The pages and information on this site are the result of a fairly lengthy and continuing effort of research into the photos and files in the National Archives. My original research began with the dazzle camouflage (i.e. Measure 31-32-33) designs worn by Fletcher class destroyers during World War II and this led to my book published in 2006 using a portion of that research. My research has been continuing into the camouflage designs worn by other classes of U. S. Navy ships in WWII and I will add information to this site as additional photographs and documentation are found. Currently, my efforts concentrate on the Measure 31, 32 and 33 designs used by U. S. ships from late 1943 through 1945. During my research, I compiled a list of U. S. Navy ships in their dazzle designs mostly from photographs and that list was the start of the listings on this site.
I was born in 1944, and my father was a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C. I therefore grew up in an environment that fostered a love for the Navy and all subjects nautical and historical. I studied math and physics in college while serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve during the Vietnam War. I was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency as an Imagery Scientist and Computer Project Engineer for 27 years until retirement in 1997 to become a stay-at-home dad and part-time researcher. I have worked with photography and imagery from the smallest hand-held cameras to the largest airborne and satellite based cameras and sensors.
The interpretation of archived World War II naval photographs to determine the camouflage measure and the color scheme is difficult since the great majority of archived photos from that era were taken in black and white. Official photo captions rarely mention camouflage, but when they do, they can be in error and need to be double-checked for dates and identifications. Many factors from both photographic and textual sources have been checked to ensure the authenticity of all the information given on the ships in this compilation.
Interpretation of colors or shades of gray from black and white photographs is highly dependent on many factors; foremost of these are the lighting and camera exposure conditions. The overall tones in a black and white photograph are also affected by the use of colored filters which were often used to counteract the effect of factors such as haze. Usually a definitive determination of the camouflage measure and color range cannot be made from a single photograph, a few other shots from other angles are needed. To make matters more interesting, some black and white film emulsions were more sensitive to colors in the blue range and therefore, grays with blue tint, such as the U.S. Navy used, might show up lighter under certain lighting conditions. Often textual sources that list camouflage are the deciding factors.
The camouflage drawings on this site are scans of black and white photos from the National Archives of the original Bureau of Ships drawings that were usually done table-sized in two sheets, port and starboard. The starboard drawing included the side view, a plan view of the decks and horizontal surfaces, and various end views of the structures with additionally often a bow and stern view. On top of this drawing the camouflage pattern was added by pencil and ink, possibly originally in color. The port side drawing was made from a clean starboard view by reversing the drawing and then adding the port camouflage. Copies of the drawings for distribution were probably made by a machine known as an Ozalid©, which was a brand-name for a full size blueprint copying machine in black and white. There are some indications that these Ozalid© drawings were used and destroyed locally by the painters in applying the camouflage. So the only source for copies of the original camouflage drawings seems to be the archived 8-by-10 negatives and prints made by the Bureau of Aeronautics photo lab. It is possible that some drawings were never saved in any format. Most of the drawing copy photos have prevoiusly been posted on-line by The Naval History and Heritige Command, but I provide links to my own copies on-site. In addition, I have found a few that have not been previously posted and I provide those where appropriate.
It should be noted that the tonal differences seen in the drawings were only intended to identify the areas or panels that used the colors identified by the legend and do not represent the true tones or contrasts that would be visible on the full-sized ship.
Some drawings have been redrawn by me for a couple of reasons. Some have not yet been adequately scanned for display because they exist in the archives in only negative form and cannot be scanned but must ordered as prints through vendors which is very expensive. Negatives can be photographed on site by a digital camera but the results sometimes are not of production quality and so must be redrawn. Others, such as for the Fletcher class were originally drawn by the Navy using an older ship profile and so were redrawn using a newer profile for my previously published book.
The assessment of the Measure or color range of any particular dazzle camouflage worn by any specific ship listed on this site is based on my own photo analysis and also documentation found in the archives; my list sometimes differs from other sources that may list a ship's camouflage. Although a specific ship may have painted camouflage using a specific design drawing that was from the Bureau of Ships, it seems the measure may have sometimes been flexible. A July 1943 memo from the Bureau of Ships to the Pacific Fleet stated “Modification by a change in the shade of the colors is also a practicable method of variation and one which should be used where the pattern may prove either too light or too dark for the tactical requirements.” So it is entirely conceivable that in a few cases a particular ship may have altered the Measure originally used or intended. Several times, the Camouflage Section in Washington requested the ability to decide which ships wore specific camouflage, but was never approved. The usual procedure in the case of a particular ship was for Bureau of Ships to check the list for the preferred camouflage then send the ship and shipyard, that might do the painting, a copy of the drawing for that Measure and Design.
Sometimes this process may have required adding to or altering the labels for the colors of the “master” copy in order to specify the intended Measure since only the color range changed from Measure to Measure and not the underlying pattern. At the same time the Bureau of Ships requested the ship or shipyard to return photographs of the completed design. Except for a few cases these instructions were followed.
This memo indicates that for some classes of ships even hull-numbers should wear Measure 31 and odd hull-numbers should wear Measure 32 and this seems to hold true in almost all cases but there appear to be a few exceptions to this rule as evidenced by photos. There are also documents that indicate that the Atlantic Fleet only approved of the use of certain camouflage designs: Measure 32 Design 3D for destroyers and destroyer escorts, Measure 32 Design 4A for escort carriers and of Measure 32 Design 5D for small seaplane tenders in the Atlantic. This does make some sense since Measure 32 was claimed to be the best overall against submarines (U-boats) and Measure 31 was warned as not being suitable for anti-submarine use. However, the Atlantic Fleet Headquarters did request a handful of ships in Measure 31 for comparison to similar ships in Measure 32. Through all my research, there is some evidence of a handful of individual ships that used a design drawing with one Measure but painted that design using a different Measure's color range; this evidence is usually only photographic and cicumstantial and thus not conclusive. I welcome any comments or suggestions for any other assessments of any ship's particular camouflage scheme. Also, my advice to any potential modelers who are interested in historical accuracy, is to obtain photos, make your own assesment as to colors and paint what you think is right and let any critics try to prove you wrong.