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)

aircraft carrier flight decks be painted with 250N Blue Flight Deck stain. This was a dark blue gray stain that very nearly matched the 20B Deck Blue used on all other decks. By February 1942, all the carriers had replaced their pre-war red mahogany deck stain with 250N.

In respect to flight deck markings, these also underwent a change from the pre-war Chrome Yellow striping, to a less visible stain called 251N, a color almost identical to that of 5-0 Ocean Gray. On the LEXINGTON and HORNET in 1942 there was the use of solid deck lines in 251N. WASP and SARATOGA may have been similarly painted. By early 1943 the ENTERPRISE, SARATOGA, and RANGER were marked as follows: ENTERPRISE had broken yellow lines, SARATOGA had broken 251N lines, and RANGER had solid 251N lines. By the end of 1943, with the new ESSEX class vessels coming into service, large black numerals were introduced onto each end of flight decks. The 251N Ocean Gray lines had been reduced in width so much that they were losing their utility, so in 1944 yellow lines began to replace the gray, then were quickly superceded by white. In many cases it is impossible to ascertain those ships using yellow, gray or white, mainly because of the effects of weathering, wear by aircraft operations, and oil stains. Elevator outlines and crosses were often yellow, sometimes blue, and occasionally red.

In February 1943 carrier aircraft began to change their colors from non-specular Blue Gray to semi-gloss Sea Blue. Along with this change there was the introduction of a new flight deck stain for carriers called #21 Flight Deck stain which began to be employed on the ESSEX class as they came into service in 1943. This color when newly applied exactly matched that of 5-0 Ocean Gray. This new stain was also used on the flight decks of INDEPENDENCE class CVLs and CVE classes in 1943 and into 1944. About mid 1944 there was the introduction of #21 Flight Deck stain (revised). This revised stain was (when newly applied) identical to 20B deck Blue (revised) and was a near match in service with the introduction in March 1944 of glossy Sea Blue, a new camouflage color for use on carrier aircraft. When a flight deck was using #21 Flight Deck stain the deck markings would not have been in 251N but would probably have been in yellow.


The story of PT Boat camouflage is, as one would expect, a mix of official and unofficial designs and colors, beginning with the boats of Squadron 3 serving in the Philippines in late 1941 until early 1942. These boats used a color described as "Jungle Green" purchased locally. It is believed that the color was used by all boats of Squadron 3 during the defense of the Philippines, and then afterward by those of Squadron 1 operating out of Pearl Harbor. No sample or formula for this color has been found.

With the invasion of Guadalcanal in August 1942, newly built boats made up the reformed Squadron 3 and were sent out to the Solomons. Most, if not all, were painted in an overall green, believed to be similar to that already described.

Photographic evidence suggests that the majority of boats operating in the South and Southwest Pacific were in overall green during the latter part of 1942 until early 1944. As with the Philippine boats of 1941/42, no sample or formula for this color has been found.

In late 1942, the Elco Company (a builder of PT Boats) began to experiment with camouflage designs painted onto models. From these experiments came a striking zebra stripe pattern that the company named the "Adapter Scheme". Consisting of Black, White, Yellow-green, and Countershade Gray stripes, it was considered by Elco to be so effective that one squadron commander ordered twelve boats (numbers unknown) to be so painted. At least 12 boats (numbers 163-174) went to the Pacific wearing the Adapter Scheme, and at least another twelve went to the Mediterranean.

After arriving in the pacific combat zones in 1942 and 1943, several boats began to don various patterned schemes employing locally available paints. All of these were unofficial in nature, because the Camouflage Section of the Bureau of Ships was too busy with designs for major combatants. It was not until 1943 that official attention was directed towards PT Boats. Thus for well over a year, commanders of PT Boats went their own way in respect to paint schemes.

Across the Atlantic, the first PT Boats went to the Mediterranean, arriving in early 1943. Photographic and anecdotal evidence combine to give the following: All boats in Squadron 29 (numbers 552-563) were painted for a time in an overall pale blue, including the decks. This color was called Robins Egg Blue, this color may in fact have been Thayer Blue. All boats in Squadron 15 (numbers 201-218) and all boats in Squadron 22 (numbers 302-313) were painted for a time in overall black. There was the wearing of Ocean Gray overall by a few boats, and some boats were Haze Gray (Measure 13) while at least three boats operating in the English Channel (numbers 71, 72, and 199) were painted Mountbatten Pink from May to October 1944.

By early 1944 PT Boats in the Pacific began to wear the Measure 31 patterns using the 1944 range of colors along with #4 Brown and Black. This use of patterned camouflage continued into 1945 with the builders delivering boats to the Navy complete with Measure 31 designs. However, by the fall of 1944 those boats operating in the Philippines had started to change over to the one color Measure 41 that used the revised 5-NG Navy Green. Unfortunately the author has been unable to find any documentation covering the origin of Measure 41.




Used from early 1941 to mid 1941 on ships of the Atlantic Fleet, from carriers and battleships down to small craft. Used from mid 1941 to early 1942 on ships of the Pacific Fleet from carriers and battleships down to small craft.

Colors: 5-D Dark Gray, 5-L Light Gray. 
Vertical surfaces - 5-D.
Pole masts, upper tripod masts, topmasts and yards - S-L.
Decks and other horizontal surfaces - 5-D.
On ships of the Pacific Fleet wood decks were left unpainted. Carrier flight decks - Red Mahogany stain.
Counter shading - none.


Used from mid 1941 to late 1941 for experimental purposes on destroyers PORTER and FLUSSER of the Pacific Fleet.

Colors: 5-S Sea Blue. 
All vertical surfaces including masts, topmasts, and yards - S-S.
All decks and horizontal surfaces - 5-S. 
Counter shading - none.


Used from mid 1941 to late 1941 for experimental purposed on destroyers DRAYTON and WINSLOW of the Pacific Fleet.

Colors: Sapphire Blue - 5-S Sea Blue. 
Vertical surfaces including masts, topmasts, yards - Sapphire Blue. 
Decks - 5-S. 
Other horizontal surfaces - Sapphire Blue. 
Counter shading - none.


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