The Late WW2 US Army Air Force Aircraft Camouflage

The Late WW2 US Army Air Force Aircraft Camouflage


Late World War II (1943-45)

The United States adopted a joint USAAF/USN color system on 28 September 1943 with the publication of the Army-Navy Aeronautical Bulletin 157, this new system is popularly known as ANA. Almost all existing colors were replaced by their ANA versions, usually with some variation from their earlier version. Olive Drab ANA 613 was considerably different from its predecessor, Olive Drab 41, being slightly lighter and more brown. Neutral Gray 43 was abandoned altogether, it's replacement was a US approximation of RAF Ocean Grey known as Sea Gray ANA 603 which was considerably darker and with a hint of blue although far less than its post-war successor, FS 36118. Medium Green 42 also had a new equivalent in Medium Green ANA 612 which of the three colors was most similar to its predecessor but moving closer to a green-gray than a sea green. As mentioned earlier, both OD 41 and NG 43 continued to be used while stocks lasted which meant that most aircraft in the OD / NG scheme retained their older colors. However, a major change curred on 30 October 1943 when it was ordered to abandoned factory camouflage altogether, with all combat aircraft built from then retaining their natural metal finish (NMF) and existing planes having their paint removed during repairs or overhauls. The order was formalized in a revision to T.O. 07-1-1 on 26 December 1943. Olive Drab (or Medium Green) was retained as the color for anti-glare panels on unpainted aircraft. Exceptions to the rule were night fighters and transport aircraft, A-20 attack aircraft, as well as A-20, A-26, and B-25 aircraft used by the Far East Air Force (FEAF). A 3 March 1945 order (TI-2094 Add. No. 2) specified that those FAEF aircraft that retained camouflage were to use ANA 613/603 which means they are the only aircraft known to have definitively used the new colors, though sadly no color photographs exist.

Despite the new factory orders, field commanders were allowed to camouflage their aircraft at their discretion, which resulted in many aircraft retaining one or both of OD/NG. One common pattern was OD applied unevenly to the upper surfaces while the lower fuselage and sides were left in NMF, as was the case of the P-51s of the 361st Fighter Group. If stocks of OD were not available at UK airfields, then RAF Dark Green was used instead. Some units even discarded OD/NG altogether like the P-47s of the 56th Fighter Group whose 61st Squadron was painted in matt black (which faded to a dark blue or purple) over NMF, while its 63rd Squadron was painted in a pattern of indigo blue and sky blue over NMF. None of these were official US colors. Others in this group used the RAF Day Fighter Scheme of Ocean Grey / Dark Green with Medium Sea Grey undersides. The P-47s of the 78th Fighter Group was also known for its Dark Green topsides and Sky undersides.

From June 1944, D-Day invasion stripes were applied to nearly all Allied aircraft which participated in the landings. These consisted of three white stripes with two black stripes in between, all 18-inch in size for single-engine aircraft and 24-inch for twin-engined aircraft, and were placed in both the upper and lower wings as well as around the rear fuselage. The topside stripes were the first to be removed in the weeks after the invasion although underside fuselage and wing strips were still seen throughout the remainder of the year.

By and large, by this point in the war the Allies enjoyed air superiority to such an extent that camouflage became irrelevant, as evidenced by the gradually more colorful and flamboyant squadron markings seen on USAAF aircraft in 1944-45. Photographic evidence of aircraft unmistakably using ANA 613/603 remains elusive.

Color Guide to Late-WW2 Camouflaged Aircraft

  • Olive Drab ANA 613: The use of older OD 41/NG 43 even after the ANA system was implemented makes it easy for modelers to use the same paints for any World War II aircraft which use the OD/NG scheme. This avoids the tricky issue of finding different shades for ANA 613/603 of which perhaps only a very small number were ever painted that way given the switch to NMF. Some of the newer paint ranges have specific ANA 613 and ANA 603 shades. There is still debate over the differences between ANA 613 and OD 41 but it is believed that the ANA version was slightly lighter and browner. Although FS matches vary, it is my belief that the closet one is FS 33070 which would be consistent with the fact that ANA 613 is a Munsell yellow.
  • Sea Grey ANA 603: A far more obvious difference exists between ANA 603 and its predecessor, NG 43, with the new color being darker and lightly bluer. However, its close association with FS 36118 has led to the myth that it was just as blue where in fact it was much closer to neutral than the post-war color, and is probably closer to MAP Extra Dark Sea Grey.
  • Medium Green ANA 612: Most matches for ANA 612 due so for the post-war FS 34092. Although the two colors are not strictly identical, the fact that they are only used for blotches means that strict accuracy is not exactly required compared to the other two main colors. It is said to harmonize well with ANA 613 but this could imply that it contrasts much less to the greener OD 41, which may explain why some late-war aircraft finished in OD 41 (such as P-40s in the CBI theater) show more subtle blotches.
  • Aluminum: For NMF, aircraft in service were nowhere near as shiny as those seen in museums or air shows. Some NMF aircraft like the P-51 had aerodynamically important surfaces like its laminar-flow wing (minus the flaps) painted in aluminum lacquer that was noticeably duller than the rest of the airframe. Modelers can reproduce this by painting these areas aluminium dope.
ANA 603
Sea Gray
ANA 613
Olive Drab
ANA 612
Medium Green

Basic Lower Upper Blotches
Basic (Oct 43) Anti-glare Overall
Gunze Aqueous - H52 (H302) (H8)
Gunze Mr. Color - C12 (C302) (C8)
Humbrol (125) (155) (149) 56
Model Master (1723) 2050 (1764) 1781
Revell (74) - (48) 99
Tamiya (XF-24) - (XF-26) XF-16
Vallejo Model Air 71.097* 71.016* 71.124* 71.062
Vallejo Model Color (70.868) 70.887* (70.895) -
AKAN 72040* 72033 72037 76004
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
Colourcoats (ACUS14) (ACUS12) (ACUS16) -
Hataka HTK-_031* HTK-_018 (HTK-_019) HTK-_078
Lifecolor (UA 022) - (UA 008) LC-74
Mission Models (MMP-084) - - MMM-003
Mr. Paint (MRP-40) MRP-138 MRP-235* MRP-3
Xtracolor (X130) X113 (X114) X142
Xtracrylix (XA130) XA1113 (XA1114) XA1216
Arcus 532 - 587* 095

Photo Reference of Late WW2 Aircraft Camouflage

Lt.Gen. Brereton's C-47 If there is any candidate for an ANA 613 / ANA 603 color photo it might be this C-47, the personal aircraft of Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton. The caption references a trip to the (French?) Riviera which would only be possible in late 1944 or 1945. The jury is still out and OG 41 / NG 43 should be assumed otherwise.
Two B-26 Marauders (O8-B, serial number 42-107620) nicknamed 'Oh Baby' and (O8-O, serial number 42-96295) nicknamed 'Cook's Tour' of the 391st Bomb Group fly together over France By the second half of 1944, most USAAF aircraft would be seen in full or partial natural metal finish like this pair of B-26s with dulled out but still visible D-Day invasion stripes. The foreground aircraft still has Olive Drab rudders.
North American P-51D Mustang 461FG Lou IV The famous 'Lou IV' of the 361st Fighter Group showing its OD/NMF scheme which some claim is RAF Dark Green. Contrary to a myth that refuses to die, there is no evidence to suggest this aircraft was ever painted bright blue as it is sometimes shown.
Unpainted North American P-51D Mustang at assambly line The P-51's laminar flow wing was overpainted in aluminum lacquer giving it a dulled out appearance. This would have been less evident in the field as the shinier fuselage got worn out.

External Reference:


  • 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)
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