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US Navy during WWII

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The evolution of US Navy aircraft camouflage paints circa World War Two.


There is a great deal of misinformation or over-simplification to the point of being simply incorrect floating around the internet, in magazines and occasionally in books.

As late as 1940 the US Navy were still flying aircraft around in the high-visibility schemes of silver with Orange-Yellow upper surfaces of the wings and ID markings such as flashes, coloured tails, fuselage bands and coloured engine cowlings in Lemon Yellow, Willow Green, True Blue, Black or Insignia Red. Merging in to 1941, these schemes were being replaced in favour of an overall Light Gray scheme.


The first camouflage schemes applied was in use by late 1941 prior to the USA entering the war. This is often referred to as the "2 tone" scheme and consisted of Blue-Gray over Light Gray using shades from existing camouflage paint specs. This is the camouflage which prevailed through 1942; the Battle of Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, Guadalcanal etc and featured widely on Douglas TBD-1 Devastators, SBD-2 and -3 Dauntless, Grumman F4F-3 and -4 Wildcats and Vought SBU-1 Vindicators etc. The very first Grumman F6Fs and TBFs were also delivered in this scheme.



In the Atlantic theatre, a different scheme was used which comprised a mostly Insignia White scheme with Dark Ghost Gray upper surfaces.



By 1943, the US Navy were trying to standardise on paints with the US Army Air Force using the Army Navy Aeronautical (ANA) paints. In the Pacific theatre, the "Tricolor" scheme was introduced which is a misnomer - it had 4 distinct colours in it! The application directions were a little different for larger or smaller aircraft, which in practical terms means something like a TBF / TBM Avenger and larger for larger aircraft and fighters and scout floatplanes for smaller aircraft. Larger aircraft were to use all 4 colours which were ANA601 Insignia White for the undersides, ANA608 Intermediate Blue for the vertical surfaces e.g. fin and rudder, ANA606 Semi-Gloss Sea Blue for the upper surfaces of the wings and ANA607 Non-Specular Sea Blue for the upper surfaces of the fuselage and leading edges of the wings and tail. For smaller aircraft, it was acceptable to graduate the dark upper surface colour(s) into the undersurface white, although plenty photographic evidence exists to show that use of Intermediate Blue on fighters was commonplace.



By 1944, a desire to simplify production of aircraft was coupled with the acknowledgement that ANA607 in particular was not a particularly robust paint which chipped fairly easily and faded rapidly. Both ANA606 and ANA607 would be replaced by a new paint, ANA623 Glossy Sea Blue, and the applied camouflage scheme for new aircraft was simplified to an overall ANA623 Glossy Sea Blue scheme. A suggestion from Grumman was made to dispense with ANA605 Insignia Blue for the national insignias on such painted aircraft to save time, owing to the similarity of the blues, which was a practise introduced possibly some time before it was formally accepted. This scheme was hereafter applied to all aircraft delivered under Lend-Lease to the United Kingdom's Fleet Air Arm (e.g. Hellcat II, Corsair IV etc) also.



In 1947, ANA623 Glossy Sea Blue was revised in colour, but retained its name unchanged. This would be the version of Glossy Sea Blue applied to the first generation US Navy jets which would see action over Korea such the Grumman F9F Panther and McDonnell F2H Banshee etc. It is this version of ANA623 which was incorporated into Federal Standard 595A in 1956 as FS15042.



It is important to understand that ANA606 was a different colour to ANA607 which was different again to ANA623; many mistakenly believe that they are simply a satin and matt finish of the same colour. This in part is due to the well-meant yet ultimately misleading and unhelpful habit of trying to use the modern American Federal Standard 595 collection to describe WW2 era paints, and in this case often people quote FS15042 for ANA623, FS25042 for ANA606 and FS35042 for ANA607 which are, unfortunately, just gloss, satin and matt versions of the same colour. Herein lies the problem with using FS595 for a reference - it contains circa 650 chips but many of those are duplicates in different finishes. Objectively, FS595 is a very limited colour palette and the limitations become apparent when the same FS595 reference is given to describe three different colours.

Edited by sovereignhobbies
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