The Camouflage Drawings are not "Tablets of Stone"

One must first understand the fact that the sheets that have been "saved" and found in the National Archives represent only a sample of the camouflage drawings that were generated by the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) for the Camouflage section. The camouflage drawings on this site are scans of black and white photos from the National Archives of the original BuShips drawings that were done drafting table-sized in two sheets, one port and one starboard. The starboard drawing usually included the side view, a plan view of the decks and horizontal surfaces, and various end views of the structures often with a bow and stern view added. On top of this drawing the camouflage pattern was drawn by pencil and ink, possibly originally in color (we have only black and white copies, to judge this). The port side drawing was made from a clean starboard view by reversing the drawing and then adding the port camouflage. The final product was usually initialed by Everett Warner and signed by the Naval Officer in charge. The drawing sheets were then periodically sent to a photocopy machine, which preserved them as 8” by 10” photo negatives. It is possible that some drawings were never saved in any format.

One option during the process apparently was for a particular class of ship the "master" pattern was drawn without color designations. This “master” could then represent the Design pattern in multiple Measures. Then, when a specific Measure/Design was to be sent to a ship, the "master" was copied using a "blueprint" copier called OZALID© and the color designations added before sending. Usually, in the process of applying the camouflage to the ship these OZALID© copies were used up and not saved. All of the "saved" drawings in the Archives represent drawings photocopied sometimes before or sometimes after the color designations were put on. Thus some of the archived drawings have no color designations and these have been called “open”. Many other drawings were intended for only one Measure and the color designations are applied. Also, some pattern designs have been found in multiple versions using different Measures for the same class of ship or for other classes.

The Camouflage Section maintained a list of which ships should have which pattern (that list may not have been saved). This list was begun by the memo originally sent by the Fleet Maintenance Office of the Commander Service Force, Pacific Fleet (ComServPac) on October 11, 1943. The list was later added to and amended by BuShips as ships were built and transferred to the Pacific. BuShips was aware of ships about to be completed or scheduled for port visits and used this information to decide to send the appropriate drawings to a ship or the shipyard for painting. Occasionally a ship or shipyard had to send a note or speed-letter requesting the camouflage drawings.

The Measure and Design drawing that was sent to a ship was noted in the cover memo (an example) that was sent along with the full-sized OZALID© copies (often in triplicate) via confidential mail. The cover memo required the ship or shipyard provide photographs to document the camouflage painting and these have often become the source or evidence that a particular ship wore that camouflage design. So, with over 1,000 ships in the Pacific Fleet to be camouflaged, the process required generating many drawings in a matter of just a few months. The Camouflage Section recruited and hired additional draftsmen in the Spring and Summer of 1944 to accomplish this.

Finally, an archive drawing with its Measure and color range is no guarantee that a ship was sent the same Measure with that color range. The determination of the actual Measure and thus color range must come from additional sources such as have been used for the tabulation on this site. Those sources used are the lists of ships with assigned Measure and Design, the cover memos that identify Measure and Design sent and in some cases analysis of the photographs showing applied camouflage (even though black and white photos are the least reliable for identifying specific colors).


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Site last updated: September 1, 2017
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