Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
Enclosed: Copies of correspondence.
July 22, 1917.
From: Commander, U.S. Naval Forces operating in European
To: Secretary of the Navy (Operations)
1. There is forwarded herewith a correspondence which explains itself.
It is a new method of painting vessels so that they will not be easily recognized by a submarine viewing the vessel through her periscope with the background of the sky.
In the laboratory where this method of painting is being worked out, I have examined various vessels through a periscope placed nearly at the level of a miniature sea. In many cases it was not possible to tell what the ship was or how she was heading.
As an example of what is intended by this method of painting, I may say that a certain model was placed on the bow and an experienced submarine commander was asked to look through the periscope and decide within a few seconds what he would do. He decided immediately that he would dive. When asked why he said “My impression was that a destroyer was heading nearly toward me but somewhat across my bow”. The model at which he was looking was that of a large merchant steamer so painted as to deceive him in the manner so described.
Source Note: TD, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520. At the end of the document is a handwritten note, possibly an addition by Sims: “I have had some correspondence with Lieutenant Henry Reuterdahl [a member of the U.S.N.R.F.] on the subject, and as he has given it much attention, I would suggest the matter being referred to him for an opinion. 96”