This is the third and last part in the reference series about interior
finishes of US-produced
aircraft of the World War II era. Please refer to part
one for general information on the development and the variety of
finishes used. Part two
covered interiour finishes of the US Army Air Corps / Air Force
aircraft. This part three is devoted to Navy aircraft
types. – Ed.
Mating a bomb to an SBD onboard USS Enterprise during the Guadalcanal
Invasion, August 1942. The usual Navy practice of painting the wheel
the same colour as the underside of the airplane is well evident on this
picture. What is really interesting about this photo is the
undercarriage itself, the left and right legs being painted in two very different colours. The starboard (dark) one is
apparently a spare.
US Navy interior colours
In the first (Interior Colours of US Aircraft, 1941-45
– Part I) and second (Interior Colours of US Aircraft, 1941-45
– Part II) parts of this feature we have discussed the protective
finishes used in US aircraft production of the immediate pre-war and
World War II period, and the evolution of colour shades and
specifications used in that production.
In this installment we will go more specifically into interiour
finishes of selected US Navy aircraft, using a few popular
aircraft types as examples.
Please note tha most of the quoted colour names (such as Grumman
Grey or Salmon) have been described in the
first part of the
In the immediate pre-war period, many Navy aircraft, e.g. F2A, F4F,
SBD, TBD show silver cockpits in photos, most probably Aluminium
lacquer. Sometimes, silver cockpits were carried over to the initial
weeks of the conflict.
Later US Navy aircraft of the World War II had the interiors painted
in Interior Green. Interior Green was initially a Navy colour and when
the ANA series of paints was adopted in 1943 the colour agreed upon for
tinted zinc chromate was Interior Green.
Also in general, naval aircraft of the period had their undercarriage
and wheel bays painted the same colour as the bottom of the aircraft.
In the later part of 1944, the Navy issued modified paint
specifications for cockpit interiors. The new specification called out
for instrument panels to be painted black together with all side
consoles and sidewall surfaces above the bottom edge of the instrument
panel. Cockpit surfaces below that line were to the painted Interior
On the other hand, Interior Green was almost never used for the
inside of engine cowlings of WW2 Navy aircraft. The most popular shades
in this area are believed to be Non-Specular Light Grey or Black.
However, Interior Green was standardised upon after the war.
Like with all regulations and practices you can expect to find
Brewster F2A Buffalo
Early model Brewster Buffaloes, including F2A-1, F2A-2, Finnish and
Dutch Model 239s had cockpit interiors painted in Aluminium lacquer with
usual black instrument panel and switch boxes. The later F2A-3s were
produced with Zinc Chromate Green cockpits, similar to Interior Green.
The British Model 339 manual doesn’t specify the colours, but other
evidence suggests the colour was matching the British Interior Green.
Close view of a cockpit of an unidentified Brewster Buffalo at Naval Air
Station, Miami, Florida in April 1943. This F2A was used as a training
aircraft. The photo shows Zinc Chromate Green details behind the
pilots’s head. Interestingly, the rollover cage beneath the rear canopy
is painted in some other colour. The instrument panel decking below the
windscreen is matt black.
Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
Curtiss has reportedly used its own Curtiss Cockpit Green shade,
being a variant of Zinc Chromate Green.
While some sources state that this was just their trade name for the
standard Interior Green, ANA 611, others suggest that it was, in fact, a
different colour, being lighter and more brown in shade.
The bomb bay, gear wells and landing gear struts were all Interior
Green, even on late-production Helldivers, differing from the usual Navy
practice of having wheel wells and doors follow the underside colour.
Grumman F4F Wildcat
Early production yellow-wing F4Fs are believed to be painted
Aluminium lacquer on all internal surfaces including that of the
According to factory Erection & Maintenance Instructions, cockpit
interiors of F4F-3 to F4F-4s were painted in Bronze Green. Later F4F-4’s
may have been painted Interior Green. Some sources attribute Bronze
Green for Grumman built Wildcats and Interior Green for Eastern built
An interesting thing is that Tom Cheek, the famous pilot of the VF-42
at USS Yorktown at the time of the Battle of Midway reportedly said that
he had his cockpit painted red to keep him alert!
It would appear that other internal areas of the Wildcat – fuselage
interior, inside of the engine cowling, the area beneath the cockpit
floor and main undercarriage bay were painted in a light grey shade
called Grumman Grey.
Initially the fuel tank beneath the cockpit was probably also
finished in light
grey primer. The Erection & Maintenance manual of the F4F-4 specified the
fuel tank beneath the cockpit floor to be painted Dark Grey but it is
unclear how this colour looked like.
Evidence of a light “Grumman Grey” primer being used on early Wildcats.
This F4F-3 has been photographed in the hangar of USS Enterprise on 28
The landing gear struts of the Wildcat were Grumman Grey with black
in the lower portions protruding beyond the fuselage. This is true for
aircraft right out the factory, but it was not uncommon that these were
repainted in the same colour as the adjacent camouflage colour – either
light grey for two tone camouflage Wildcats or Insignia White for
The depressions for the wheels in the fuselage as well as the wheels
were painted at the factory in the adjacent camouflage colour.
Another F4F-3 photographed during the same photo session displays
black-pained undercarriage struts.
General Motors-produced FM-1 and FM-2s had a standardised interior
finish of Interior Green from the inside of the cowling all the way
back, including the undercarriage struts.
Grumman F6F Hellcat
By the time Hellcat entered mass production, Grumman had made the
decision to adopt Interior Green in place of Bronze Green for cockpits,
and possibly also to adopt Zinc Chromate primer in place of its own
Grumman Grey. However, older paints were to be used as long as their
stocks were available.
Thus the first hundred or so F6F-3 airframes produced almost
certainly had their cockpits finished with the remaining stock of Bronze
Green. Subsequent aircraft had their cockpits finished in Interior
Green. Starting with F6F-5, cockpit area above and including the side
consoles was finished in flat black with the remaining surfaces in
An enlarged portion of a well-known photo of
newly produced F6F-3s on Grumman publicity flight. The factory-applied
red surrounds to the national insignia should indicate a June –
September 1943 time frame. What is interesting is the colour of the
headrest inside the cockpit, which looks markedly unlike Interior
Green. The actual colour could have been Bronze Green, but this
statement is non-conclusive.
The inside of the engine cowling varied throughout the Hellcat
production, being Grumman Grey, Interior Green or Zinc Chromate Yellow.
Later F6F-5 and had flat black cowling interiors. Other enclosed areas of the fuselage
were either Grumman Grey (on early production machines) or Zinc Chromate Yellow.
In common with the general Navy practice the wheel bays and
undercarriage legs were finished in the lower surface colour. However,
the area ahead of the main spar in the wheel well was left in Interior
Green. Also, some photos of operational Hellcats show wheel hubs and
legs in Aluminium finish, possibly applied during overhauls at field
Late-war production F6F-5 show the overall Glossy Sea Blue colour being
carried over to undercarriage legs, boths sides of covers and wheel
hubs. The wheel well interiors were also painted this way. The phot has
been taken aboard USS Bennington, ca. May 1945.
Grumman F7F Tigercat
According to the late-war standards, F7Fs had their cockpits
painted Interior Green, with the upper areas above the consoles painted
flat black. All other internal areas including the rear cockpit where
present – were Zinc Chromate Yellow with black upper areas.
The internal surfaces of engine cowls were Interior Green or possibly
Zinc Chromate Yellow.
Interior Green was also used for the remaining internal surfaces of
the airframe including wheel wells. Undercarriage legs, wheels and
covers were painted Glossy Sea Blue to match the underside of the
Grumman F8F Bearcat
In keeping with the by-then standard Grumman practice, wheel wells of
the F8F were Glossy Sea Blue, together with undercarriage legs and
covers. The cockpit was Interior Green up to the lower edge of the
instrument panel, with flat black above that line. The seat was black.
Inside of the cowling was Interior Green or possibly flat black.
Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger
In earlier production models TBF-1 and TBF-1C, the crew compartment
was finished in two colours – Bronze Green forward from the bulkhead in
front of the turret with Interior Green for the rear crew areas. Grumman
Grey was used inside the cowling.
In a later set of Erection & Maintenance manuals, Dull Dark Green
replaced the Bronze Green in the cockpit.
The TBM-1C and TBM-3 series aircraft built by the Eastern Aircraft
Division of General Motors had everything from the inside of the cowling
all the way back painted Interior Green.
In common with the general Navy practice the wheel bays,
undercarriage legs, wheel hubs, landing flap bays, etc. were all
finished in the lower surface colour throughout the Avenger production.
Vought F4U Corsair
Sorting out the interior colours of the Corsair is particularly
tricky. For the F4U-1 Birdcage Corsairs, photos taken at the time show
the cockpits being a very dark colour, most probably black. Analysis of
some crashed examples of F4U-1s indicates black, while the factory
Erection & Maintenance Instructions called for Dull Dark Green.
As mentioned before, early production Corsairs had their interior
surfaces in areas other than the cockpit covered with Salmon primer. This
colour mixture was used relatively
long into Corsair production. It would seem that all F4U-1s and a number
of early F4U-1As were finished this way.
Somewhere during the production of F4U-1A model Vought discontinued
the use of Salmon primers and switched to Zinc Chromate Yellow with
cockpits in Interior Green.
In the engine cowling area, Vought adhered to the practice of
painting its inner surface the same colour as the
underside, ANA 602 Sky Gray on early F4U-1s, ANA 601 Insignia White on F4U-1As.
The wheel wells of early model Corsairs deserve closer inspection.
Like the cowlings, the main wheel wells, undercarriage legs and boths
ides of well covers were painted in the underside camouflage colour, ANA
602 Non-specular Sky Gray. Wheel hubs were silver. However, the smaller
forward area of the wheel to which the leg itself retracted was left in
the factory primer finish, Salmon. Some aircraft had also Salmon inner
surfaces of the small covers attached to the undercarriage legs.
The canvas covers in
the wells were probably drab -coloured.
With the advent of the tri-colour camouflage on F4U-1A the same
principle was applied with white replacing the Sky Gray with ANA 601
Non-specular Insignia White, and the However, the undercarriage
legs remained grey throughout the production of this model, possibly due
to the failure or indifference to notify a subcontractor about changed
colour specifications. For the record, some photos of -1As seem to show
silver undercarriage legs, but it could not be established to what
extent such finish was applied. One theory is that Aluminium lacquer was
applied on these assemblies during field depot overhauls.
In October 1944 the new factory instructions for the F4U production called for
application of Interior Green on all internal surfaces including the cockpit. As an
anti-glare measure, all cockpit panels above the lower edge of the
instrument panel were to be painted matt black. Curiously, the new
directive did not explicitly state what was to happen with the cowling’s
inner surface. Thus, subsequent machines showed either Zinc
Chromate or Interior Green cowlings, until the last standardisation of
colour post-war whereupon black was introduced in this area.
During that period, the wheel wells were also painted Interior Green.
Undercarriage legs were initially still finished in light grey, but as
existing stocks of parts were used up at the factory, the overall Glossy Sea Blue finish was
carried over to the undercarriage legs and wheel hubs.
Douglas SBD Dauntless
In production from mid-1939 to1944, the SBD was another long-runner
in the US Navy inventory. Not much appears to be known for certain about
its interior finishes. Some sources state the SBD-1s most probably had
Aluminium lacquer interiors, while others claim some Mixed Green/Interior Green with Zinc Chromate for the remaining airframe.
Camouflaged mid-production SBD-2 through SBD-5 series almost certainly
had Interior Green cockpits.
In common with the general Navy practice the wheel bays,
undercarriage legs and wheel hubs were finished in the lower surface
The dive flap bays and inner surfaces were painted Insignia Red,
giving the effect of high contrast indicator when the flaps were
deployed. However, the centre dive flap and its bay interior was
finished in Aluminium lacquer.