Invasion Stripes

For the invasion of France in June 1944, participating U.S. and British airplanes carried hastily applied "Invasion

(Figure 19) Panchromatic film and a filter lighten and emphasize the red band used on the vertical fins of German military airplanes from 1935 into 1938. The black swastika was moved to the fin after the red band and white circle were deleted. Civil-registered German airplanes retained the red band and white circle throughout the war.

Stripes" for quick, positive identification. These consisted of three white and two black equal-width stripes that completely encircled the rear fuselage and were applied full-chord to both upper and lower wing surfaces (Figure 23).

Circle Marking
(Figure 21) The Japanese red circle marking, officially called "Hinomaru, " was usually outlined with a white border, approximately 2 inches wide, when it was used on dark surfaces.

Widths varied from 18 inches (on the P-51) to 20 inches (B-26 and P-47),and 24 inches (A-20). Four-engine bombers didn't use the stripes unless they had been diverted to glider-towing.

After the invasion of Normandy, the stripes were removed from the upper half of the fuselage and from the top of the wing. The stripes were retained on the lower surfaces for subsequent large-scale, airborne invasions, with some used on planes involved in the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.

Invasion stripes are popular today for restored, camouflaged WW II airplanes, and they add variety to a collection of similarly camouflaged U.S. or British scale models.

Surrender G4m

Figure 22) A disarmed Japanese Mitsubishi G4M-1 Betty bomber painted white, with green crosses replacing the Hinomaru marking. It was used to transport Japanese surrender emissaries to Allied headquarters in August 1945.

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Figure 22) A disarmed Japanese Mitsubishi G4M-1 Betty bomber painted white, with green crosses replacing the Hinomaru marking. It was used to transport Japanese surrender emissaries to Allied headquarters in August 1945.

Japanese Navy Betty
Figure 23) An olive-drab Douglas A-20G with crudely applied black-and-white Invasion Stripes flies over the Allied Invasion Fleet on D-day, June 6, 1944.

The nations involved in WW II identified their military airplanes differently. France, Germany and Italy simply used the manufacturer's model designations (e.g., Messerschmitt 109, Fiat CR 42, etc.) France added the mission and seating to the designation painted on the rudder, as in "Douglas DB-7-B3." The "B3" indicated that it was a three-place bomber. A pursuit, like the Curtiss 75, was "75-C1," ("CVindicated a one-place Chasse, or pursuit, type). The more involved British, U.S. and Japanese systems are described separately here.

GREAT BRITAIN— Great Britain used given names followed by progressive "Mark Numbers," such as the Westland Lysander Mk I, II, III, etc. Minor variants that didn't qualify for a new Mark number were given letters, such as "Lysander Mk IIIA." In some cases, the added letter identified a special feature, as with the Hawker Hurricane Mk IIC with cannon armament. Similar airplanes used for vastly different missions were sometimes given different names, such as the Douglas DB-7, which was called a "Boston" when it was used as a bomber, but a "Havoc" when it was used as 3 night fighter. The practice of using different names or Mark Numbers for different missions was abandoned mid-war, in favor of adding prefix letters to identify the mission, such as "Spitfire F Mk IX" for a fighter, and "P.R. Mk XI" for photoreconnaissance. The letters "N.F." identified night fighters, and "T.T." identified target tugs.

UNITED STATES—The U.S. Army and Navy used two separate systems to identify the type, model, series and manufacturer of each airplane. The systems are too extensive to list here in their entirety, so only the basics will be presented.

U.S. Army—The Army used a Type-Model-Series system that was formalized in 1924 and is still used today by the U.S. Air Force. The type letter identified the basic mission of the airplane (e.g., "B" for bomber). The model number identified the number of the particular type contracted for, but not necessarily procured by, the Army, such as "B-17." The series letter identified the stage of model development, such as "B-17A." Starting in 1942, suffix letters were added to the Army designation to identify the actual builder of the airplane.

In early 1942, minor changes were often made that didn't justify a new series letter. Instead, the airplanes were identified with a block number, e.g., -1, -5, -10, and so on. The intervening numbers were reserved for changes made at modification centers (e.g., changes to a Republic P-47D-25 made it a P-47D-28).

U.S. Navy—The Navy tied in the airplane manufacturer with the airplane type and model designation, as with the "Grumman F4F-4." The first letter identified the type (e.g., "F" for fighter). The following number identified the number of different fighter designs ordered from that manufacturer, and the second letter identified the particular manufacturer. In this case the "F" identified "Grumman" because the logical letter "G" was in use by another manufacturer when Grumman became a Navy customer. The number "1 " wasn't used for a manufacturer's first Navy model. Grumman's first Navy fighter was the FF-1, followed by the F2F-1, F3F-1, F3F-2, etc. The dash number that followed the last letter identified not the model number, but the sequential configuration of that model.

Multi-purpose Navy planes appeared in 1934 and were identified by two type letters, as in "PBY-5" for Consolidated's first Patrol Bomber. Specialized configurations were identified by suffix letters, asin"PBY-5A" for an amphibious version and "SB2C-4E" for a Scout bomber modified for electronics missions.

October 1941, the U.S. Government adopted "popular" names for its military aircraft, such as "Mariner" for the Martin PBM and "Wildcat" for the Grumman F4F. Some names were already in use and were easy to adapt— Boeing had already been calling its B-17 the Flying Fortress—

and other names were picked up from previous British use of American designs, such as "Catalina" for the PBY.

The purpose of catchall names was to conceal the actual development stage of a combat plane when it was discussed in the public press. A Flying Fortress was simply a B-17, not specifically a B17E, F, or G. These names were almost totally ignored by those associated with the airplanes (to whom accurate designations were important), and they didn't "take" well with the public, despite the efforts of the press.

JAPAN—The Japanese Army and Navy used a type identification system based on the named type and a one- or two-digit number identifying the Japanese Dynastic Year in which the airplane entered production, such as "Bomber Type 1" for the Mitsubishi G4M-1. The figure "1" in this case is the last digit of the year 2601 (equivalent to our calendar year 1941). The Japanese also gave names to many, but not all, of their military aircraft.

The Japanese Army also used a sequential "Kitai" numbering system that started in 1932, with the number for the Kawasaki Type 3 fighter appear ing as "K1 61 Hein." The Japanese Navy system was based on the U.S. Navy system that identified the airplane by type and number of models procured from a particular manufacturer, such as "Mitsubishi A6M-2 Type 0" (1940) fighter Raiden.

The Allies stopped trying to use the various Japanese systems and gave all Japanese airplanes code names, such as "Tony" for the Ki 61 and "Zeke" for the A6M-2.

MULTIPLE MANUFACTURERS—In all of the warring nations, major combat planes were built in factories other than those of the original designers. In England and Germany, Spitfires and Me 109s were built by several manufacturers, with no indication in their designations as to who actually built them. Designations were different in the U.S.

U.S. Army—A B-17G was still a B-17G, no matter who built it, but the factories involved were included in the designation early in 1942. Boeing's Seattle plant built the B-17G-BO, Vega built the B-17G-VE and Douglas' Long Beach plant built the B-17G-DL. Different factories of the same manufacturer also got distinguishing letter designations, such as "BW" for Boeing's Wichita, KS, plant, and "BN" for its plant in Renton, WA.

U.S. Navy—When an established design, such as the Curtiss SB2C-4, was built by another firm, that firm used the same type designation but a different manufacturer's letter. The SB2C-4, built in Canada by Fairchild, became the SBF-4 because Canadian Fairchild had never built an SB type for the Navy. The same model built by Canadian Car & Foundry became the SBW-4 for the same reason.

Curtiss Tbf Plans

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