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

Part IV: United States Navy - The Interwar Years

By Alan Raven

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

expected to play in future campaigns may tip the scale in favor of this measure.  Normally, Jap flares would he dropped behind our vessels to silhouette them. A recent combat report stated that one of our ships altered her course 30 degrees in order to bring the flares to the "engaged side" - whereupon enemy fire slackened.  If it is to he a standard maneuver, the rather light colors of Measure 32A might be objectionable, unless the confusion created by pattern made up for it.  Flares dropped beside the U.S.S. BUNKFR HILL, on the night of  8/26/44 were not very effective down light and this observer was not able to pick up any of our accompanying ships in that direction. The Japs are credited with having better pyrotechnics than we have.

8. Our proposed measure 33A is too light to be satisfactory if seen against a foliage background but we believe that to the enemy on shore observing ships against sky or water it would prove the best round the clock, twenty four hour camouflage for those who think they need low visibility more than deception.

9. Light Gray paint (5-L) has been under study for more than two months by this observer and its excellent low visibility characteristics have been demonstrated.  It is especially good just before sunrise, after sundown, and at night.  Even down moon it is fair unless the moon is low and very dull.  During combat practice at sea on the U.S.S. BUNKER HILL, the U.S.S. INTREPID was carefully studied at a range of 2500 yards.  The moon on that night (8/25/44) was just short of being half full and the altitude was estimated to be about 50 degrees.  There was a faint overcast of light cloud part of the time.  With 7.5 binoculars the pattern came out quite strongly, enough to produce a certain amount of deception.  But to the trained eye it was not the light areas but the black paint areas that rendered it visible.

10. The Light Gray (5-L) was almost a perfect match for the water, and if visibility reduction were your sole aim the INTREPID could have been turned into a ghost ship at 5000 yards by removing the black paint.  In the Central Pacific, visibility conditions are completely different from those in the Atlantic owing to the constant cloud cover and its reflection on the sea.  From the air these same cloud reflections are present and many more ships are seen because they are too dark than because they are too light.  Measure 21 ships are better suited to the Atlantic than the Central Pacific where they are an anachronism which survives, because the visibility of ships has not received adequate study.

11. Light Gray has been proposed as the fundamental color for Measure 33A because much night action is now anticipated and this color is effective during the only part of the 24 hours when reduced visibility has any chance.  During broad daylight in the Central Pacific concealment of a large vessel is just wishful thinking.  At such time paint has nothing to offer a ship but deception.

12. Of course a price has to he paid for all low visibility paints.  Light Gray is very conspicuous when seen down sun against the water at close range and it is pretty terrible when the first rays of the rising sun strike it and make it conspicuous even at distant ranges.

13. Before leaving the subject of cruiser painting it may be of interest to point out that in the poll, which we took among officers to ascertain which was regarded as "Public Enemy No. 1", the cruisers did not put submarine attack in a high place.  Snoopers and torpedo planes were tied for first place.


14. The destroyers are also expecting that 50% of future operations will he amphibious, and their reaction is quite opposed to that of the cruiser group.

"Concealment went out with the advent of radar.  We need confusion against shore batteries, and we want the maximum amount of confusion in an attack - confusion to start from 20,000 yards down to 5000 yards" - Capt. R. N. Smoot, USN, ComDesPac (interview on U.S.S. CASCADE 8/22/44).

15. The destroyers like the camouflage they have and at a meeting called by Capt. Smoot the endorsement was almost unanimous.

"All we ask of camouflage is target deception" - Capt. F. Chillingworth, USN, ComDesRon 50.

ComDesRons 6, 52, and 53 were not present but sent representatives who endorsed the existing program.  Capt. Carlton R. Todd, USN, ComDesRon 5, wrote a letter to ComServPac saying, "the choice of so- called dazzle patterns is sound".  Interviewed on the U.S.S. PORTERFIELD, DD682, on 8/19/44, he said more vigorously and colloquially "confusing as hell, especially the CVE's".

16. The only important dissent that we have had so far comes from ComDesRon 47 (letter to ComServPac 8/18/44)

"It is believed that the manner in which a combat ship is painted has little if any effect upon the ease with which it may he sighted or with which its type, course and speed may be ascertained".

17. An analysis of the 19 signed papers at the meeting on the U.S.S. CASCADE revealed some interesting data.  All (19) of the officers present went on record that pattern camouflage created deception of target angle.  18 voted that it created type deception and retarded recognition.  8 officers said that patterns decreased visibility, 4 said that it increased it, and the rest voted no difference - sometimes increase and sometimes decrease.  These last were on the soundest ground.  We have much testimony that visibility is decreased at far ranges, but it is obvious that deception patterns must be conspicuous at near or intermediate ranges or there would he no deception.

18. In the vote for the enemy's most dangerous weapon there were 9 votes for torpedo aircraft, 6 for surface craft and only 3 for submarines.  A few scattered votes for snoopers for second place were recorded but dive bombers were not even mentioned.

19. In view of the strong endorsement which existing measure have received from the DD's I am disinclined to recommend any extensive change though I have noticed individual designs that might and should he improved.  There is one exception. I recommend that thc deck patterns be discontinued for all DD's and DE's and that the Bureau issue a directive requesting that at the next repainting these decks he painted in a single uniform shade, either Deck Blue (20-B) or Black (24-B).  So far I have yet to see a deck pattern that was visible from the air, and it is hard to find it when you are standing right on the deck.  Capt. Ralph Earl, USN, Operations Officer for ComDesPac, said in an interview that he believed deck patterns useless on destroyers.

20. Eventually deck patterns on BB's and CL's will probably have to go and this should be taken care of in the revisions which will be made in the painting of these types of vessels.  Maintenance is such an acute problem here that any burden placed upon it must justify itself through proven utility or effectiveness.

21. We have found common criticism of our present painting measures to lie on the side of maintenance, ignoring the questions of their effectiveness. Rear Adm. J.L. Kauffman, ComCruPac in his letter of 8/14/44 to ComServPac did not discuss the merits of pattern measures but


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