Development of Naval Camouflage 1914 - 1945
(Article reprinted courtesy of Plastic Ship Modeler Magazine issue #97/2)
pointed out the "increased and more difficult upkeep".
We are constantly hearing that they take more paint, and paint is a
scarce commodity. This appears to
be an entirely erroneous belief. Lt.
John F. Connoly, USNR, interviewed on 9/2/44, has painted and procured the paint
for hundreds of ships at Carter City (Tulagi) and he says that patterns do not
take more paint. They do take more
man hours because part of his force has to be assigned to the task of mixing the
shades. A more plentiful supply of
ready mixed paint would remedy that.
Attached as an enclosure is a letter from Vice Adm. W.A. Lee Jr. ComBatPac.
You may not have seen this, though a copy was sent to BuShips and code
631 noted, and passed on to us, the requests in regard to battleship painting.
Several attempts to locate this letter were unsuccessful and 332B never
saw it. It is now enclosed because
Adm. Lee's opinions, as there expressed, have changed only in minor details.
We called on him twice - the second time to ascertain if our first record of his
views was correct and to secure his approval of certain proposals that we had in
mind for battleships and other combatant vessels. As his Chief of Staff (Capt. W.F. Jennings) put it, the
Admiral wishes an "overall confusion pattern" for the fleet as well as
patterns for certain of the individual ships.
Admiral Lee concurred in our suggestion that the dark one-color ships might
wisely be painted a shade lighter - perhaps Ocean Gray (5- O) instead of Navy
Blue (5-N). He confirmed what we
had already been hearing from battleship officers that camouflage is desired to
operate at a range of at least 25,000 yards, and should be aimed at creating
type deception. This will mean that
some of our patterns will have to be redesigned to work at upwards of 25,000
yards and we will have to use a few very large paint areas instead of so many
small ones. Our men might wisely
begin with the IOWA which at the present time has a very poor design which was
applied not from plans furnished by the bureau but from the small illustration
of 32/1B in the Ships 2 supplement.
An interesting side light on battleship opinion was contributed by Comdr. Seely,
USN, Gunnery Officer on the BB56, U.S.S. WASHINGTON, which in now painted
Measure 22. He said (interview
8/17/44) that he would rather have Measure 22 than any other measure now.
In the Philippines against a Jap task force he would prefer deception
An interim report on these vessels was forwarded to the Bureau under date of 25
July 1944 recommending a restricted use of thc extreme contrasts of Black and
Pale Gray and suggesting an increase in the size of the pattern areas to extend
the effective range of deception.
In view of ComAirPac's letter of 20 August 1944 to ComServPac recommending
Measure 21 as a first choice it is difficult to suggest anything further in the
way of experimental work for the Research and Standards section.
A few words on the results of our survey may be in order.
We made contact with the officers of only nine carriers and secured a
fairly good idea of the tactical problem, as they anticipate it.
In the poll taken there were 9 votes for the torpedo plane as the most
dangerous foe, 7 votes for snooper planes.
Subs and dive bombers were tied for third place with 3 votes each.
Nowhere did we have so many enthusiastic accounts of instances of
deception as we did on the carriers, and the low esteem in which the Jap ships
are held is probably one reason why a good many men feel that deception
camouflage is not important to carriers even though conceding its effectiveness
in target angle confusion.
Carrier opinion is very mixed, with more indifference to any form of camouflage
than actual opposition to present methods.
Vice Adm. Mitcher, USN, Com TaskForce 58, said, "I think the present
camouflage methods are the best we have had so far.
There are times when I think they may be very effective".
Vice Adm. John Sidney McCain, USN, was noncommental (interview of 8/23/44
on hoard U.S.S. WASP) and referred us to the Captain of the WASP, Capt.
C.A.Walker, USN, who was definitely against pattern camouflage and recommended
"a light war color".
Rear Adm. E.L. Gunther, USN, ComAirSoPac (interview, Guadalcanal, 9/3/44)
thought the submarine menace negligible and did not think camouflage could do
much for carriers.
On the affirmative side was Rear Adm C.F. Bogan, USN, Com- CarDiv 4, who when
asked if he would like to go hack to plain color ships replied "Definitely
not". Capt. Pirie, USN, Chief of Staff, ComCarDiv 4, was emphatic in
advocating the desirability of deception camouflage for carriers as a defense
against the low flying torpedo bomber.
Observation on the countershading of our carriers leads to the conclusion that
it is bad a great deal of the time. All
white should be removed and even Pale Gray is dubious.
The early sun shines into what we call "deep recesses" such as
under the forward ramp of the flight deck and gives the target angle away.
White countershading, which was applied to the U.S.S. INDEPENDENCE to
reduce her visibility, was the most conspicuous thing about her from 0600 to
0800 when viewed from the BUNKER HILL. Later
in the morning her deception was remarkable and it was hard to believe that she
was on a parallel course.
OF CAMOUFLAGE ACTIVITIES
Comdr. Bittinger has asked me to comment on the question of a possible transfer
of the activity from the Bureau to Mare Island or to Pearl Harbor.
I can see no advantage in a transfer to Mare Island which is only a
little nearer than the Bureau. The Bureau is an incredible distance from the Pacific, I do
not mean just in miles, hut in communications, information, and even in habits
Frankly I believe that most of our criticism of pattern camouflage would have
been avoided if our group had been working out here where the designers could
have seen exactly how certain patterns were working out and made adjustments.
Men could easily have been sent to advanced bases to keep in touch with
changes in operating areas and in tactics besides correcting mistakes of
application. Lt. Comdr. Dayton Brown, USNR, has consistently advocated
strengthening the trained camouflage personnel at advanced bases and in
important mainland yards to secure correct supervision of designs.
If the pendulum takes a swing toward concealment rather than deception
design, the removal of a major part of the design force to some point where
close contact with fleet activities is possible is highly recommended.
34. Success in concealment painting depends on matching a specific background. Our landing craft in tropic greens were excellent for concealment when we first started operations in Guadalcanal but their camouflage was useless in the later landing operations at Tarawa, Kwajalein, Roi, and Eniwetok. This observer had no opportunity for first hand observations at Saipan or Guam, but heard that tropic greens were again unsatisfactory. This is now water over the dam and what we need to know now is their suitability for the Philippines and the China Sea. There are frequent partial repainting jobs on landing craft, and partial changes for better concealment could be dealt with as emergency measures.