If you can see this text here you should update to a newer web browser

Normal | Highlight & Comment Highlighted Text will be in Yellow, but there are none yet


Serial 01112


U.S.S. DETROIT, Flagship
Fearl Harbor, T. H.
August 12, 1941.

From: Commander Destroyers, Battle Force.
To  : Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Via : Commander Battle Force.
Subject: Painting of Ships.
Reference: (a) Cincpac conf. ltr. S19/(0457) dated March 27 1941.
(b) Buships ltr. C-S19-7 (3-4-DYr) dated March 7, 1941.
(c) Comscofor conf. ltr. Al6-3/A9/(0545) dated July 23, 1941.
(d) Comdesbatfor ltr. S19/(5l65) dated November 14, 1940.
Enclosure:  (A)  Comdesdiv-17 ltr. FB17/S19/A16-3 (no serial) dated May 13, 1941.
(B) Comdesdiv-6 Conf. ltr. FB6/319-1 serial 0107 dated June 21, 1941.
(C) Comdesdiv-6 conf. ltr. F36/S19 serial 0119 dated August 2, 1941.

     1.      Paragraph 2 of reference (a) directed Commander Destroyers. Battle Force, to conduct experiments (A) and "F" of reference (b). Those experiments were conducted by Destroyer Divisions SIX and SEVENTEEN and the reports of Commander Destroyer Division SIX and Commander Destroyer Division SEVENTEEN era forwarded herewith an enclosures (A), (B), and (C).

     2.     The effectiveness of any camouflage painting of warships has to be judged by several criteria:

(a) The position of the observer from whom the camouflaged ship is to be hidden; that is, surface, submarine, or aerial.

(b) The prevailing weather conditions in which the camouflaged ship may expect to operate, and

(c) The type and probable employment of the camouflaged vessel.


- 1 -

Serial 01112
August 12, 1941.


Subject:     Painting of Ships.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Commander Destroyers, Battle Force, believes that the primary consideration in camouflage of destroyers operating with the Pacific Fleet is invisibility from aerial Observers. The scheme which most nearly meets this requirement and, in addition, affords some deception to surface observers, is the scheme which should be adopted for destroyers.

     3.     The eight destroyers of Divisions SIX and SEVENTEEN were painted as follows:

U.S.S. BUCK (DD420)   1 Dark Gray
U.S.S. MORRIS (DD417)   2 Graded
U.S.S. WAINRIGHT (DD419)   3 Light Gray with
Bow Wave
U.S.S. ROE (DD418)   4 Black
U.S.S. CASE (DD370)   3 Light Gray with
Bow Wave
U.S.S. CUMMINGS (DD363)   1 Dark Gray
U.S.S. SHAW (DD373)   2 Graded
U.S.S. TUCKER (DD374)   1 (Modified) Dark Gray
 (Modified to
 lighter color)

Observations taken on these ships from airplane, submarine, and surface vessels ere summarized as follows:

(a) When the ships are silhouetted against the source of light, or when the vessel is between the source of light and the observer, color has no effect. All vessels are equally visible.

(b) Color has little effect on the visibility of ships from the air at night.

(c) The light gray vessels, Measure 3, are too visible from the air and the surface under all normal atmospheric conditions in the Hawaiian Area. This measure is not considered to be a satisfactory scheme for destroyers.


- 2 -

Serial 01112
August 12, 1941.


Subject:     Painting of Ships.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     (d) The painted bow wave on destroyers offers no deception in speed whatsoever because estimates of destroyer speed are made from the appearance of the wake.

(e) The black system, Measure 4, offers good deception from the air, but is not as effective in general as Measure 1, and may, therefore, be considered to be an unsatisfactory scheme for destroyers.

(f) The graded system, measure 2, offers some deception to surface and submarine observers. Ships painted in accordance with this schame blend into the background more readily in daylight than do darker ships, but not well enough to become invisible. In hazy weather they disappear at shorter ranges than do darker ships. At night these vessels are less visible than are darker ships. Seme deception in range results whan a ship, painted in accordance with Measure 2, is sighted on the horizon. No deception as to target angle has been reported.

(g) The ships painted in accordance with Measure 1 were the ones which were most nearly invisible from the air among those observed. The comment of Commander Patrol Wing TWO, as presented in reference (c), supports the above statement. In addition to offering the most deception to aerial observers, the dark gray system pives the bast target angle deception of all systems except the black system.

(h) Ships painted with dark gray or black are more visible both in day and at night than are lighter colored vessels.

(i) The dark gray paint now in use is slightly too dark for the clear weather encountered in the Hawaiian Area. This color blends well with the background when the ships are in the shadow of a cloud, but appears slightly too dsrk in brighter areas.

(j) When destroyers are making speeds in excess of 12 knots, the wake is more visible from the air than is the ship (if painted in accordance with Measure 1).

     4.     In view of the observations reported above, Commander Destroyers, Battle Force, recommends as follows:

(a) Only Measures 1 and 2 should be considered satisfactory camouflage schemes for destroyers.

- 3 -


Serial 01112
August 12, 1941.


Subject:     Painting of Ships.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(b) The choice between the two painting schemes should be optional with the Commander-in-Chief, who will consider the atmospheric conditions of the operating area and the type of duty involved, but the painting of all ships in a theatre of war should be uniform.

(c) The dark gray paint used in Measure 1 should be no darker than necessary to make observations from the air difficult. The depressing morale effect of dark colors combined with the higher compartment temperatures caused by blanking of airports and by the increased heat absorption of the dark paint, makes it imperative thst the color finally adopted be no darker than that dictated by the primary considerations of camouflage. A paint similar in color to that recommended in referenoe (d) should be satisfactory.

(d) All topside canvas should be a dark color - darker than the chrome-dyed canvas which is now supplied. The Bureau of Ships should be asked to formulate specifications for canvas dyed to the proper color in order to avoid any necessity for painting canvas, which will be supplied in the future.

(e) Ships painted in accordance with Measure 1 should be uniformly painted; i.e., all exterior surfaces should be painted dark exoept masts and spars above the level of the highest structure, which should be painted light gray. As applied to destroyers, this system should require all structure except that above the level of the gun director to be dark gray.

     5.     Commander Destroyers, Battle Force, recognizes that the adoption of a dark color to obtain maximum invisibility from the air will increase the visibility of vessels from the sufface at night. It must be assumed, however, that any vessel close enough to be seen at night would be readily detacted by Radar equipment in any event.



Copy to:
  All TypeComs,FacFlt(without ends)
  Comdeslant         (   "     "  )
  Comdesflot 1       (   "     "  )
  Comdesdivs 6 & 17  (   "     "  )

National Archives & Records Administration, College Park
Record Group 313, Red 1 CinCLant Confidential & Restricted Files 1941-43

Transcribed by RESEARCHER @ LARGE. Formatting & Comments Copyright R@L.

Camouflage Home | Ships Home | Researcher@Large Home