National Markings

The following drawings and photos are presented to give model builders the correct proportions and locations of the national markings used by the warring powers. Although there have been many variations and exceptions, these can be regarded as "standard."

Pencil Sketches Figure ModelsNavy Aircraft

(Figure 5) Gray-painted Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers onboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier early in 1942. Note the return of stars to both wings, and the variation in sizes used—even on the same airplane.

Navy Wing Markings

(Figure 3)The red center was removed from the U.S. insignia on May 15, 1942. The insignia remained in this form through June 1943.

(Figure 4) A directive of June 28, 1943 added white rectangles to the U.S. insignia and surrounded the entire marking with a red border in the proportions shown (A). On September 4, 1943, it was directed that the red border be changed to blue(B).

Aircraft Insignia 1943

(Figure 2A) This enlarged detail of Figure 2 shows that the red center circle is tangent to projections of the star arms across the center of the star.

1942 American Aircraft Star

(Figure 2) An American Star-in-Circle insignia as used from May 1917 through January 1918, and September 1919 through May 15, 1942.

UNITED STATES—From 1919 through 1942, the U.S. Army and Navy (which included the Marine Corps) used two separate national markings for their aircraft: the common star-in-circle markings on the

(Figure 2) An American Star-in-Circle insignia as used from May 1917 through January 1918, and September 1919 through May 15, 1942.

wings (and later, on the fuselages), and the red, white and blue stripes on the rudders. Each marking will be described separately. Stars—Until May 15,1942, the star marking had three colors: a red center disc inside a white, five-pointed star against a blue circle (Figure 2). (The very dark shade called "Insignia Blue" came into use

(Figure 2A) This enlarged detail of Figure 2 shows that the red center circle is tangent to projections of the star arms across the center of the star.

(Figure 3)The red center was removed from the U.S. insignia on May 15, 1942. The insignia remained in this form through June 1943.

in the late 1920s and early '30s, and replaced the brighter "True Blue" shade). As shown in Figure 2A, the red center was tangent to projections of the star arms across the center of the star. The most common error made when this marking is applied to models occurs when the center is made too large, and sometimes actually touches the blue circle.

In February 1941, the star was removed from the upper right and lower left wings of camouflaged Army and Navy planes, and one was added to each side of the rear fuselage (or to the noses of flying boats). The purpose of this arrangement was psychological. Tests showed that a gunner aiming at an airplane with two bright insignia on it would tend to sight between the bright spots, or right on the cockpit, when the markings were on the wing tips. By having one insignia on a wing tip and the other on the fuselage, the gunner—it was hoped— would center his aim on the empty space between the wing tip and the fuselage.

To avoid possible confusion

(Figure 5) Gray-painted Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers onboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier early in 1942. Note the return of stars to both wings, and the variation in sizes used—even on the same airplane.

(Figure 4) A directive of June 28, 1943 added white rectangles to the U.S. insignia and surrounded the entire marking with a red border in the proportions shown (A). On September 4, 1943, it was directed that the red border be changed to blue(B).

with the red disc of the Japanese insignia, the red disc was removed from the American star insignia on May 15,1942 (Figure 3). At the end of June 1943, the insignia was made more visible when white rectangles were added to each side of it, and the whole marking was surrounded by a red border (in the proportions of Figure 4). In the heat of combat, however, a glimpse of red could be mistaken for the Japanese marking, so the red border was changed to blue in September 1943. The blue border is still in use today.

This use of a blue border around a blue circle has always been a major source of confusion. Blue-around-blue made sense only for the pe riod when an existing red border was painted over with blue. I am not alone in believing that the blue border should have been retained only around the white rectangles, and not around the blue circle. Many modelers, artists and even some airplane manufacturers believe that the marking should be made that way, and they paint their aircraft accordingly.

The other major application error is made when the rectangles are the wrong proportion and misaligned; the tops of the rectangles should line up with the sides of the upper star points (Figure 4).

After Pearl Harbor, the Navy put the stars back on both wings of all its airplanes to

(Figure 6) Vertical rudder stripes as used by the U. S. Army and Navy from May 1917 through January 1918, and from September 1919 through 1926. Navy and Marine Corps made decreasing use of this arrangement up to WW II.

increase visibility for positive identification. It also increased the stars' size (previously limited to 60 inches for wing stars and not allowed to overlap the ailerons) to cover the full chord of the wing and the full depth of the fuselage. This size increase was only for camouflaged aircraft to be used in combat areas (Figure 5); others retained standard-size markings. Early in 1943, both services standardized the arrangement: one star was placed on the upper left wing tip, one was put on the lower right, and one was positioned on each side of the fuselage.

Stripes—From late 1919

Airplane Wing Striping

(Figure 7) The U. S. Army adopted this new rudder stripe arrangement in November 1926. It was eliminated from camouflaged airplanes in February

1941, and from all others on May 15,

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Responses

  • kathrin
    When was the red circle removed from the u.s. star insignia in 1942?
    7 years ago
  • mathias
    What is the star marking on u.s. aircraft called?
    7 years ago
  • tanta
    How to draw marking on aircraft?
    6 years ago

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