Hawaiian Air Depot Scheme Boeing B-17C/Ds

Of all the camouflage schemes worn by Flying Fortresses in WWII, perhaps the most interesting was applied at the Hawaiian Air Depot in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack. This scheme was authorized on 10DEC41 and was designed to conceal aircraft on the ground.  The Dark Olive Drab 41 upper surfaces were broken up with Sand 26, Neutral Gray 43, Rust Brown 34, and Interior Green areas.  Rudders were given thirteen alternating red and white stripes, and red-centered US insignia were carried in six positions.  Serial Numbers were painted on the vertical stabilizers in yellow, although this does not appear to have happened right away in all cases.  No two camouflages were exactly alike but photographs of HAD scheme Boeing B-17Es show similar patterns were applied.  No definitive records have surfaced which conclusively identify which aircraft were repainted so photographs showing tail numbers or identifiable camouflage patterns are the best evidence.

While photographs of HAD scheme B-17Es are rare, it is especially difficult to find such pictures of B-17C/Ds. What photographs are available show more chaotic patterns and rarely are the tail numbers discernible.  More questions than answers, but some progress can be made.

One of the more obvious questions is just how many B-17C/Ds could have been camouflaged at the Hawaiian Air Depot in the first place? Several B-17s were destroyed in the raid, so this number is limited to ships which survived the Japanese attack and were in Hawaii after 10DEC41.  Two B-17Cs were among the 07DEC41 arrivals, 40-2054 and 40-2063.  They joined another B-17C already stationed at Pearl Harbor, 40-2070.  B-17Ds were 40-3060, 40-3084, 40-3085, 40-3089, and 40-3090.  It is likely that most, if not all of these eight Fortresses were camouflaged in the HAD scheme.

40-2074 was one of the planes that arrived over Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. Hit while coming in for a landing at Wheeler Field, the Fortress burned out on the apron.  All aboard survived the landing but one officer was killed by strafing on the ground.
Bombing up for a mission.  This image was reported as being of a 19th Bombardment Group Fortress, but note the tail stripes and color differences between the wings.
A HAD scheme B-17C/D disbursed in a revetment on Hawaii.  The rudder stripes have been painted out, which places the date as being MAY42 or later.  Note the ASV search radar antenna under the wing.
Three Flying Fortresses on patrol.  41-2403 is on the left in the standard OD over Neutral Gray scheme with stripes added to her rudder; B-17E 41-2404 is in her HAD scheme in the center; B-17D 40-3060 is to the right.  Note the differences in the patterns of the two HAD camouflage schemes.

With no written records and few photographs, I turned to scouring newsreels and training films for any glimpses of “shark fin” B-17s in HAD schemes. This effort was both rewarding and at the same time frustrating.  Several nice clips, but few identifiable Serials.



Stills from the Army Air Force 1943 training film “Learn and Live” show a HAD B-17C/D at time 21:45.  The film fades just as the tail numbers come into view, but the last digit appears to be a “4”.   View the film here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5uGlMh9PxY


Color screen captures from film shot at Pearl Harbor early in 1942. Note that the color on the forward port fuselage and part of the wing appears to be a light green.  Full film here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5cqIT6_Cbs


B-18 Bolos were also repainted at the Hawaiian Air Depot.  These stills are from the same film as the Fortress above.


A poor quality newsreel, but one which shows a formation of six Hawaiian Air Depot camouflaged Fortresses in flight: https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/video/sun-shining-through-clouds-soldiers-running-toward-and-news-footage/502797943

A section of the same film as above with a slightly better preserved image. If only it were a little sharper!:  https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/video/navy-captain-of-ship-holding-a-megaphone-on-ship-bridge-a-news-footage/638937588




HAD scheme B-17E’s here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/hawaiian-air-depot-b-17e-flying-fortresses-part-i/