USAAF Camouflage Reference Contents:
The Late WWII US Army Air Force Aircraft Camouflage(1943-1945)
The United States embraced a joint USAAF/USN color system on 28 September 1943, when the Army and Navy Aeronautical Bulletin 157 was published. This new system, commonly referred to as ANA, brought about a comprehensive replacement of existing colors with their ANA counterparts, albeit with some variation from the earlier versions. Notably, Olive Drab ANA 613 differed significantly from its predecessor, Dark Olive Drab No. 41, as it was slightly lighter and possessed more brown undertones. The previously used Neutral Gray No. 43 was entirely discarded and replaced by Sea Gray ANA 603, a US counterpart of MAP Ocean Grey. Sea Gray ANA 603 was considerably darker, hinting at a touch of blue, although far less than its post-war successor, FS 36118. Medium Green No. 42 found its new equivalent in Medium Green ANA 612, which, among the three colors, closely resembled its predecessor but leaned more toward a green-gray shade than a sea green hue.
As mentioned earlier, Dark Olive Drab No. 41 and Neutral Gray No. 43 continued to be used until supplies ran out, resulting in most aircraft sporting the older colors in the Dark Olive Drab No.41 / Neutral Gray No.43 scheme. However, a significant shift occurred on 30 October 1943 when factory-applied camouflage was abandoned. From that point forward, all newly built combat aircraft retained their natural metal finish, and existing planes had their paint removed during repairs or overhauls. This order was officially implemented through a revision to T.O. 07-1-1 on 26 December 1943. Both Olive Drab and Medium Green have been retained as colors for anti-glare panels on unpainted aircraft. Night fighters, transport aircraft, and attack aircraft, as well as A-20, A-26, and B-25 aircraft utilized by the Far East Air Force (FEAF), were exceptions to this rule. Directive TI-2094 Add. No. 2 from 3 March 1945 specified that FAEF aircraft retaining camouflage were to use Olive Drab ANA 613 and Sea Gray ANA 603 camouflage. These aircraft are the only ones definitively known to have used the new colors, although regrettably, no color photographs of them exist.
Despite the new factory orders, field commanders had the discretion to camouflage their aircraft, resulting in many planes retaining one or both of the Olive Drab and Sea Gray colors. One common pattern involved the uneven application of Olive Drab on the upper surfaces while leaving the lower fuselage and sides in natural metal finish. For instance, the P-51s of the 361st Fighter Group followed this approach. In cases where stocks of Olive Drab were unavailable at UK airfields, MAP Dark Green was used as a substitute. Some units even completely abandoned Olive Drab / Sea Gray, like the P-47s of the 56th Fighter Group. The 61st Squadron painted their aircraft in a matte black color that faded to a dark blue or purple over the natural metal finish, while the 63rd Squadron featured a pattern of indigo blue and sky blue over the unpainted under surfaces. None of these patterns were officially recognized US colors. Another group within this category adopted the RAF Day Fighter Scheme of Ocean Grey and Dark Green with Medium Sea Grey undersides. The P-47s of the 78th Fighter Group were also notable for their Dark Green topsides and Sky undersides.
Starting from June 1944, D-Day invasion stripes were applied to nearly all Allied aircraft involved in the landings. These stripes comprised three white bands with two black bands in between. Single-engine aircraft had 18-inch stripes, while twin-engine aircraft featured 24-inch stripes. These markings were placed on both the upper and lower wings, as well as around the rear fuselage. The upper wing stripes were removed in the weeks following the invasion, but the underside fuselage and wing stripes remained visible throughout the rest of the year.
By this stage of the war, the Allies had achieved such air superiority that camouflage became less significant, as indicated by the progressively vibrant and eye-catching squadron markings seen on USAAF aircraft in 1944-1945. However, photographic evidence of aircraft unequivocally utilizing Olive Drab ANA 613 and Sea Gray 603 colors remains elusive.
Color Guide to The Late-WW2 USAAF Aircraft Camouflage
- Sea Grey ANA 603: In 1943 the color of the lower surfaces of the planes underwent a significant change. Sea Gray ANA 603 is much darker and with a bluish tint compared to its Neutral Gray No. 43 predecessor. Many sources point to the modern FS 36118 as the closest counterpart to the wartime Sea Gray ANA 603, but it was less blue and closer to neutral than FS 36118 and was probably more like MAP Extra Dark Sea Grey.
- Olive Drab ANA 613: The US olive drabs were very susceptible to sunburn and deterioration and differed greatly in the shade. Sometimes it is quite hard to distinguish whether it was Dark Olive Drab No. 41 or the newer standard Olive Drab ANA 613. The discussion about the difference between Drak Olive Drab No. 41 and Olive Drab ANA 613 is quite heated and controversial, but there is an opinion that Olive Drab ANA 613 was lighter and with a larger brown than Dark Olive Drab No. 41, and the closest modern counterpart to Olive Drab ANA 613 is FS 33070.
- Medium Green ANA 612: Unlike the others, Medium Green ANA 612 has not changed significantly with the introduction of the new standard. Although Medium Green ANA 612 and Medium Green No.42 are not identical, their use was limited to blotches on the edges of wings, vertical stabilizers, and fins making color identification difficult. However, it has become more contrasty to ANA 613, but this also be a consequence of the Olive Drab itself has changed and become less green. This could also explain the smaller ANA 612 Medium Green blotches on the late-WW2 aircraft painted in Dark Olive Drab No. 41, such as Curtiss P-40 on the China-Burma-India Theater. As for modern equivalents, the Medium Green ANA 612 is associated with its postwar successor FS 34092.
- Aluminum: unpainted aircraft, with few exceptions, were less shiny and polished than the museum examples. The surface was worn from weathering and service and had a moderate shine. Some planes in natural metal finish had some parts (fabric or finished for better aerodynamics) painted in aluminum lacquer, it was somewhat duller and had a different shade from the rest of the surface. Aluminum dope would be great for reproducing this effect.
|Original Paint||ANA 603
|Basic (Oct. 1943)||Anti-glare||Overall|
|Gunze Mr. Color||-||C12||(C302)||(C8)|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.097*||71.016*||71.124*||71.062|
|Vallejo Model Color||(70.868)||70.887*||(70.895)||-|
|AK Interactive||(AK 2144)||AK 2204||(AK 2106)||-|
|AK Real Colors||(RC244)||-||(RC230)||RC020|
|AMMO by Mig||(A.MIG-204)||A.MIG-240*||A.MIG-238||A.MIG-194|
|Lifecolor||(UA 022)||-||(UA 008)||LC-74|
Photos of Late-WW2 USAAF Camouflaged Aircraft
- Archer, Robert D. and Archer, Victor G., USAAF Aircraft Markings and Camouflage 1941-1947, Schiffer Publishing (1997)
- Bell, Dana, Air Force Colors Volume 1 1926-1942, Squadron/Signal Publications (1995)
- Elliot, John M., The Official Monogram US Navy & Marine Corps Aircraft Color Guide Vol 2 1940-1949, Monogram Aviation Publications (1989)
- Rodrigo Aguilera, The World Wars.net