Paint for U.S. Navy Vehicles

Three color schemes have been observed for U.S. Navy vehicles during World War II and the early post-war period. These are Navy gray, forest green, and Navy blue. The forest green color was used by the U.S. Marine Corps, a part of the Navy, and the Navy blue primarily for staff and administrative vehicles. For jeeps, trucks, and other tactical vehicles the color was usually gray.

At the U.S. Navy Base Camp Annex, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, South Pacific, a Navy gray jeep is checked by an entrance guard.  Date is circa 1943-1945
At the U.S. Navy Base Camp Annex, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, South Pacific, a Navy gray jeep is checked by an entrance guard. Date is circa 1943-1945.

Today in WW II: 21 Nov 1942 ALCAN Highway opened for its first full day of traffic.  More 
21 Nov 1943 Hitler appoints Luftwaffe Field Marshal Albert Kesselring as commander of all German forces in Italy.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

Painting of U. S. Navy Vehicles

A US Navy jeep sits on the after flight deck of the USS Enterprise (CV-6) during operations in the Pacific, circa May 1944
A US Navy jeep sits on the after flight deck of the USS Enterprise (CV-6) during operations in the Pacific, circa May 1944.

The following is adapted from U.S. Navy Automotive Transportation, Bureau of Yards and Docks, 1949. Other sources indicate that the same or similar regulations were in effect at least by August 1944, including use of medium gray No. 123 as the color for U.S. Navy vehicles.

The basic color for all United States Navy transportation vehicles shall be medium gray No. 123 as set forth in color card supplement (21 April 1943) of the United States Army Specification No. 3-1. The specific paint referred to is a gloss color synthetic enamel and its detailed specifications are covered in United States Navy Specification No. 52-E-7, Type III.

All United States Navy transportation vehicles shall conform to the following standard:

Trucks, truck tractors, trailers, ambulances, busses, jeeps, motorcycles, and motor scooters: Painted used shall be medium gray No. 123. All exterior metal and wood surfaces with the exception of chrome plating shall be the standard color. Interior surfaces of ambulances may be painted white or other light color.

Passenger cars and station wagons: Paint used shall be medium gray No. 123. All exterior metal surfaces with the exception of chrome plating shall be the standard color. When exterior and interior wood surfaces of station wagons have reached the point of requiring bleaching and / or other expensive operations before reconditioning, it is directed that the wood surfaces be sanded smooth, treated with a good grade of wood filler or surfacer where necessary, and painted with a minimum of two coats of standard gray No. 123, synthetic enamel, United States Navy Specification No. 52-E-7, Type III.

Fire trucks and crash trucks: Paint used shall be of grade I synthetic enamel, red. All exterior metal surfaces with the exception of chrome plating shall be solid color.

U.S. Navy Vehicle Paint

PFC Jacklyn Lucas, USMCR, awarded the Medal of Honor for action at Iwo Jima in 1945. At the age of fourteen, Lucas lied about his age to enlist. He sits in the rear seat of a U.S. Navy jeep, painted with a gloss or semi-gloss grey color
PFC Jacklyn Lucas, USMCR, awarded the Medal of Honor for action at Iwo Jima in 1945. At the age of fourteen, Lucas lied about his age to enlist. He sits in the rear seat of a U.S. Navy jeep, painted with a gloss or semi-gloss grey color.

The table gives the nomenclature and stock numbers for the paint to be used. For restoration of a U.S. Navy vehicle, equivalent paints made from modern ingredients are available.

Finish Paint Primer Paint
Synthetic enamel medium gray No. 123
Reg. 52-E-8400-90, 1 gallon cans US Navy Specification No. 52-E-7, Type III
Reg. 52-E-8400-95, 5 gallon cans US Navy Specification No. 52-E-7, Type III
Reg. 52-P-20480, 1 gallon cans
Reg. 52-P-20483, 5 gallon cans
Reg. 52-T-445, 1 gallon cans
Reg. 52-T-450, 5 gallon cans

Paint for U.S. Navy Vehicles: More Information

Even though the number of U.S. Navy vehicles is quite small compared to Army or Marine Corps jeeps and trucks, there still have been extensive military vehicle forum discussions of the details of painting. On the linked page there are suggestions for forums to visit or you can use a search engine to find more.

What is there to discuss? Here is a list of some topics:

  • Were Navy gray vehicles painted at the factory or in the field?
  • What color is the engine compartment, hood underside, inside of glove compartment and tool boxes?
  • What color canvas was used with a USN gray jeep?
  • Which vehicles were painted with lusterless (flat) paint vs. semi-gloss or gloss?
  • What years did which standards apply?

In the forums, you will find informed comments on these topics and much more.