you can stay hidden easily.  In a rubble-strewn area, the thing which gives you away is movement.  When you are forced to move, do it on the double.  Before firing, be sure your position won't raise dust and give you away.  If you shoot from within a house, take a position that will raise as little dust as possible.  Figure 28 is a battlefield example of how to use natural materials. How many camouflaged soldiers do you find here?

To fight beside these haystacks, the soldiers removed the foliage they used in the surrounding area and stuffed straw into their clothing and helmets.  Now they melt into the haystacks, and an enemy will have a difficult time finding his target. Only the firearms are conspicuous.
sniper street fighting urban camouflage clothes terrain


forward artillery observer roof peak unwisely exposedShadows are part of every background. You can make them work for you if you know how to use them. They will work against you if you are careless or thoughtless.

When you observe from within buildings, as shown above, stand well hack from the opening.  Stay in the shadow.  Your field of vision is more limited, but you will remain unseen.  When you observe, take care not to break the regular outline of a wall or building.  Stay close to them and observe from near the junction of wall and wall, or wall and ground.   In figure 30, the observer on the roof peak is unwisely exposed:  Note how inconspicuous is the observer in the shadow of the chimney.

Shadows  cuts  ditches concealment forward movement CAMOUFLAGE CLOTHES TERRAINShadows of cuts and ditches (Fig. 31) offer concealment during movement.  Heavy shadows (Fig. 32) offer the best concealment when moving.   This is especially true when you are subject to aerial observation.

Where there are clear expanses of unbroken ground, shadows are definite and revealing signs. Notice, in these figures, what stands out most. In Figure 33-A the soldier is too erect and the shadow he casts is large and conspicuous. In Figure 33-B he hugs the ground, keeping his shadow as small as possible.

Once again, the soldier has forgotten his background (Fig. 34). He is in shadow, all right, but shadow doesn't conceal him when his background beyond the shadow is light.  When you must move against an unfavorable background, stay close to the object which casts the shadow, so that the positions from which you can be seen against the light are reduced and move fast.

Action at Night

The night isn't a protective blanket.  You can see at night.  Take it for granted that the enemy can too. Within half an hour in the dark the eye adjusts itself fully for night vision.  As in the daytime, silhouette and background are still the vital elements of concealment.  A silhouette is always black against a night sky (Figure 35).   Be just as careful at night as in the daytime about keeping off the skyline.   If you are silhouette background CAMOUFLAGE CLOTHES nightframed against a light road at night, you will make a sharp silhouette.   On moonlight nights, take the same precautions as in daylight.   Remember that the position of the enemy observer, and not the topographic crest, fixes the skyline.

At night, sound is an important, revealing signal. Move carefully and quietly and stay close to the ground.

When a flare goes up, you must react instantly.  Don't look at the flare.  It will blind you temporarily.  If you hear the pop of the flare before it bursts, drop to the ground and remain motionless.  If the flare surprises you and goes off before you are warned, freeze in your tracks and keep your face downward (Figure 37).  You may not be noticed if you remain still.  Move, and you will draw a bullet.  If you have time to move before the flare bursts, drop to the ground even though your background is unfavorable.
Action at Night camouflaged equipment enemy flare German

In Snow Country

CAMOUFLAGE CLOTHES TERRAIN snow country ski troopsSnow country is a mottled pattern of black and white more often than it is an unbroken expanse of white.  Make the dark patches work for you by keeping close to them, as much as possible.   Avoid a background of clear unbroken snow.

Take advantage of shadows.  Even where there are no wooded areas or clumps of bushes, there are shadows made by ridges, drainage lines, rocks, and other terrain irregularities.  Tracks are particularly hard to conceal.  Uniform spacing between objects or personnel and straight lines formed by them are conspicuous in snow (Figure 39).  Scatter, follow the edges of woods, don't make tracks directly to an installation.

Hit the ground quickly in battle.   Break up the regular lines of your skis by throwing snow over them. A better route would have been along a stream or fence line.


camouflage clothes rapid movement woods full concealment army war militaryChoose your route carefully by day and night.   Make all possible use of screens, background, and shadow.  Note Figure 41 - Route 1 for daylight.  This assumes that there is fairly good undergrowth and shadow concealment against ground observation.  Under favorable circumstances the enemy can see as much as 100 yards into an open wood.   In this latter case, travel farther back from the edge.  Woods with medium undergrowth also furnish numerous good observation points and cover.  Heavy undergrowth is an obstacle to movement, and where rapid movement is more important than full concealment, movement by bounds along the outside edge and in the shadow of the woods may be possible.  Where only a hedge or fence is available, and you can do so, move in the shadow.  The less growth available, the more the necessity for crawling and running.   In addition, movement over open ground is disclosed by tracks. 

Note Figure 41 - Route 2 for dark night.  The reason for this is that it is difficult to walk quietly in the woods at night, easier for the enemy to surprise you.  A dark night furnishes the shadow, and the route is chosen to give you background and keep you off the skyline.  Light discipline is essential.  On bright moonlight nights, the shadow along the edge of the woods is probably the best route, but you lose security.  Keep in low places in the ground.  In any event, your mission, ease of movement, shadow mist, and background are controlling factors.

camouflage observe observation silhouette concealment crestObserve from bushes large enough to prevent you from becoming an obvious target.  Observe through or under low branches and make movements slowly.  Be sure that no part of your silhouette stands out against the background.

Creep along fence lines and low vegetation move slowly, silently.  Always choose the next point before crossing open areas.  Then sprint for it, keeping body low and following a zigzag course.   If skyline cannot be avoided, crawl to it.  Approach the crest slowly, using whatever concealment there may be.   How you cross the skyline depends on whether you are alone or with others, on how irregular the line is and on how much you have been able to learn about the enemy.   It is almost always possible to cross a skyline without being seen by losing your silhouette in the silhouette of rocks, bushes, ditches, or other things which cause irregularities in the line.  You should sprint across a skyline only when concealment is impossible.

camouflage discipline foot prints air observation Camouflage Discipline

Always remember that you are a member of a team.  Camouflage discipline is the most important part of individual camouflage because not only you but all your buddies in the unit will have to suffer for the mistake of one member.  Concealing and maintaining the concealment of your unit is a cooperative responsibility shared by you and by every other individual in the unit.

From the air, such an innocent action as crossing an open field is easily observed.  Your individual foot prints (Figure 43)  show up as a light line across such a field.   Keep to existing paths in a bivouac area or position of any kind.  Stay on the terrain lines:  Fences, ditches, hedgerows, roads and paths already there.  Be sure you understand the details of the camouflage scheme for your unit, and do your part in maintaining it.

shelter tent U.S. American camouflage scheme army marines WWII WW2 World War TwoDon't hang white laundry in open places where its bright tone can be easily spotted. Hang it under cover of some kind and don't keep it there any longer than it takes to dry.  Your shelter tent is a characteristic of the American army.  Unless you camouflage it well, it will give away the position, and possibly the plans, of your whole unit.  The black triangle formed by the interior shadow can be seen a long way off, especially from the air. Conceal it by striking the front tent pole or by covering the opening and the outline of your tent with natural materials. Never pitch a shelter tent in daylight unless you are ordered to do so.

Remember The Principles

So far in this book, we have been concerned with the simpler things that make individual concealment possible.  We have stressed the basic points of background and silhouette and shadow.  You will find yourself in numerous positions not covered specifically in this book.  But if you remember the principles we have covered, you can meet every situation successfully.  One rule must be before you at all times.  Don't relax, as long as there is a chance of your being observed.  Practice concealment every moment of your life as a soldier.   It will be a longer life and a safer one, and there will be more dead enemy soldiers behind you.


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