Not Being Observed

From FM 21-100, FM 5-20A, FM 21-75

If the enemy can't see you then it's going to be that much more difficult for him. Meanwhile, you still need to be able to see him. Here's how:

Click for larger

NEVER peek out over something, your helmet will show first long before you get a look with your eyes! Peek around the side with your head straight up and down. Peek where there is concealment and the natural outline of your head will be broken up and camouflaged. Always observe motionless and from the prone. 

The soldier in the trees is so well hidden you can't see him!
The soldier in the window blends in with the shadows.

Stay back from the windows!

Your Helmet
The outline of your helmet is one of the striking characteristics of a soldier's equipment. Its curved, familiar shape can be identified by the enemy. One of your first steps in preparing for the job of staying alive to fight is to disrupt both the form of your helmet and the strong, straight-lined shadow it casts.

A helmet net or cover will take down the glare, but do nothing to remove the shape of your helmet. Adding in natural foliage that breaks up the curved outline AND the shadow that the rim creates below it, will provide best camouflage.

Your Body
On the face, disruptive patterns should cut across the nose line, cheek bones, eye sockets, and chin lines. Lampblack, burnt cork, or justp lain mud can be used as toning materials. 

(we don't suggest doing this at a reenactment, tactical perhaps)

Your Weapons
Even your weapons need some attention in the way of camouflage. The outline of the rifle or carbine is easily recognized. It may be painted properly under the supervision of an officer or noncommissioned officer, or it may be wound with tape or clot of a grayed color to disrupt its outline. Leaves or other natural material wrapped with tire tape are effective. The bayonet can be toned down with mud. When camouflaged by painting, weapons and equipment must be darker than surrounding.s 

(we don't suggest doing this at all, weapon's don't take kindly to foreign objects being put in/on them)

Your Equipment
Clean canvas equipment is correct for inspections, but in combat zones such equipment is an invitation for a bullet. In motion, light-color patches are easy to spot. One of your first jobs in dressing for the job of fighting is to tone down (darken) the color of your canvas equipment. It can be done with paint, mud, charcoal, or anything else which will make the tone of the canvas about the same as the rest of your clothes. 

Blending with your Background
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 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 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. 

Now for some examples of what we mean:

Great job matching the tone of the surroundings, but he forgot to hide his silhouette.

Much better!
(I can't even see him)

Dark shapes on light, unbroken, background. Excellent silhouette!

Light shapes on dark background. Good helmet camouflage though. 

Keep in the shadows. Also don't silhouette yourself against the sky.

Great match of tone on the left, moving in shadows.
Keeping in the shadows on the right, helmet camouflage might have been good before, but is no longer.

Shadows are limited. If you get silhouetted against a light patch there was little point of trying to stay in the shadows now was there?
In a situation like this, hug close to the object giving off a shadow and move low and fast across that road! 

Even you make a shadow, you might blend in with your background, but your shadow won't.

Better shadow management technique. 

In Snow Country
Snow country is a mottled pattern of black and white more often than it is a 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.

Stay back in the trees and shadows (where possible) you will stand out in the white!

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.

Tracks everywhere! Kilroy's after the Krauts!

Uniform spacing between objects or personnel (men marching in column) and straight lines formed by them are conspicuous in the snow. 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.

Again, keep the principles of silhouette and shadow in mind when positioning yourself. Foxholes placed along a crest will silhouette against the skyline. Place them on the front of the slope near other concealment. Place positions under shadows and cover that will prevent observation from air. Spoil should be disposed of properly or camouflaged as described in the fortifications section.

Now the flip-side. You're looking for the enemy! 

When observing, observe in a methodical method, don't skip around (you may miss something). Start with the area closest to you and and then sweep outward. See figure 67 below. 

Some observing tips:
  • Extent and state of a bivouac will indicate the number, strength, and state of an enemy force
  • Tracks on a road will kind of troops and direction 
  • A freshly made mark will have sharp edges and has signs of moisture which lasts about 15 minutes 
  • A running man digs his toes into the ground while a walking one has fairly even steps
  • A direction of a vehicle can be determined by the the track of itself over ruts or puddles of water
  • Speed of a vehicle can be determined by the amount of mud or dirt scattered
  • Slow moving vehicles leave deep smooth tracks whereas fast moving ones leave cut deeper
  • Numbers can be either counted or estimated by the length of time it takes a column to pass a specific point
  • Infantry produce a low thin cloud of dust while marching
  • Cavalry produce a hight thin cloud of dust
  • A broken cloud of dust means artillery or wagon trains
  • A thick heavy and rapidly moving cloud means automobiles or trucks