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PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2020 8:20 pm 
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Pre WWII US submarines appear to have been painted in light grey above the waterline, with the bare metal portions of decks dark grey. Were the wood planked portions of the decks ever left natural wood, as on battleships and cruisers, or were they painted or stained?

Charles Watson


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2020 8:29 pm 
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Hey Charles - sorry for the delay in response. Took me a while to get the time to look through my research. I don't have anything that definitively answers the question, but my guess is that they were painted black. I photographed a copy of "Tests at Sea of February 1940 in the Key West Area of the Visibility of Submarines and Transparency Measurements of Navigable Waters."

This document compares results from submarines painted in "Pearl Harbor Blue" and black. Reference is made to 1937 tests with some varied dark blues, but no other colors are mentioned. What makes me believe the (wood) decks were black versus natural wood or deck gray is the fact that no other colors were compared or referenced. There was no mention of a comparison of black to any other color or "control" color such as an unpainted black. If they were trying to compare black or blue to a "standard" color I would expect there to be some mention of it.

That's what I've got for now.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2020 10:21 am 
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Would that be in a water-resistant coat similar to German practise?
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:21 am 
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Paint in US Navy service was actually considered a "preservative coat" more than strictly camouflage. In the Navy filing system used up to and through WWII Camouflage was designated S19-7, with S19 being "preservative coatings." Any deck coating would have been tested and graded for its preservative qualities. I just don't have a lot of good pre-war documentation yet. I've spent most of the time allotted for it looking for "Construction & Repair No 4." which was essentially the 1930s camouflage manual.

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Tracy White -Researcher@Large

"Let the evidence guide the research. Do not have a preconceived agenda which will only distort the result."
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2020 5:55 pm 
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Tracy,

Thanks for the input. I picked up the Tom's Modelworks Argonaut at IPMS Nationals, and was wondering how to paint it pre-war. I had looked at the pictures on NavSource and found an aerial view with the hull very light, horizontal steel areas very dark, and the deck planking noticeably darker than the hull, but much lighter than the steel decks. After doing more searching on NavSource I found a paper on sub painting that discussed post WWI experiments, and stated that it was decided to have light grey hulls and black decks and tops of ballast tanks. I can see this in pictures from the 20's and early 30s. Close-up shots convince me that deck was painted or stained a dark color, but it looks lighter in aerial views, possibly because different kinds of paints/stains were used on wood and steel surfaces, differences in reflection and absorption, differential weathering, etc. I think I will use standard Navy pre-war grey for the hull and conning tower, black for the steel decks, and medium grey for the planking, with a heavy black wash.

I did find some pictures of the pre-war subs in the mid-30's, with hulls painted black, and the decks very light, too light to be explained away. Not sure what is up with that.

Charles Watson


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