Airplane Coloring

Most military airplanes were not camouflaged after the end of WW I, but, as WW II approached, "war paint" gradually came back into use: in England and Germany in 1937; in France in 1939; in the U.S. Army in 1940; and in the U.S. Navy in 1941. In general, European airplanes used a combination of several earth tones on the top and sides, and a light shade, such as sky blue,

The enormously complex subject of WW II markings and insignia fills many books. The best that can be done to address the subject in this limited volume is to present an outline of the basic colors used, the proper proportions and placement of national insignia, and the time during which these markings were used.

1927 (Figure 1). Starting in February 1941, the same coloring was extended to other Army tactical models, and the insignia were rearranged (as described later).

From mid-1941 through

Aircraft Coloring

(Figure 1) The early Curtiss P-40 (shown) and Douglas A-20A were the only camouflaged U. S. Army airplanes delivered with the distinctive Army rudder stripes and star insignia on both wing tips. Rudder stripes were eliminated from camouflaged airplanes in February 1942, and the star configuration changed to one on the upper left wing, one on the lower right wing and one on each side of the rear fuselage.

(Figure 1) The early Curtiss P-40 (shown) and Douglas A-20A were the only camouflaged U. S. Army airplanes delivered with the distinctive Army rudder stripes and star insignia on both wing tips. Rudder stripes were eliminated from camouflaged airplanes in February 1942, and the star configuration changed to one on the upper left wing, one on the lower right wing and one on each side of the rear fuselage.

below. These changed extensively during the war according to theater of operation, season, mission, etc. U.S. ARMY—In 1940, the U.S. Army adopted olive-drab coloring for the top and sides and light gray for the undersurfaces of the first Curtiss P-40s and Douglas A-20As. These planes carried the then-standard insignia arrangement of stars on both wings (top and bottom), and the distinctive rudder stripes used only by the Army since

1943, many U.S. Army airplanes appeared in British camouflage because they had been appropriated by the Army through British contracts with U.S. manufacturers. Other basic colors for Army airplanes were matte black for night fighters (later changed to glossy black) and a light shade (almost pink) for planes flying in North African desert operations. Early in

1944, it was decided that camouflage wasn't really necessary for most combat types; it was costly to apply and maintain, and it decreased airplane performance. Camouflage was eliminated from most subsequent production, though some metal-finished B-24s and B-29s were painted glossy black underneath when they were used for night bombing.

Until early 1942, primary trainers (like the Stearman/ Boeing Kaydet) and basic trainers were delivered in prewar yellow and blue with rudder stripes. They were subsequently delivered in overall silver dope or natural metal. Some yellow and blue planes were repainted silver, but others survived the war in their original prewar colors.

U.S. NAVY—Prewar U.S. Navy airplanes were silver, with chrome yellow on the uppermost wing surface. In February 1941, overall light-gray camouflage was adopted for fleet-type airplanes, and the stars were placed as on the camouflaged Army planes. Late in 1941, tactical models operating over water adopted a dull blue-gray for the top and sides and retained the gray undersides. Planes with folding wings, on which the underside of the wing was visible from above when folded, had the topside coloring applied to the undersurface of the folded wing. A few Navy fleet airplanes retained the overall gray into early 1942.

Early in 1943, the camouflage was changed to dark sea-blue on top surfaces, graduating through lighter shades to glossy white undersurfaces.

Early in 1944, glossy sea-blue was adopted as camouflage for carrier-based fighters. Soon afterward, this coloring was extended to all other fleet models. There were other special camouflage schemes for specific missions, such as the dull-gray top surfaces on otherwise all-white planes, which were used on sea-search and anti-submarine missions, and overall matte black on planes used for night missions, etc.

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Responses

  • Mika
    What is the color blue used for insignia USA air craft?
    7 years ago
  • Demsas
    How to draw a army aircraft?
    5 years ago

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