An online database of camouflage used by 
United State Naval Warships during WWII

The Development of Naval Camouflage 1914 – 1945
Part II: United States Navy – World War I

By Alan Raven


(Article reprinted courtesy of  Plastic Ship Modeler Magazine issue #96/4)


at a distance takes on a tone scintillating with the atmosphere and blending into it and thereby lowering the visibility of the ship.  All highlights are reduced and the illumination of shadows is given due consideration.  The vertical and horizontal lines of the ship are apparently broken by the different curved lines of the panels.”.


By the end of 1917 scores of cargo vessels and transports were painted in the Brush scheme.  Toch and Mackay designs were also much in evidence, especially on transports.  The Herzog designs were seen on a few ships, while the Warner system was only worn by five vessels.


On the Brush system, the following reports from sea were made:


The Commanding Officer of the USS JUPITER reported July 3, 1917, as follows: “The destroyers in company with the JUPITER reported that the visibility of the ship was considerably reduced by her painting. At night the white streak on the stern increased her visibility due to the swash of the propellers.  This streak has now been painted out and a light gray substituted.


On one occasion the WALKE was sent to investigate a sail about 5 miles from the ship.  Although the smoke of the WALKE was always visible from the JUPITER the WALKE reported that she had difficulty in finding the JUPITER after her duty was completed”.


The Industrial Manager, Norfolk, July 25, 1917, states that after examination of the JUPITER this system is not believed to be as effective as the systems in which the outlines are broken up.


The USS Margaret, October 13, 1917, reports that the MESSICK (Brush) has markedly less degree of visibility than the AMAGANSETT (Toch original) or the DAVIS (Mackay): “From the observations on this vessel that system of painting used on the MESSICK was better than any other vessel of the district.  A dark war gray with light or dark bow and stern, it is thought would produce excellent results”.


The USS DE LONG, October 13, 1917, reported on the USS MESSICK at 11:20 “Visibility of the smoke stack somewhat  narrowed; bow apparently cut off on a line with forward deckhouse; otherwise presented a clear-cut silhouette”.


Theoretically the Brush system of counter-shading appears to be the correct solution for low visibility but was proven impractical due to the impossibility of removing the large black shadows such as cast by deckhouses and large top hamper which indicate a ship’s position and course.


Reports from sea on vessels painted with the Mackay system:


Report form the Commanding Officer of the OHIO August 31, 1917, relates to observation of the steamer M.M. DAVIS at 4:20 p.m., August 9, with sky overcast and atmosphere hazy.  The report states the scheme of painting to be very good and far superior to the ordinary slate or war color.  The top of the smoke pipe was banded with black which stood out distinctly from the rest of the color scheme, which was light green on different shade painted somewhat to resemble waves.  There was no difficulty in focusing range finder on the vessel at 14000 yards.

The U.S.S. HIAWATHA, September 26, 1917, reports on the DAVIS at 1:45 p.m., with overcast sky and fairly clear atmosphere.  The DAVIS was easily picked up with the naked eye as the outlines showed up clearly as light gray.  Compared with black vessels near her, which appeared dark gray, visibility was about equal.


The same ship sighted the DAVIS about 4:30 p.m., five miles to the westward; sky overcast.  The ship showed up clearly, the colors seeming to have no effect whatsoever.


The U.S.S. D.K. PHILLIPS, September 29, 1917, sighted the DAVIS at 9:45 a.m., three miles distant.  In slightly foggy weather she showed up more plainly than other vessels sighted at the same time painted battleship gray.


Report from the Master of steamship PHILADEPHIA, October 18, 1917, forwarded by lieutenant Commander J. O. Fisher, U.S.N., November 17, 1917, states that two destroyers convoying the ship during 24 hours of varying atmospheric conditions were very enthusiastic regarding the efficiency of the colors.  They stated that at night the PHILADEPHIA was almost invisible during bright moonlight and totally so in overcast weather at about a mile.  One destroyer lost sight completely for some time during the night and sighted the ship again only at daylight.


The U.S.S. C.H. MC NEAL, October 15, 1917, observed the LEGONIA II 3 miles north-northwest with the sun south-southwest and a smoky atmosphere.  The vessel could be plainly seen.


The U.S.S. MARGARET, October 10, 1917, reported the DAVIS less visible than other ships painted by other schemes which follow in order: MESSICK (Brush); KAJERUNA (Toch improved); AMAGANSETT (Toch original); BELLOWS(Norfolk B).


The U.S.S. MC NEAL, October 10, 1917, reported the DAVIS and LUCE BROTHERS about 5 miles north close together at 3:30 p.m., “The DAVIS could be seen much plainer and better than the LUCE BROTHERS which was painted war color”.


The U.S.S. PALMER, October 2, 1917, reports that the DAVIS (Mackay) and MARGARET (Norfolk A) showed much more prominently than other vessels in clear weather with the sun shining.


Reports from sea on vessels painted with the Toch system:


The U.S.S. BELLOWS, October 18, 1917, reports the AMAGANSETT, 2 miles northeast, at 3:30 p.m. in hazy atmosphere: “could be seen very distinctly.”


The U.S.S. THORTON, October 15, 1917, reports the AMAGANSETT at 1:05 p.m., 2 ½ miles northwest by west in hazy atmosphere, more noticeable than vessels painted light gray: “White stripes were especially noticeable”.


The U.S.S. MARGARET, October 13, 1917, reports the KAJERUNA, (Toch improved) more visible than  the DAVIS (Mackay) or the MESSICK (Brush) but less visible than the AMAGANSETT (Toch original) or the BELLOWS (Norfolk B).


The U.S.S. MC NEAL, October 10, 1917, observed the AMAGANSETT and the HELEN EUPHANE, close together, 8 miles distant:


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