Development of Naval Camouflage 1914 - 1945
(Article reprinted courtesy of Plastic Ship Modeler Magazine issue #97/3)
Bureau of Ships request of December 1944 to have power to decide which vessels
carried what camouflage was turned down by the Commander in Chief, thereby
allowing the forces afloat to continue to make their own choices as to which of
the many paint schemes would be suitable. This decision proved to be very
important because almost immediately the Pacific Fleet authorized the painting
of ships coming from the East Coast yards to be painted in Measures 12, 21, or
22. At the same time (December 1944) that the graded and solid measures were
being re-introduced on a widespread basis, a new range of colors was introduced
to go with them. The new colors were neutral grays and were introduced to
replace the purple-blue range. It had by now been realized that color itself was
not the most important factor, but tone which played the greatest part. Thus
measures 12, 21, and 22 began to re-appear in the Pacific, but now they had the
new neutral grays. There were exceptions in that stocks of 5-N Navy Blue were
used to exhaustion in the re-introduced measures. On the practical side, the
re-use of Measures 12, 21, and 22 along with neutral grays had the following
It simplified the application of paint.
It simplified maintenance,
It reduced the number of paints for almost all large vessels.
The paints would now be supplied ready mixed.
new colors were as follows,
#7 Navy Gray 5-N (replacing 5-N Navy Blue).
#17 Ocean Gray 5-0 (replacing 5-0 Ocean Gray).
#27 Haze Gary 5-H (replacing 5-H Haze Gray).
#4 Deck Gray 20 (replacing 20B Deck Blue (revised).
as the new colors were being applied to vessels bound for the Pacific, the
Atlantic Fleet began to paint their ships in Measures 31, 32, and 33, this in
order to avoid re-painting when ships were transferred to the Pacific. This
state of confusion between the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets intentions lasted for
several months before Atlantic Fleet vessels began to revert back to Measures
12, 21, and 22 and there were still some escort vessels in the dazzle patterns
up to the time of wars end in Europe.
of the radically different and special missions of the submarine force, it is
not surprising that their camouflage was quite different from other major
combatants. Up to early 1940, the entire submarine fleet was painted above the
waterline in standard #5 Navy Gray, the same color as carried by the surface
fleet. The exceptions were those boats engaged in experiments with Pearl Harbor
Blue and Black. As described earlier in the text, Pearl Harbor Blue was the
desired color, but problems relating to its durability had meant that black, the
second choice color, was chosen to be applied to the Atlantic and Pacific
fleets, except for the boats working out of Pearl Harbor. These boats formed a
group that would continue to extensively test improved formulas of Pearl Harbor
Blue. These tests continued throughout 1941 and the colors were still being worn
by several boats at the outbreak of war in December. The use of Pearl Harbor
Blue was dropped in the first weeks of 1942, and by the spring, black was the
only color seen on the submarine force.
March 1942, American submarines were extensively engaged in "special
missions" which included supply operations to beleaguered garrisons, such
as Corregidor in the Philippines, and movement and placement of men into
Japanese held islands for covert purposes. For example, in August the ARGONAUT
and NAUTILUS transported men for a commando raid on the island of Makin in the
special operations demanded that the boats involved be surfaced at night in
enemy held waters. The most unsuitable paint scheme was an overall black. What
was needed was a much lighter toned camouflage that gave low visibility from
surface observation. To this end, the boats involved were eventually painted
overall above the waterline in 5-0 Ocean Gray. This particular use of 5-0 for
submarines was called Measure 10 and was formally promulgated in June 1942.
Along with Measure 9 (overall Black) these two schemes were carried by the
entire submarine force until approximately mid 1944 when two new schemes were
the author has been unable to discover any documents that describe the
evolvement of the 1944 schemes, and can therefore only describe the final
patterns and colors used. The colors were Black and a range of neutral grays,
and for the first time, counter shading was used. In Measure 32/3SSB (a light
type camouflage) black was used for the horizontal surfaces, with the vertical
surfaces having a graded series of grays, ranging from light to black, from bow
to stern. The second measure, 32/9SSB was similar in principle, the difference
being that it was a darker range of grays. 32/3SSB was supposed to be effective
in surface operations at night and during overcast conditions, 32/9SSB was more
effective for surface operations in clear weather and while submerged. These two
measures supplanted overall black and overall Ocean gray, and by autumn of 1944,
the two above mentioned colors had completely disappeared.
FOR AMPHIBIOUS FORCES
camouflage story of the amphibious forces is one of the most confusing and
complex, where there was an initial twelve month period of no official
direction, followed by two and a half years of instructions, and all of this,
accompanied by no less than five series of colors. When this is combined with
paint shortages, and rapid movement of operations from one area to another, it
is no surprise that confusion reigned.
the war began, the Navy had no directives, colors, or patterns in hand for
amphibious craft. All of the energies of the Camouflage Section had been
directed towards the conventional combatants. As a consequence, for the whole of
1942, and well into 1943, those vessels involved in landing troops, landing
craft of all types, and old destroyers converted to APDs, carried a variety of
home made designs of a solid, mottled, blotched, and streaked character. Some of
the colors used in this period (one without official direction or sanction) were
taken from the range used by the Bureau of Yards and Docks. There is absolutely
no documentation covering 1942, but in January 1943 the Camouflage Section
officially sanctioned the amateur designs and colors. There were two colors
used, Green 1A, and Green 4A. No Measure number was assigned, but they were
officially described as "Tropical Green System".
the invasion of Green Island in mid February 1943, observations were made of
landing craft camouflage. Although all of the report is interesting, only the
relevant parts are quoted below: