Colors and Finish on US Army WWII Pioneer Tools

A topic that comes up with some frequency is about the colors and painting of US Army WWII pioneer tools on soft skins and AFVs. While following the breadcrumbs on an entirely different research subject, I came across this info:

Research on US Army WWII Shovels and Axes

Perhaps not the definitive, 100% conclusive answer that everyone might hope for, but still quite enlightening and based on a study of the original source documents and contemporary evidence.

Thought some others might find it interesting.


On WWII vehicles, I go one of two ways, either OD, or the hardware store look of varnished wood and black painted metal bits, both suitably worn and weathered. Photos support both looks.
For Cold War/modern I go with firsthand personal experience and again either the hardware store look, or the stuff repainted with GI black and green spray paint typical after every field exercise.

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What I found most interesting in the copies of the original specification documents (pre-war and wartime) were the instructions for finishing both the wooden handles and the metal parts. This provides a pretty clear picture on what “factory fresh” pioneer tools should have looked like.

(After delivery, issue and put into service is another matter.)

I leave it to the individual to read through the articles (link at the end of the shovel article to one on the axes) to reach his or her own conclusions about how to apply the info.

Here’s a nice Ordnance Corps photo of all what goes into and onto a M4 Sherman… looks like the pioneer tools have a nice coat of OD…

Certainly not the last word on the subject, but if you’re hurrying up to finish before the next contest or club meeting… :wink:

and of course how they would look a bit more used during a layout inspection… some things never change….