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

The Development of Naval Camouflage 1914 - 1945
Part V: United States Navy - World War II

By Alan Raven  

(Article reprinted courtesy of Plastic Ship Modeler Magazine issue #97/3)


Notes and suggestions made during the invasion of Green Island:

"After the formation of C.B. Detachment 1019 and its later conversion to supervision of ship's camouflage, it has been my personal desire to see how effective and suitable patterns and colors used were under actual operations, such as the occupation and landing on Green Island. I was interested in all ships connected with the operations but particularly in landing craft. The task force was made up of LCI'S, LST's, LCT's, AM's, DM's, DD's, and APD's. Many types of camouflage were represented and results were varied and interesting. Operations in areas vary, so my observations were made with this in mind, and were confined to this particular operation.

Our first encounter with Commanding Officers of the landing craft at Noumea found them with a few exceptions receptive and interested in the camouflage of their ships. They felt from experience that their most vulnerable time was while beached or anchored in the vicinity of the beach.

The first ships were completed and sent back into action. Noumea was fast becoming too distant for landing craft to make return trips, at least often enough to maintain a camouflage measure. In the meantime Landing Craft Repair Units were being constructed nearer the scenes of action and finally the camouflage detachment was divided into three units and two were sent to Forward Area. This was none to soon as a new antagonism had arisen amongst the officers of the ships. As the camouflage they had received had long worn off, and not being able to match the colors nor apply the patterns, they had painted their ships solid greens (formula 759). I feel that it is very important for the camouflage units to keep pace with movements of the repair units where ships are based for periods of greater lengths of time. This will increase the function of the unit from supervisory capacity, in relation to original pattern and paint formulas, to camouflage maintenance. I am certain that camouflage is playing an important part in the protection of the ships and that the majority of the Commanding Officers will agree.


Green Island is a small atoll north west of Bougainville and a strategic spot for operations against enemy bases. It is approximately 500 miles north of the Landing Craft Repair Unit based at Tulagi, bringing up the point that it now necessitates a 1000 mile round trip for landing craft to combat areas. Nissen or Green Island is very nearly round, a rim of land surrounding a lagoon that is deep and navigable. The two narrow channels could be dredged to accommodate nearly all types of ships. Except for two plantations, the Island is completely covered with heavy jungle growth. It is rank, thick and overhangs the water's edge in many places as much as twenty feet. This type of shoreline offers excellent camouflage for landing craft. LCI's and smaller craft could make their way into the growth and take advantage of the natural concealment.

The Japanese took full advantage of this cover in hiding their landing barges and machine gun emplacements. In an attack by the gun-boat 70, the barges were so well hidden that the native guide, brought on board ship for the purpose of pointing out their positions, was believed to be in error. At a distance of 40 yards they were absolutely indistinguishable from the surrounding foliage. After opening fire on their positions, and being fired upon in return, there was little doubt as to their presence.

The color of the foliage was surprisingly high in key, a brilliance that would have been unbelievable except for the very same observations made on first arrival in the Solomons group. The colors, at a distance, resolved themselves into two distinct hues of green, a light olive color at the crown of the growth where the light had direct action, and a darker green at the base where the light penetrated very little and everything was in shade. On closer inspection, the jungle is a riot of colors, many hues of greens and browns, plus the more brilliant colors of flowers and tropical plant life.


Four types of ship camouflage were represented. The LCI's, LST's, and LCT's all were painted green, the patterns and hues varied. First the all- over dark green, formula 759, which surprised all by being very effective. Second, a lime colored background with dark green stripes representing branches, appeared as expected, much too light and consequently much more of a target than the other three. This camouflage measure was effected in the United States. Third, an all-over concealment pattern of two shades of green and a dull black. This blended very well with the background while close in shore, but when the ship was several hundred yards off shore the black appeared darker than the darkest tone in the jungle background. Fourth, an all-over concealment pattern of two shades of green, a light olive green and a dark green. This blended well, both while close to shore and from a distance.

The two color pattern was an experiment of Unit "B". It rose from two sources: 1. From early experiments with the three colors in Noumea, noting the difficulties to distinguish between the two dark shades as they seemingly blended together giving the entire job an appearance of two shades. 2. From the result of two operational problems: (1) Critical shortage of paint, (2) Time factor involved. Tremendous rush was encountered in the preparation of a large number of ships for this operation. Ships could be painted faster and in this unit's opinion the result was as good as, or better than the three color measure.

NOTE: I wish to call the attention of Headquarters and "A" units the suggestion for the two colors for landing craft and invite their comments on this experiment. The number 1 paint formula developed by Headquarters Unit is deemed excellent and no further experiment could improve it. We have found though, that due to paint shortages we have to vary this slightly. But it is our guide and we try our best to approximate the color.


There has been considerable discussion among the camouflage units and landing craft personnel whether the green patterns make them more or less conspicuous at sea. I had an excellent chance for observation of this while in convoy. The advance echelon that I was attached to was made up of two LCI gun-boats and three mine sweepers. The LCI 70 was a two shade green pattern and the LCI 67 was a single dark green color. The three mine sweepers were painted a solid color of ocean-gray. The four ships were viewed at a distance of usually 400 to 800 yards. In the mornings and evenings no difference in color could be noted. When up-sun, regardless of color, the ship became a dark silhouette, down-sun the difference in color was easily discernable; but I do not believe that one was more prominent than the other. On the starboard horizon a convoy of LST's could be seen and the color at that distance could not be made out.

NOTE: In these particular operations in regard to LST's they could have been painted nearly any color as each ship carried at cable's length a barrage balloon. Even when hull-down below the horizon level, presence of the convoy was apparent. Camouflage at sea for protection was subordinated to the protection offered by the balloons. It is not my purpose to argue the effectiveness of this measure, although the morning at the rendezvous of the convoy the balloons caused the Jap dive bombers considerable trouble. The Japs were unable to make the desired run

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