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/

17 thoughts on “Hawaiian Air Depot Scheme Boeing B-17C/Ds

  1. Question. ANy idea why the Surviving B-18s were painted in a two tone scheme rather than the HAD scheme applied to the B-17s? Seems like they would use the same scheme. Maybe a lack of paint or that the B-18s were acknowledged as no longer front line aircraft. Did any aircraft other than the 17 get the HAD scheme?


  2. Look at the last screen grab above … I think I’m seeing all the HAD colors on the B-18 except for the light gray. Really hard to tell, and there is always the possibility that the colors have shifted. The color film from Midway is a bit more clear (we’ll get to that soon), but this is the only color film I know of which shows HAD schemes on B-17C/Ds or B-18s.


    1. The Marauders stayed in OD / NG. The only types for which there are photos in the HAD scheme are the B-17s and a few B-18s. It is possible there were other types, but no pictures are known.


  3. I’d also like to look more into the B-17C/Ds painted at Clark right before (and during) 8 Dec 41. IIRC, I read somewhere that some of them were painted using locally-obtained non-regulation paint, sometimes in glossy sheen.

    Were any P-40s painted in the HAD scheme, or was that only for bombers?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The application of the HAD scheme was short-lived, it appears to have stopped being applied by February 1942. I only know of the B-17s and a few B-18s, but I suspect there were more B-18s. No other types that I know of. There were some unusual schemes in the Philippines as you mention, but little photographic records survived.


  4. Have you seen the A-27s at Nichols in the Philippines in camo and rudder stripes, including the blue vertical bar? I guess that was a local paint job, as they came from a Thai order that got diverted.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve seen a two-tone green camo, a green/rust brown camo, as well as a khaki brown/lt. green/dk. green pattern on Thai aircraft, like the Hawk 75s or even KI-27s. I wonder if they were painted to Thai specs before impounded, or again,was that a local job? I’m leaning towards the Thai scheme,possibly that two-tone green.

        Anything more on those Midway-based B-17s? I’ve seen the Ford film.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it was a 20BS2BG Y1B-17, the paint was temporary for an exercise. It’s a very interesting scheme, I think it was a one-off for evaluation.


  5. I thought you might be interested to know that the muddy Paramount News footage was taken from 41-2430, the B-17E that was later named “Naughty But Nice”. It’s a real shame the quality is so poor.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s