The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Camouflage the White House? A serious consideration after Pearl Harbor

Two Georgia Army National Guard officers receive new combat uniforms at Fort Stewart, Ga., in 2005. The new style is on the right. (Stephen Morton/AP)
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The White House intruder last week has sparked a ton of proposals to fortify the White House — new barriers, more dogs, more personnel, taller fencing, electrified fence-tops, barbed wire, moats and all manner of unsightly additions to the security beefed-up after the Oklahoma City bombing that closed Pennsylvania Avenue and gridlocked downtown D.C.

Well, at least there’s nothing close to the blind panic after Pearl Harbor, when security officials proposed “sand bags and machine guns” on the roofs and completely circling the White House and the executive office building with a “sandbag barricade 15 feet high.”

After the Japanese attack, security officials wanted to paint the White House exterior a fine Army Air Corps camouflage color and paint the roof and some columns black. (So we’d call it the Camo House?) President Roosevelt, according to an account in “The President’s House, A History,” by William Seale, nixed that and “balked at most” of the suggestions, instead saying he wanted to increase the number of White House guards.

Roosevelt was concerned many of the proposals would give the wrong impression to the public. But he did suggest a couple things, such as blocking off east and west Executive avenues. And while the president refused most of the other redesign suggestions, bullet-proof glass was installed for the Oval Office, blackout curtains were put on the White House windows and guardhouses erected at the perimeters as they are today.

So, after last week’s alarming breach, we can take solace that at least no one’s suggesting a new paint job.

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