Dazzle ships were specially painted ships used by the British and US Navy in World War I. This form of camouflage was derived from cubism by British artist and naval officer Norman Wilkinson, colourful nuances were painted onto the ship to create an optical illusion that could disguise the direction of the ship from an enemy periscope. Because the ship was a moving target, the enemy u-boats aimed their torpedoes ahead of the ship, but the patterns painted on the ship made this very difficult to do successfully. After the first world war, the style was discontinued because it made the ships more visible to enemy aircraft. It was brought back for World War II, after Japanese air power had been mostly eliminated, but improvements in radar and sonar have rendered it mostly useless, and most ships that utilized it have been repainted haze gray.
info from www.gotouring.com/razzledazzle/dazzle.html and http://www.vanlubeck.com/cars/opel.htm