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Doc72

Green camouflage on Japanese Navy aircraft.

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Hello everybody,

I just wonder why Japanese navy aircraft in the latter part of the war seem to have been painted green on the upper side.

Most fighting took place over more or less tropical seas where the water appears rather blue. The camouflage schemes of the US Navy reflect that. By contrast in the North (or in higher latitudes) the colder, nutrient-rich water appears more greyish and greenish. That is where the Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey of the FAA fit in well.

Maybe the green on the IJN planes was due to the fact that hiding on the ground (on land) became of paramount importance once most Japanese carriers were sunk after 1942, but the planes still flew a lot of time over water.

Any thoughts on this topic?

Ole

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The deep green black colour (D1) was selected as the standard colour following camouflage trials at the Navy Air Technical Arsenal (Kaigun Koku Gijutsosho or Kugisho for short) at Yokosuka, Japan under the auspices of the Yokusuka Kokutai from November 1941 to February 1942. After testing various colours the trials team report concluded that:-

“The least discernible colour to the naked eye is a deep green-black colour. This colour is relatively difficult to be discerned, as it is a blending of the colour of the ocean with the color of a forest.”
A decision was then taken to continue with the "currently used amber colour" (現用 - 飴色 genyou ameiro) but to prepare to introduce camouflage painting when operational units began requesting it. Units began field camouflaging their aircraft with dark green paint in early 1943 and the official deep green black colour began to be factory applied to the A6M3 Model 22 during March 1943, being formally adopted for all aircraft by official order from July 1943.
Nick

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Hi, Doc72 and Nick,

Fact is that only the US Navy painted its aircraft in Sea Blue, and that even after having widely used another, grayish one (yes, I know there are exceptions). The widespread use of them (by themselves and their allies) has apparently lead us to think that's the natural colour for a sea camouflage, but most navies and air forces of the period thought otherwise.

Additionally, let's consider that the Royal Navy used the TSS even in the Mediterranean and Far East, having apparently concluded that the Tropical SS was not worth the trouble.

FErnando

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Some interesting complications, Fernando. Remember that one of the colours in the Temperate Sea Scheme was a blue-grey, all the bluer for fading a little. The other was a green, more appropriate perhaps for Northern waters. For the British the camouflage pattern also had a disruptive and potentially confusing purpose, something that didn't concern the USN or IJN.

For the USN, the other advantage of a dark blue was that it matched the colour of their carriers' decks, thus avoiding additional help to attackers. Given the visibility of the wake perhaps any dull colour would have served the purpose, but what would the sailors have thought?

Tropical Sea Scheme is another matter: was it being considered for the Mediterranean as well as hotter climes? Trials having been suspended at the outbreak of the war, to my mind it is as much a matter of having been set aside and forgotten in all the excitement and other priorities than being judged not worth the trouble - though I wouldn't care to argue that it was!

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Hi Nick,

thanks a lot for the detailled information. I guess that the hue (in this case green) was less important than the lightness of the color so that dark green worked best on land and sea.

Nevertheless interesting to see that the USN and IJN came to completely different solutions for the same problem.

Ole

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This seems a good time to ask: The IJN green that I painted my Zero with way back when (don't know what make of paint it was) had a strong blue element. Is this accurate for the original paint? I hope so, because I really like it!

bob

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This seems a good time to ask: The IJN green that I painted my Zero with way back when (don't know what make of paint it was) had a strong blue element. Is this accurate for the original paint? I hope so, because I really like it!

bob

Sounds like the old Pactra or Humbrol authentics 'N1' paints which were based on the1964 IPMS "Color Guide for Japanese Aircraft 1941-45". That colour was assessed from artifacts assumed to be from IJN aircraft found in junk piles at or around Chinhai, Korea in 1946-47.

The D1/D2 paint as applied does have a blue undertone but not as strong as the N1 hobby paints. Typically it is a Munsell Green (G) close to Blue Green (BG) and does contain blue pigment (which makes the green hue darker and deeper) but the overall appearance is of a very dark forest green similar to the Luftwaffe black green colour. It is slightly more blueish than FS 14056 but typically degrades towards either (usually) a more olive green or (sometimes) a lighter green dependent on the constituent pigments.

Like many Japanese paint colours it is hard to pin down being both very dark but chromatically very strong - much stronger than any FS greens. However many hobby paints - and models - purporting to represent it are far too bright and too green. Think Luftwaffe rather than garden sheds painted Cuprinol green.

Using Colourcoats paints as a point of reference their generic IJN Aircraft Green (ACJ01) is much closer to D1 than their Nakajima Navy Green (ACJ03 - just about passable to represent D2), Mitsubishi Navy Green (ACJ06 - too bright) or Kawanishi Green (ACJ10 - St Patrick's Day Parade). Use those latter two colours for sheds on your model railway layout instead.

Nick

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Tropical Sea Scheme is another matter:.. - though I wouldn't care to argue that it was!

Hi, Graham,

Actually I was not arguing Tropical SS was used in Mediterranean; I had assumed it was not. To avoid confusion between them I called "Temperate Sea Scheme" as "TSS" and "Tropical SS" in full.

True, neither IJN or US Navy ever bothered with disruptive schemes. The Americans obvioulsy thought it rather worthless (USAAC reaching the same conclusion); the Japanese used them a bit more, sometimes out of expediency.

Fernando

Edited by Fernando

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True, neither IJN or US Navy ever bothered with disruptive schemes.

The IJN field applied two-tone green and brown disruptive camouflage schemes in China on 'Kate', 'Claude', 'Nell' and other types and as a factory finish on floatplanes like 'Alf' and 'Dave' up to and into the Pacific War. 'Betty' also wore green and brown at the start of the Pacific War.

Nick

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People forget (or don't know) that most of the ocean is not blue at all. For the most part, the actual ocean appears greenish-gray. So IMO, the British, the Germans and the Japanese coloring would have been more effective that the US Dark Blue.

I also wonder (Nick will be able to straighten me out here) if going on the defense and having to hide aircraft from view could have contributed to the idea of using green camouflage.

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I suppose it is possible if the aircraft at that stage of the war were land-based. Previously I was informed camo schemes were applied to make it harder to see parked aircraft from the air. It was suggested also this was the reason for USN planes having the outer lower surfaces of the wings painted dark blue. So when the wings were folded, the aircraft would be harder to spot.

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In the trials mentioned above the D1 colour was considered the best all round in consideration of observing both the static aircraft on the ground and moving in flight against various conditions of sky and land/sea backgrounds.

That is not to validate the conclusions in respect of the chosen colour but only to record them as the reason it was chosen!
Nick

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The IJN field applied two-tone green and brown disruptive camouflage schemes in China on 'Kate', 'Claude', 'Nell' and other types and as a factory finish on floatplanes like 'Alf' and 'Dave' up to and into the Pacific War. 'Betty' also wore green and brown at the start of the Pacific War.

Nick

Yes, Nick, that was exactly what I aknowledged when I wrote "... the Japanese used them a bit more,...".

Cheers,

Fernando

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Yes, Nick, that was exactly what I aknowledged when I wrote "... the Japanese used them a bit more,...".

Cheers,

Fernando

Maybe so, but not what you asserted by "True, neither IJN or US Navy ever bothered with disruptive schemes." (my emphasis) which was what my clarifying comment was referring to, e.g. your assertion of non-use of disruptive schemes by the IJN.

Your acknowledgment ". . . the Japanese . . ." encompasses the IJAAF which used disruptive schemes throughout the war.

Nick

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I suppose it is possible if the aircraft at that stage of the war were land-based. Previously I was informed camo schemes were applied to make it harder to see parked aircraft from the air. It was suggested also this was the reason for USN planes having the outer lower surfaces of the wings painted dark blue. So when the wings were folded, the aircraft would be harder to spot.

Though I do not have the exact timeframe, IJN aircraft started wearing Dark Green camouflaged upper surfaces (of various kinds) before or regardless being primarily land-based or on the defensive at all. I also seem to remember that in the early phases of the New Guinea campaign A6Ms were still painted in the light colour, even though they were operating and probably based at land airdromes.

Regarding the USN practice, I think you are definitely correct; even some aircraft with their entire lower surface in White (like Hellcats and Avengers) when folding them they cover it against the fuselage (in typical Grumman fashion of the era) exposing only the upper surfaces to the view.

Fernando

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Hi, Nick,

(and only because I feel you are on my neck)

If you read what I wrote... I started saying "... neither the IJN or the USN..."; then followed by saying "...the Americans", referring obviously to the USN, and then "... the Japanese...", which, in keeping with the style and context, could only refer to the IJN. But that's academic.

Regarding the IJAAF two colour camouflage, is there any disruptive scheme in widespread use throughout the war other than "Green blotches on NMF" (that I try to cover when saying "out of expediency")? With due respect; if I have learnt something on IJN/IJAAF colour schemes it was mainly from you!

Fernando

PD: it might be twin engined bombers... one never thinks of bombers, modelling only single engined fighter planes and the odd twin.

Edited by Fernando

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I also wonder (Nick will be able to straighten me out here) if going on the defense and having to hide aircraft from view could have contributed to the idea of using green camouflage.

Reading between the lines of the Kugisho report it is indeed apparent that the introduction of dark green camouflage was related to a foreseen necessity of adopting a more defensive posture.

Nick

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