“Smokescreen”: An expression with a military history

“Smokescreens” are a strategy increasingly employed by politicians and the media to divert mass attention away from the truly important things and hide them. The expression has, therefore, a metaphorical use today, but not long ago it was used (and still is) in the military field to confuse adversaries and acquire strategic advantage. Let us look at some examples:

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In the Second World War, smoke curtains were generated by different chemical substances that, when in contact with the air moisture, were transformed into a thick white gas. Fino Filipino

American Civil War


The Southern Army burned tar and wood to generate a dense black smoke in the sea and break the blockade of the ports

First World War

(1914 – 1918)

Using dry leaves and straw, a mist could be created that helped to hide the troops. From then on, the methods began to become more sophisticated using chemicals that could be thrown from airplanes

Second World War

(1939 – 1945)

Pilots dispersed titanium tetrachloride from aircraft equipped with gas tanks. On contact with moisture, the liquid is hydrolyzed and transformed into a dense white gas. The curtains could reach 30 meters in length and served to hide ships, planes and tanks

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