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Black Clothes & Hiding

By: Andrew Priestley

The Armies of most western nations have been working for years on better camouflage for their troops. The US Army has settled on the current Woodland pattern as the best all around camouflage pattern for troops in nearly any terrain. It is a mottled green, tan, brown and black fabric which breaks up the silhouette nicely and blends in well in a variety of terrains (especially with some natural garnish thrown in). About the only places the woodland pattern doesn't work too well is in open desert during the dry season, on icepack and snowy environments, and in an autumn wheatfield. It's also prett distinctive in the middle of a city. But since most combat is fought in the coutryside, that isn't too much of a problem.

Coloration is not so much the problem at night, (though any bright or light color would be bad) as is pattern and shape. The human mind sort of expects to see human shapes and is remarkably adept at picking them out. Any person wearing a solid color will quickly resolve into a human shape in the human eye at night, whether the person is wearing blue, gray, black or brown. The idea behind camouflage is to break up the human shape and eliminate patterns that the eye can translate into a human form. Mottled patches of color and shades do that wonderfully. Of course getting caught standing in the open against a blank wall is a bad thing. You want to stay concealed among shifting patterns, shadows and other low contrast backgrounds.

Movement is the primary giveaway at night. The human eye is pretty bad at picking up shapes at night, there just aren't enough of the right kind of photosensitive cells in our retinas to see well at night. There is, in fact a very significant blind spot, right in the center of our retinas where nearly all the cells are designed to pick out colors, and there are very few light sensitive cells. This results in an odd phenomenon in which objects vanish from view when you stare directly at them at night. That is why it is best to freeze in position if someone is looking directly at you at night. Another reason why this is wise, is because the fringes of vision are extremely sensitive to movement and are much more likely to pick up an infiltrator at night than the direct view. That is why sentries are taught to scan constantly rather than staring at a certain spot; this enables them to "catch things out of the corner of their eye."

Stealth is more than just moving quietly, and dressing appropriately, it is also a method of moving where and when you will not be observed, it is also a matter of patience. Carlos Hathcock stalked something like 1700 meters across an open field over the course of three days, with NVA patrols moving around him within arms reach in broad daylight, without being spotted. He then killed an NVA general with a seven to 800 yard rifle shot and sneaked back out across the field to escape. The whole stalk took four days to accomplish, Hathcock ate little, drank almost nothing, had blisters all down the left side of his body from dragging himself across the terrain, and a multitude of bug bites etc. He also had to relieve himself in his clothing as necessary, and still was able to "get inside his bubble" to take the shot. Amazing.

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Last Updated Sat Aug 11, 2007