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)

lengthwise of the ships and while trying to cope with this measure fell victim to anti-aircraft fire. Under this type of operation, color made little difference to the ships, yet it is of major value while craft are beached.

Two types of camouflage on destroyers and destroyer escorts were observed: 1. An all-over dark gray; 2. A dark gray freeboard and a light gray superstructure. Of the two the latter seems far superior under most conditions, even "up-sun", when ships normally become silhouettes, the light gray superstructure appeared to fade into the background. Strangely though, the light gray was much more visible by moonlight than any other color. Unfortunately no example of Type or Course Deception could be observed in the convoy.

Colors on the whole were good but thought and experiment should be continued in the graying or hazing of colors. It would be very helpful if the paint formulas of the Headquarters unit could be adopted and the paints supplied ready-mixed from the United States. Total time for the painting of ships would be cut a third". John F. Connolly.

The above report illustrates how varied landing craft camouflage was at the time, with four distinctly different types present and at least six colors being used. A not unexpected state of affairs considering the lack of instructions from the Camouflage Section: Readers will have noted the mention of a dark green Formula 759, unfortunately the author has been unable to trace the details of this paint, but it is quite possible that it refers to color Green #1A from the Yards and Docks series.

In March 1943, just a few weeks after the Green Island report was made, the Camouflage Section issued the first official patterns for use on amphibious craft and other vessels including destroyers, auxiliary aircraft carriers, and patrol craft. All of the patterns were dark and came under the designation of Measure 31. To go with the official Measure 31 patterns. new colors were introduced. They were 5-HG Haze Green, 5-NG Navy Green, 5-OG Ocean Grey, and 20-G Deck Green. Evidence suggests that the patterns were put to immediate use but that there was a continued use of the previous unofficial colors from the Yards and Docks range. This confused state of affairs was maintained throughout 1943, with landing craft displaying a range of home brewed patterns. The unofficial green combined sometimes with black and the use of overall one color green.

In July 1943, the Camouflage Section tried to bring some order out of the confusion by suggesting the use of Navy Green and Dark Green (colors which many landing craft had already began to use), by reformulating the Ocean Green and Haze Green, and by adding two new colors, 5-PG Pale Green, and 5-LG Light Green. The revised range of colors circa 1943, was now as follows: S-PG, 5-LG, 5-HG, 5-OG, 5-NG, and 20G. By the end of the year the above range, along with official patterns, had replaced the unofficial colors and designs of the previous year.

Although accepted by the amphibious forces, it was felt that the colors were still not fully effective and to this end they were superceded by another range of colors of a slightly different hue, and to this range, a brown was added. To assist in the production of patterns for the hundreds of landing craft involved, a very large rectangular pattern was prepared, upon which, the appropriate vessels outline could be overlaid and the pattern applied accordingly. This large master pattern was designated Measure 31/20L, the suffix standing for landing craft.

The full official names were: Outside Green #1, #2, #3, and Brown #4, however, in most cases the patterns themselves simply used the color and number, for example, Outside Green O3 was simply labeled as Green #3.

Although Measure 31/20L master pattern was supposed to supercede every previous design, there had appeared in 1943 a style of amphibious camouflage that employed a technique whereby the different colors were blended into one another by the use of dots. These soft edge patterns (in some cases still using the 1943 colors) were seen throughout the Philippine campaign, in spite of the fact that the 31/20L design had been issued by mid 1944.

With the retaking of the Philippines the need for tropical camouflage on amphibious vessels was replaced by one that would properly match the temperate zones into which the war was moving. The previous four color range was retained, with only slight differences in hue, differences that were so small that normal weathering made them virtually indistinguishable. To go with the temperate colors, two new patterns were issued in early 1945. They were, Measure 31/SL and Measure 31/8L. As with earlier directives, the 1945 instructions by no means did away with the use of the 31/20L patterns, and at the invasion of Okinawa and Iwo Jima many landing craft and APDs were so painted.

In the spring of 1945 with the invasion of the Japanese home islands soon to come, there was yet another proposed change in amphibious camouflage whereby Navy, Ocean, and Haze Greens were re-introduced as the colors believed most suitable for the invasion to come. However, the instruction did not reach the forces afloat until the summer, and only a handful of landing craft actually carried these very late war colors.

For those landing craft that served in the Atlantic, the camouflage was split between Measures 21 and 22. Many that transferred from the Atlantic to the Pacific did so without repainting, but in those that did, the underlying Measure 22 or 21 could sometimes still be discerned.


Amphibious operations in the Philippines had pointed out the need for large numbers on landing craft, so as to enable individual craft to be identified and controlled during operations. Up to the end of 1944 numerals on landing craft had usually been painted in white, of a size no greater than 3' in height. In December 1944 the Pacific Fleet ordered an increase in size of the numerals to six feet in height on LSTs, LSDs, LSVs, APs, AKAs, APAs, AGCs, APDs, PGs, PCSs and SCs. By increasing the size to six feet, it was possible to identify individual craft up to 4000 yards. By January 1945 these directives had taken effect and showed up on landing craft and other vessels during landings at Okinawa and Iwo Jima.


The evolution of the colors of carrier flight decks in the war is quite interesting, having its beginnings in late 1939, at which time the Navy felt that it was worth experimenting with course deception camouflage for aircraft. In early 1940 several dazzle patterns for aircraft were prepared and tests began in August. Out of these tests, which involved several types of carrier aircraft, came the belief that what was required was not course deception camouflage, but solid tones that promoted concealment.

Tests for finding the proper upper surface color for aircraft continued well into 1941, until in October 1941, a dark blue gray was adopted (Non- specular Blue Gray). In line with this change, the Navy felt that it was important to have a flight deck color that would blend in as much as possible with the color of the aircraft parked on deck. This would help to conceal from enemy aerial observation the extent of the air group on the deck at any one time. To this end a series of experiments were conducted on the ENTERPRISE and RANGER in the latter half of 1941 to conceive the best color or stain to match the blue gray of the aircraft. Details of these experiments appear to have been lost, but eventually a suitable color was found, and in very late 1941 the Camouflage Section directed that all

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