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

The Development of Naval Camouflage 1914 - 1945 
Part IV: United States Navy - The Interwar Years

By Alan Raven

 (Article reprinted courtesy of Plastic Ship Modeler Magazine issue #97/2)

merely 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.


22. 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.

23. 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.

24. 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.

25. 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 camouflage.  


26. 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.

27. 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.

28. 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".

29. 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. 

30. 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.

31. 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.


32. 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 of thought.

33. 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. 

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