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P-47M 56th FG colors


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When I was younger, the story used to be that they were a deep purple, the colour of one pilot's favourite sports car. Now it is that they are blue-black, the colour of one pilot's favourite dinner jacket. What bar story willl we next adopt?

Sadly, being interesting and entertaining is not a great guide to what actually happened.

Yes, "deep plum" was the story I remember. And, in discussion of the topic on one of the on-line fora, someone dug up (not literally, one hopes) someone had been there (groundcrew, I think) who was scathingly dismissive about the story. The blue tinge is a new one on me.

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IIRC, the dinner jacket story originated with one of Gladych's ground crew.

As for Night, was it not a very flat finish? Yet one of the pictures of a black P-47 shows a highly reflective surface. Also, one account indicates the surface was polished. Can Night be polished into at least a satin finish?

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IIRC, a model painted in the paint used on the aircraft, made by one of the ground crew.

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Black 56th FG 61st FS P-47M's - Another Country Heard From

August 29 2008 at 1:55 PM Michael Dobrzelecki (Login PolishMikeD)

HyperScale Forums

from IP address 96.245.136.134

Every year I try to not miss one airshow - the World War II Weekend airshow-military vehicle meet-reenactors get-together and aces and heroes lectures. Did I mention the militaria flea market, too?

This year's show as held on a blazing hot weekend 95 deg F. and 95% humidity. By the time I finished photographing the static displays, I was whipped - time to head for the hangar where the P-61 Black Widow is being restored and see what famous vets were there. I was not disappointed - Bud Anderson, several originals from the "Band of Brothers" 506thPIR and a host of others. Rounding one of the corner tables, I met a tall slim gent in a straw cowboy hat sporting a 56th FG name-tag - it was none other than Russ Kyler a fighter jock who flew , amongst others, the Black P-47M named "Lorene", markings for which are featured in the Tamiya 1/48th scale kit. It turned out he was not one of the featured guests, just another show attendee, who happened to be in the area, heard about the show and decided to give it a look-see.

I related how I knew Gabreski and his Polish pals, Tadeusz Andersz (who just passed away last fall in October 2008) and Tadeusz Sawicz, pretty well and had met several other 56th FG vets over the years - Zemke, Klibbe, Mike Jackson, Leo Batiste, Bud Mahurin, etc., and told him of my interest in the Polish pilots who flew with the 56th FG. and asked is he would consent to impromptu interview. Lucky for me, he agreed. Russ is still sharp as tack and remembered his missions in great detail and was accurate in dates and also managed to throw in some color and asides to his stories.

Russ Kyler was long on praise especially for the Polish ace Mike Gladych(Boleslaw was his real first name). Gladych taught him how to survive in aerial combat. Russ was Mike's wingman for several missions. Russ also flew several missions with another Pole in the 56th - Lanny Lanowski (who arguably flew the most distinctive black P-47M). Russ told me that Mike Gladych was still alive as of May 2008 and Russ called him and told him that he's coming to see Gladych next year for his birthday. Mike, who is well into his nineties, replied - "I don't do birthdays, anymore." Russ told him - "I'm coming anyway." Mike Gladych adopted the Buddhist religion, reportedly, and does not really care to talk about the war anymore.

Of course, I asked Russ about the famous P-47M black paint shade. Russ just laughed stating he had heard that question many times. He was absolute in his response, too - dead flat black - polished to high sheen to add a couple of MPH to his speed. No plum, no purple, no midnight indigo blue, either. He pointed out that the misinterpretation of the color was due to the usual reasons - difference in sunlight conditions and intensity, as well as, reflected colors from the surroundings. The late great 8th Air Force author, Roger Freeman, told me the same thing. As you might recall from my earlier posts, Roger used to bicycle around the Boxted field making notes on colors, markings and serial numbers with his mates. Roger told me he used to own a piece of panel from a scrapped 56th FG 61st FS black P-47M and it was as Russ stated - plain black - no other hues added.

Running into Russ was a great example of synchronicity and went along way to relieving the effects of the sultry weather that day.

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Of course, I asked Russ about the famous P-47M black paint shade. Russ just laughed stating he had heard that question many times. He was absolute in his response, too - dead flat black - polished to high sheen to add a couple of MPH to his speed. No plum, no purple, no midnight indigo blue, either. He pointed out that the misinterpretation of the color was due to the usual reasons - difference in sunlight conditions and intensity, as well as, reflected colors from the surroundings. The late great 8th Air Force author, Roger Freeman, told me the same thing. As you might recall from my earlier posts, Roger used to bicycle around the Boxted field making notes on colors, markings and serial numbers with his mates. Roger told me he used to own a piece of panel from a scrapped 56th FG 61st FS black P-47M and it was as Russ stated - plain black - no other hues added.

Well, that's fairly categorical, from two people who were there. IIRC (and I don't always), the dismissal I came across was rather ruder!

Edited by Seahawk
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As for Night, was it not a very flat finish? Yet one of the pictures of a black P-47 shows a highly reflective surface. Also, one account indicates the surface was polished. Can Night be polished into at least a satin finish?

Hi Steven

the full name for night is 'smooth night'.

Possibly the very matt finish you refer to was RDM2, which was a very flat black, often described as sooty, and used for example on Defiants, Beaufighters and early Mosquito's.

It weathered badly and caused excess drag, leading to the introduction of smooth night, IIRC these was one of 'S' type paints, the 'S' being for smooth, as in a dull satin finish. Edgar has mentioned their introduction on the Spitfire production lines before,.

Finally, very late in the war RAF bombers were finished in 'Jet black' which was a high gloss black, as tests had shown that 'Smooth night ' when illluminated in a searchlight beam showed up grey, while the high gloss refracted away the light better. I think that jet black was used on P-61's as well late in the war, This is from memory, and I'm not suggesting that P-47 were finished like this, but thought might be worth mentioning in relation to different RAF black paints.

Spitfires were polished so I presume so could P-47's.

Neat pics as always, thanks for posting.

cheers

T

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Spitfires were polished so I presume so could P-47's.

I'm sure that Nigel (Lampie) mentioned that these P-47s were waxed when I spoke to him yesterday...Nige?

I'm not trying to split hairs,I understand that whilst Spitfires were cleaned and given a nice rub down for a smooth finish they were not waxed.

Cheers

Steve

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Troy, thanks for the clarification on the use of black. Was not sure if Night was an "S Type" or not. Yes, the P-61 was painted in a glossy black for those very reasons.

As for waxing, may not be technically correct (never noticed the drag effect on my car after waxing), but that what was done in the USAAF. OD P-47s were waxed in the belief that they could be "faster". It is commonly seen as the very dark OD finish that many had.

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I'm sure that Nigel (Lampie) mentioned that these P-47s were waxed when I spoke to him yesterday...Nige?

From conversations with a couple of P-47M pilots it seems it was down to personal preference. Some waxed/polished them, some didn't. ( The same applied all through the groups time in the ETO)

At the time, there were more pressing issues with the P-47M.

Some general information regarding the P-47M trials and tribulations.

The 61st were the first to fully convert to the M in January 45 and, not anticipating any problems with the M's, transferred out all its D models.

Problems with the M resulted in the 61st flying very few combat missions through the transition time into early February.

The 62nd began transition in early Feb but retained its D's.

The 63rd began transition in mid Feb and again retained many D's.

Many of the M's had new ignition harnesses fitted in February. (Similar problems were experienced with the C's back in 1943.)

The group flew 14 missions in February 1945, mostly two squadron missions using the 62nd and 63rd squadrons D's.

In late Feb all the P-47M's then at Boxted were grounded due to carburetter problems but replacement gaskets were fitted in a 24 hour period.

This, the group believed, saw the end of the problems with the M's and the remaining D models were transferred out.

March 4th, saw the first all P-47M mission however 15 of the 41 aircraft dispatched returned early, most with engine problems.

Between 11th and 15th March 5 pilots were killed in incidents involving P-47M's. 3 of these were due to engine problems and another aircraft force landed in Belgium, again with engine trouble.

16th March the M's were again grounded and its at this point that P-51's were bought in for the pilots to begin transition training.

However, the problems caused by the engines not being sufficently protected for their Atlantic crossing was discovered and over 3/4 of the groups P-47M's recieved engine changes.

Its not until March 24th that the group returned to combat status, and it flew it's last mission on April 21st.

Given that all of these problems were being experienced, and that the group came within a hair of being forced to transition to Mustangs, it's not hard to see that the ground crews and service group, especially in the 62nd and 63rd which were maintaining P-47D's as well as P-47M's, had a huge amount of work over and above their usual daily duties and it's not suprising that group morale dropped during that period,( As recorded in the operational records), and only improved around the time that the P-47M's issues were finally solved,(although the solving of the M problems wasn't listed as a reason in the records).

Keeping them flying was #1 priority, and with the P-47M in Jan-March 1945 that was easier said than done.

It's through a combination of ground crew/service group expertise and the close support of Republic that the 56th were able to overcome the issues with the M's and resume regular operational status.

:cheers:

Nige

http://56thfightergroup.co.uk/

http://p47.kitmaker.net/

Edited by lampie
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There is nothing inconsistent in a differing perception of a blue-black or purplish-black from a carbon black mixed with ultramarine. Ultramarine has a pure blue to purple-blue hue. BMW owners today even argue over whether the modern Carbon Black car paint colour looks black, blue-black or purplish (think eggplant or aubergine) under different lights. I understand that there is an AC Cobra colour that attracts similar debate. Totally unsurprising therefore that people who were there might also have perceived and remembered plain black, midnight blue or deep plum or that others refuted those. For the same reason Russ Kyler's evidence is still inconclusive. Was matt black paint held by USAAF units? I can see ANA 514 semi-gloss instrument black and 515 glossy black but the only flat black seems to be Bulletin 41 # 44. Still around in 1945? If so, what it was usually used for might narrow down the possibility of it being available in quantity to paint whole aircraft. The interesting thing about pure carbon black pigment is that if abraded it can develop a reddish "bronze" reflectivity. If flat black was not available and bearing in mind the use of other RAF paints by units in the Group I still think that RAF Night would be a possibility. Plenty of modellers (and others) still use matt black to represent it and describe it as matt black.

Japanese Zero cowlings were painted in the same mix of carbon black and ultramarine as RAF Night and were also reported to look either plain black, slightly blueish or purplish depending on the light, as was the JAAF anti-glare paint colour # 32 Koku Ran Shoku (black indigo colour).

For RAF Night the ultramarine has been reported as being added only to improve the hardness of the paint. Whilst it is true that on the Mohs scale ultramarine pigment is harder than carbon black (circa 5 to circa 2) I'm not convinced that there wasn't more too it than that, possibly connected with the absorption of light and the desire to create a "deeper black" based on the, then current, paint technologies.

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  • 1 year later...

I haven't read anything except the title of this thread, but let me point out:

1. Nobody on earth *knows* (as in, has certain knowledge) what ANY of the camouflage colors used by the 56th FG were. Nobody. Unless someone comes up with some long lost documentation from the 56th that proves it, we will never know, and can never know.

2. They were using RAF paints: Really, according to what proof? Repeating something over and over and over, with no evidence to back it up, doesn't make it true.

3. Using 65+ year old color photographs printed in books and *especially* that you find online as a positive reference for color fidelity is just asking for trouble. If you're not looking at an original Kodachrome, there's no way to be sure what's happened to the color between here and there.

4. Given the above, NOBODY is going to be able to prove you painted your model the wrong color.

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You haven't read anything except the title . . . which does not mention RAF paints . . .

No-one has stated categorically that "they were using RAF paints" anyway but only speculated as to that being a possibility. Since, on 17th May 1944 the War Office confirmed the requirement of supplying 85,000 gallons of black and white paint to the USAAF as well as primer paint* it seems a not unreasonable possibility.

If we were to adopt the view of there being no point in discussing possibilities or probabilities and that no colour was "wrong" the threads here would be mighty thin.

* W.O.8/Misc/54

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Please re-read my post. I didn't say anyone was stating *anything* categorically, did I? This has been hashed, re-hashed, and re-re-re-re-hashed for several decades now.

Regardless of how many gallons of black and white paint were ordered, there is still no human being on the face of the planet who knows what the 56th FG's camouflage colors were. That's a fact.

There are LOTS of instances where research can and has uncovered previously unknown information on camouflage colors and markings. But it remains a fact that some things in history are unknowable. The 56th FG's colors were unique, and as far as can be discerned, applied at unit level. If there were any documentation, it is either long gone or is so deeply buried (and probably misfiled) that it will remain that way forever.

I truly, honestly, and fervently hope I'm proved wrong on that.

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Point taken but I still think your original comment gives the impression that someone had asserted that RAF paints were used rather than just speculating that they might have been.

If the samples of paint from 56th FG aircraft shown in another thread were subjected to Raman microscopy the original pigments could be identified which would be fairly definitive in determining the colour appearance of the original paint. The potential of science to reveal the past, just because it has not been applied to this problem, should not be underestimated.

The black and white paint is documented primary evidence that 'RAF' paints were being supplied to the USAAF which at least provides for the fact that the paint used on the 56th FG 'Jugs' could have been British in origin which in turn can inform the personal choice of how to paint a model.

Nick

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  • 4 years later...
On 12/5/2011 at 4:11 PM, Troy Smith said:

Hi Steven

the full name for night is 'smooth night'.

Possibly the very matt finish you refer to was RDM2, which was a very flat black, often described as sooty, and used for example on Defiants, Beaufighters and early Mosquito's.

It weathered badly and caused excess drag, leading to the introduction of smooth night, IIRC these was one of 'S' type paints, the 'S' being for smooth, as in a dull satin finish. Edgar has mentioned their introduction on the Spitfire production lines before,.

Finally, very late in the war RAF bombers were finished in 'Jet black' which was a high gloss black, as tests had shown that 'Smooth night ' when illluminated in a searchlight beam showed up grey, while the high gloss refracted away the light better. I think that jet black was used on P-61's as well late in the war, This is from memory, and I'm not suggesting that P-47 were finished like this, but thought might be worth mentioning in relation to different RAF black paints.

Spitfires were polished so I presume so could P-47's.

Neat pics as always, thanks for posting.

cheers

T

Interesting about polished Spitfires. I have read about polished Messerschmitt's as well. When in time sid they start to polish Spitfire's and was it in order with regulation or just an personal thing concerning pilot and ground crew?

 

And of they polished Spits and Schmidt's why shouldn't they polish painted Bolt's and Tang's as well?

 

Cheers / André

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A few points about RAF/USAAF blacks.

Night was the prewar colour, as described above with ultramarine in the mix.  This can be described as semi-matt.

Special Night was the rough sooty carbon black used 1940/41 under pressure from Churchill's "pet" scientist Lindemann.  Also known as RDM2 and RDM2A.  This was very matt.

Night was then restored to use when the problems with Special Night became overwhelmingly obvious, and scientific trials showed that black wasn't the best colour for "invisibility" anyway.  RAF night fighters - like their German equivalents, went to light greys.  Bomber Command felt that this would be too visible in searchlights so retained Night for undersides.  There seems to be some confusion in modelling sources between this re-introduction of prewar standards and the later Smooth Night.

Smooth Night was then introduced when it was realised that matt paints reflected lots of light back to the ground, regardless of colour.  This is usually described as satin

Jet, or Jet Black, was a USAAF colour introduced in trials in the US, where it was claimed that a fighter in this high gloss paint flew directly through searchlights without being seen.  Believe that it you like.  This was initially seen in the UK on P-61 Black Widows.

 

It seems likeliest to me that USAAF aircraft used USAAF paint, so Jet (Black) appears to be the likeliest choice of paint for these P-47s.  I've no idea what if any ultramarine pigment may or may not have been included.  Bearing in mind the visual effects described by NIck MIllman above, there seems to be no reason to assume any.  For modelling purposes with a gloss finish, I rather defy any modeller to distinguish between these paints anyway.

 

I don't have a date for the starting of the polishing habit, but rubbing down at least the leading edge of the wing was known to be beneficial for a long time.  Rubbing down the rest of the aircraft would be less valuable but likely would be done either for lack of full awareness of the advantages/disadvantages, or simply to make it look better.  The morale value was presumably high, if not for the poor erk who had to do the work.  From the RAF document described above, polishing with wax was never official and actually disapproved of.

 

It's perhaps worth adding that removing the carbon deposits from the firing of the machine guns seems to have been standard in RAF squadrons.  Most photos show no such stains, leading some people to claim that they never existed.  However there are photos showing a slight build-up of these stains, although not the large black stripes sometimes seen on models. Rubbing to remove these stains could be part of a general process of rubbing down the leading edges.

Edited by Graham Boak
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Robin Olds had his P-51 polished, in  fact he helped the ground crew do it. Then again, it was mostly bare metal as there were no nose markings.

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I've recently bought a Revell P-47M & Techmod decals to do Witold Lanowski's HV-Z & as a consequence, have prowled the net to research the colour to use. As expected there was a large variety of opinions but to my mind, @Nick Millman's post #35 is the best explanation of the different reported colours with the science to back it up so for my build I'll be doing my best to replicate a polished RAF night finish.

Steve.

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54 minutes ago, stevehnz said:

I've recently bought a Revell P-47M & Techmod decals to do Witold Lanowski's HV-Z & as a consequence, have prowled the net to research the colour to use. As expected there was a large variety of opinions but to my mind, @Nick Millman's post #35 is the best explanation of the different reported colours with the science to back it up so for my build I'll be doing my best to replicate a polished RAF night finish.

Steve.

I have two unbuillt Revell P-47M in my collection and have an idea of building aircraft from 61th and 63rd once I figured what colours I would use...

/André

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I have in front of me the superb 'Zemke's Wolfpack' photographic odyssey of the 56th. on page 36 is a superb colour photograph of a P47 assigned to Lt E Ellis. This photo is so crisp and clear it could have been taken yesterday. The colour of the airframe is a very dark satin *Aubergine. It would appear that black has been mixed with a small amount of light blue to obtain it, probably the same shade as was used for the squadron colour on the rudder.

I'm not disputing Nick Millman or anyone, (except Jennings Helig) as to how the exact shade was obtained.

Incidentally, I met and have spoken to 'Lanny' Lanowski on numerous occasions, and listened to his talks about his exploits. His son, who I have also met and spoken with, also gives talks about his father and his wartime experiences. It is truly fascinating, how he began with the defence of Poland during the first fortnight of the war. His personal account is at variance with he 'official' stories we read about. Despite their outdated aircraft, the Poles gave the Germans quite a mauling in the air. He flew with the RAF, who would not acknowledge his rank, and he flew with the USAAF - he was never paid by the Americans - only given bed and board. His colleagues gave him spending money. One thing that did come out was the fact that the 56th used RAF paints on their aircraft. Although many were delivered in OD/NG, other colour shots show RAF green and grey disruptive camo similar to RAF patterns. Machines supplied in NMF were often painted. (You need to remember that these guys spent most of the latter wartime down 'among the weeds' strafing targets. NMF would have stood out like a dog's doodahs. As Uncle Sam stopped painting airframes, they got paint from RAF stocks. Why the *Aubergine? I don't have that answer.

Hub Zemke, Don Blakeslee and Dave Schilling have all gone, so I doubt there is anyone who can give a definative answer.

 

 

*Re examination of the photograph (and others in the same book) in natural daylight show this to be dark/Insignia blue

Edited by bentwaters81tfw
Update in daylight.
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1 hour ago, bentwaters81tfw said:

Why the Aubergine?

As I understand Nick to have said, RAF Night with its addition of Utramarine could cause it to have different appearances in different lighting conditions. As an explanation, that is as good as I've seen to account for the various quoted versions of the colour I've read about. Unlikely this late in the game we'll get a truly definitive version. 

The more I've read of Witold Lanowski, the more I've found him a fascinating character, the impression I have is that he was off side with the Polish hierarchy within the RAF rather than the RAF per se. I'd be interested to read a decent bio of him, in the mean time I'll content myself planning to build the two machines I'm aware of that "Lanny" flew with the 56th,  P-47D-22-RE Silver Lady with a Malcolm Hood & the Black P-47M-RE.

Steve.

PS, Started thinking I had seen something about a bio for Lanny, dug into my book marks & produced this thread on sas1946.com , sorted I'd say, might need to skip buying kits for a bit & get this. :)

Edited by stevehnz
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2 hours ago, stevehnz said:

As an explanation, that is as good as I've seen to account for the various quoted versions of the colour I've read about. Unlikely this late in the game we'll get a truly definitive version. 

Stuff gets 'lost' here , as this thread is not mentioned here...

this is the relevant bit

 

On 28/5/2016 at 19:03, lampie said:

For those of you with an interest in the colour of the 61st FS P-47M's.

One of these is a piece from an RAF Lancaster, painted RAF Night.

The other is from a 61st FS P-47M.

I'll just leave this here a while.

image_zpsetzaxy9s.jpeg

 

 

HTH

T

 

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