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)

Documentation of the Asiatic Fleet during early 1942 is extremely sparse.   It appears that Cavite Blue was worn by most of the fleet during their retreat south to Australia, and from there to Pearl Harbor.

Another unofficial camouflage used in 1942 was Mountbatten Pink.  The destroyer WINSLOW was the first American ship to he painted in this singular color.  While in transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic in December 194l she stopped at Capetown, South Africa.  With her Measure 1B (Sapphire Blue) in need of repainting and while there, the captain was told of the concealment qualities of Mountbatten Pink, a color directly derived from the Union Castle line hull color, a lavender grey.  WINSLOW's captain became convinced of its effectiveness and the ship left Capetown bound for New York painted overall in Union Castle Lavender.  The paint had been procured from the DUNOTTER CASTLE,  a Union Castle liner that was in port at the time. WINSLOW's new camouflage had an effect upon other destroyers, and by mid-l942 a small number of destroyers operating on the Central Atlantic repainted from 12R to Mountbatten Pink. Destroyers so painted included WARRINGTON, CLARK, and PHELPS.  The use of Mountbatten Pink (also called "nipple pink" by USN sailors) was worn by vessels until early 1943.

With the U.S. Navy now fully involved in combat operations in the Atlantic and North Atlantic against the U-Boats there was a perceived need to, adopt a more effective concealment camouflage than the old Measure l2.  The British had for some time been using the Peter Scott/ come Western Approaches designs, designs that the British considered to be very successful.  The Americans became convinced of the effectiveness of the Western Approaches camouflage and drew up their own designs for destroyers and escort vessels.  Colors used in these designs consisted of Thayer Blue and White for vertical surfaces, 5-0 Ocean Gray for the horizontal surfaces, and 20-B Deck Blue for the decks.  Known as Measure 16, it was employed on a few destroyers and Coast Guard vessels operating on the North Atlantic and the far North Pacific from mid-1942 into 1944.

Somewhat surprisingly, the 1941-42 British Disruptive designs, ones that were designed primarily to promote concealment, with confusion as to type, had minimal influence on the production of new American measures.  British experimentation with ASW camouflage in the North Atlantic did bring forth one unusual experimental American design that was worn by the destroyer PLUNKETT from January 1942 until the spring of the same year.  It employed a disruptive pattern consisting of four colors.  They were; mauve, pale blue, pale green, and medium pink.  The average tone of the design was light.  Reports on PLUNKETT's design said that it was deemed successful for use in North Atlantic waters except during periods of sunlight. The report made by the Coast Guard Cutter CAMPBELL. is worth quoting.  

From: Commanding Officer, CAMPBELL.

To: Commanding Destroyers, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Subject: PLUNKETT: Effectiveness of camouflage.

l. In compliance with references (a) and (b), you are advised that during periods of overcast, hazy and foggy weather, the camouflage of the subject named vessel appears to be exceptionally effective.  On 9 February, during hours of darkness, atmosphere hazy, visibility 7, sky overcast, the PLUNKETT appeared to he on a course approximately 90 degrees from the course being steered.

2. On 17 February, during hours of daylight, weather overcast, hazy to foggy, visibility 6-7, the PLUNKETT, at a range of 2000 yards, was not as conspicuous as the BADGER, at a range of 4000 yards. The target angle estimation seemed to be difficult during periods of reduced visibility.  During the afternoon of 12 February, weather partly cloudy, visibility 8, stratocumulus clouds, it was noted that the vessel blended with the sky background, when not exposed to the direct sun rays.  However, when exposed to the sun rays, the reflected light causes the vessel to be conspicuous.

3. For duty in the North Atlantic, due to the prevailing hazy, foggy, and overcast weather, the  camouflage on PLUNKETT is the most effective the writer has observed.

Reports from other ships backed that made by the CAMPBELL, but for reasons unknown, this camouflage was only carried by the one vessel, and by May 1942 PLUNKETT had repainted into Measure 12R.

In addition to the experimental design worn by the destroyer PLUNKETT, a series of designs were drawn up that were directly based upon the Admiralty Disruptive type.  The number of patterns prepared is unknown, but at least three vessels wore this style (known as Measure 15). They were the Battleship INDIANA, destroyer HOBSON, and the tanker TALLULAH.  The patterns were worn for only a few months in 1942 and then discarded, possibly for the same reasons that the British had discarded their patterns a few months earlier

In the Pacific, for the first few months of 1942 there was a confusing mix of solid tone design and Measure 12R pattern.  The former was worn by ships already with the fleet at the time of Pearl Harbor, and the latter on ships transferred from the Atlantic.  Since early 194l the Pacific Fleet had been looking for the ideal concealment colors, especially against aircraft. The Dark Gray 5-D proved effective, but was not blue enough, and to this end two destroyers were tested with a very dark pure ultramarine blue (Sapphire Blue).  As a color it was effective, but had poor durability.  A new color tested in the Pacific in December 1941 on the destroyer FLUSSER proved successful, and it was decided to have the entire fleet so painted.  However, there were no stocks available for 5-N Navy Blue (as it was called) for Pacific Fleet use until several weeks into 1942.  Change over to overall 5-N (known as Measure 21) took some time to accomplish, and it was not until early 1943 that the whole fleet sported the new measure.

In the Atlantic it was becoming clear through reports that by the spring of 1942 the Measure 12R patterns, in all their variety and complexity, had strayed so far from the original intent that the dappled/come mottled patterns had very little effectiveness.  In effect the Bureau of Ships then returned to Measure 12A which had used 5-N, 5-O and 5-H, but cut out Ocean Gray 5-0, thus leaving a two tone straight line graded design.  Named Measure 22, it began to be used by Atlantic Fleet ships in late autumn 1942 gradually replacing Measure 12R.  By early 1943 Measure 12R had completely disappeared leaving over 90% of the ships in Measure 22, a few in Measures 16 and 14, and a handful of destroyers in Mountbatten Pink.

In August 1942 the American forces began the invasion of Guadalcanal - one of the southern islands of the Solomons chain.  The Americans Navy had started the great offensive, one that would end in August 1945 at the shores of Japan.  As the Navy moved from a defensive role to an offensive one, so did thc camouflage change, from designs and colors intended primarily to conceal, to ones that caused course deception along with a secondary measure of type confusion. The genesis of these course deception designs began in mid-1942 with the introduction of Measure 17, on three ships; the carrier SANTEE, cruiser AUGUSTA, and tanker CHICOPEE. The person responsible was Everett Warner, the same one who had  produced course deception designs in 1917-18.  This expertise, backed by his enthusiasm, convinced the navy to try out his ideas.  No reports have been found on the three vessels that used Measure 17, but the principles must have survived the test, because in March 1943 several course deception patterns were issued covering a wide variety of ship types and classes. The new camouflage designs (unofficially known as dazzle designs') although trying to achieve only


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