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Colors of WWII Liberty ships

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  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Back home in Blanchard
Colors of WWII Liberty ships
Posted by wroper11 on Monday, January 3, 2005 11:56 AM
Does anyone have a close FS number for a WWII Liberty ship? I got the Jeremiah O'brien for Xmas and the trumpeter color chart leaves something to be desired. Any help is appreciated.


Wade
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  • Member since
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Posted by Jeff Herne on Monday, January 3, 2005 12:54 PM
Basically, Liberty Ships were painted in Measure 14, overall 5-O Ocean Gray...in FS #, that equates to 35164.

Some ships under navy control were painted in Ms 21 and 3x camo schemes, but the vast majority, including the O'Brien, were Ms 14. Here's the official instructions:

Vertical Surfaces:

Vertical surfaces from boot-topping to top of superstructure masses, Ocean Gray 5-O.

Pole masts, yards, slender upper works above level of top superstructure masses, Haze Gray, 5-H.

Horizontal Surfaces:

Horizontal surfaces, Deck Blue, 20-B.

Wood Decks.

Wood decks except on submarines and carriers shall be darkened to the color Deck Blue. Deck Blue paint shall be used in lieu of stain for this purpose.

Canvas Covers.

Canvas covers visible from the outside vessel are to be dyed a color corresponding to Deck Blue.

Notes:

The camouflage painting need not be exact or carried into corners. Small gear, wires, rigging, and areas permanently in shadow, as under boats, etc., need not be painted with the camouflage colors. There is no objection to exact or careful painting which may be desired for the sake of good appearance at close range.

All bright or shiny objects, no matter how insignificant, shall be painted, covered, or removed.

Glass windows shall be covered or removed, especially during the day in sunny weather, and at night when anticipating searchlight discovery. Insofar as conditions permit, similar precautions shall be taken on airport lenses.

Hope that helps...

Jeff
  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Back home in Blanchard
Posted by wroper11 on Monday, January 3, 2005 1:34 PM
Thanks Jeff.

Wade
USAF PRIME BEEF ENGINEERING READY...ANYTIME...ANYWHERE! HOORAH!</font id="blue">
  • Member since
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Posted by Chris Friedenbach on Monday, January 3, 2005 2:13 PM
Most Liberty ships were technically not painted according to any Navy prescribed camouflage measure. The 5-O Ocean Gray shade that Jeff gave is pretty close to surviving paint samples on the Jeremiah O’Brien. Unlike the Navy standards Jeff listed everything was painted this color. There was no separate shade for the decks or masts on American merchant Liberty ships, although British ships did have this. Also, they did not have a boot topping stripe around the waterline. The hull was red up to the 10 foot waterline, and then everything above that was grey.

There are only a few major exceptions to the paint everything gray rule. The first is the canvas hatch tarps, which should be green (the color should be somewhere in a range from medium green to olive drab-I can’t give an exact match). The second major exception is the tops of the stack and the Charlie Noble (galley stack – part B28). These should both be painted black, as shown on the box art.

While I am at it there are also inaccuracies in the decals. They are basically correct for the O’Brien today, but the instructions should not be followed for a wartime ship. The name decals for the bow and stern should only be used if you are showing the O’Brien as a brand new ship still at the yard, or if you are modeling her as a museum ship. These were painted out before she entered service. The pinups on the forward gun tub were painted there for the ships fourth voyage, which included the D-Day landings. The cartoon of Bruce the Raven on the crows nest dates back to the 1994 voyage to Normandy. The name boards on the bridge obviously would not have had the campaign ribbons while she was still busy earning them, so these will need to be trimmed off for a wartime ship. Finally, the draft markings should be in black instead of white for a wartime O’Brien, but there is not much that can be done to fix this.

Regards,

Chris Friedenbach
Crewmember, SS Jeremiah O’Brien
  • Member since
    January 2003
Posted by Jeff Herne on Monday, January 3, 2005 2:23 PM
Wow, there you go, straight from the source...so Chris, 5-O is not the prescribed color, was it a commercial paint pre-mixed, or the typical 5-U and 5-TM based methodology employed by the USN?

Jeff
  • Member since
    January 2005
Posted by Chris Friedenbach on Monday, January 3, 2005 4:02 PM
Jeff,

This is an area where very little detailed research has been done. The yards that built the Liberty ships were all new facilities with no experience (at least initially) building for the Navy, and the actual management of the ships was contracted out to commercial shipping lines (in the case of the O’Brien, Grace Line). The only connection the Navy had to these ships was the fact that they carried Naval Armed Guard crews to man the guns. The paints they used were probably all commercial premix, but I have not seen any hard evidence one way or the other.

The original Liberty ship outfitting inventory and allowance book (last revision date on the copy we have is 12/8/41) simply lists “paint, gray, dark.” I have seen claims that at some point in time Ocean Gray was specified as a color for commercial paint companies to match to, but again no hard evidence. All of the commercial marine paint suppliers had gray paint available in multiple shades, although none of them appear to have any relation to Navy standards. The names haze gray or ocean gray do not appear in the catalogues; instead the colors have names like hull gray, medium gray, dark gray, convoy gray, navy gray, war gray, etc. Most of them also produced a range of paints formulated for use on decks, however the only mention of deck paint in the outfitting book is the deck red used in interior spaces.

Regards,

Chris Friedenbach
  • Member since
    January 2003
Posted by Jeff Herne on Monday, January 3, 2005 4:04 PM
Interesting...now I've got to get my hands on some samples from someone's paint locker... :-)

Jeff
  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Back home in Blanchard
Posted by wroper11 on Tuesday, January 4, 2005 6:55 AM
Cool, how about that for first hand info. That is great, thanks for the replies.

Wade
USAF PRIME BEEF ENGINEERING READY...ANYTIME...ANYWHERE! HOORAH!</font id="blue">
  • Member since
    March 2005
  • From: West Virginia, USA
Posted by mfsob on Thursday, April 14, 2005 2:03 PM
Wow, I'm glad I found out the info about painting out the ship's name on the hull before I started trying to make my own 1/700 decals for my Victory ship!

But Chris, what about the ship's name boards on each side of the superstructure on the bridge deck? Were these also typically not carried in wartime? If they were, I have been playing around with Microsoft Word and 4 or 5 point Arial type, which looks close to scale and is at least readable. I'd just like to know if I even need to pursue it.
  • Member since
    January 2005
Posted by Chris Friedenbach on Thursday, April 14, 2005 3:21 PM
Name boards were carried during wartime so that the ship would have some means of visible identification when needed in situations where security was less of a concern. They were painted black with the name in white 12” lettering. When the name needed to be hidden they would simply be flipped over, presenting a plain black board to any viewers located off the ship. The side railings that the boards were lashed to typically did not have canvas dodgers, so the lettering would be visible upside-down through the railing when the boards were flipped over.

The style described above is what would commonly be seen on a WWII Liberty ship. The Lane Victory has a large collection of Victory ship name boards, and when I was down there last spring I saw at least one board that was split down the middle and hinged. This allowed the bottom half to be folded up, completely concealing the name. This style would certainly simplify things from a modeler’s perspective!

Regards,

Chris Friedenbach
Crewmember, SS Jeremiah O’Brien
  • Member since
    March 2005
  • From: West Virginia, USA
Posted by mfsob on Tuesday, April 19, 2005 11:26 AM
Having had an opportunity to climb over, under, and throught the American Victory in Tampa last weekend (jeezzz, did I do a lot of little things wrong with my 1/700th model ...) I'm going to try name boards on my model just to give it some individuality.

In case anyone else wants to try this, I used Microsoft Word 7.0, Arial Narrow bold font, and 3 point type, reversed so it is white on a black text block on the paper. Printed it on some good quality 20-pound bond and am planning to use a very small amount of white glue to affix to the bridge deck railings on each side.

The entire name is only 3/8-inch long, but it IS readable. Going down to 2 point type is more to scale, but is not worth the effort in my opinion. There's tiny, and then there's useless!
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