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KRK4m

Desert Pink on USAAF fighters

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Several P-40Ns and P-39Qs operating from Gilbert Islands within the 15th FG were painted Desert Pink topsides and Azure Blue undersides. The reason for such a camo oddity is frequently explained, as the a/c were prepared for the North African campaign and then redirected to the PTO. Maybe...

But for me it still apeears strange that less than hundred of P-39Qs (of almost 5000 built) and P-40Ns (>5000 built) were painted especially in Pink//Azure, while other hundreds reached units in standard OD/NG finish. Moreover I have never seen neither the P-39Q nor the P-40N operating in the Mediterranean in Pink/Azure camo.

Some 40 years ago I've seen (in Scale Modeler IIRC) the Soviet P-39Q in these colours (white "13" on fin, red fin top and white "Za Rodinu" on port nose side), but nothing from the MTO.

Is this only my opinion or were there Pink/Azure P-40Ns and P-39Qs flying over the Med?

And if this was only the Pacific-applied "specialite de la maison" did this also apply to the 15th FG P-47s operating in the same period from other Pacific islands?

Cheers

Michael

Edited by KRK4m

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I was under the impression that those (if it's the ones I'm thinking of) were locally painted to suit the "pink coral sand" color.

bob

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Hi Michael,

I'm not sure who came up with the explanation that the aircraft were painted for service in the Med, but that just isn't true. There are photos of the aircraft in their OD/Gray camouflage before they moved to those islands, which is where the camouflage was applied.

The uppers may have been pink, but I suspect not. The Corps of Engineers had a color called Sand which resembled the beige sand found on many American beaches. The AAF had a camouflage color also called Sand, which was the desert pink we're all familiar with; the engineers had a nearly identical color called Desert Sand. The question becomes, which paint was used in the Pacific? Here's the evidence:

- Vets remembered a light gray color that, in the 1960s, led authors to describe the paint as overall gray.

- Wartime captions from military photographers on the islands described the engineers there painting everything '"white."

Pink is a long way from white or light gray, but beige could much more easily be confused in strong sunlight or weaken memories, so I suspect we're really looking at CE (beige) Sand.

The undersides are also a problem - Azure Blue was almost certainly NOT the paint used on those Pacific aircraft. The blue was so light that, in many photos, the aircraft looked like they were one color overall - Azure Blue would have been too dark to be confused for pink or beige.

In March 1943, the Engineers in Northwest Africa were recommending use of a very light blue mixed from an unspecified blue and a lot of white; the chips of that color resembled the pre-war, water-based light blue camouflage used by the Air Corps. Again, I suspect that that the same light blue was being mixed in the Pacific at the same time. That's a wild guess on my part, but whatever blue was used, it would have been much lighter than Azure Blue.

These are not going to be hard and fast rules, and we certainly haven't found a series of engineer reports on "how we are painting our fighters in the Pacific." But I think you'll end up with a more-accurate presentation if you go with beige and light blue.

Cheers,

Dana

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The P-39s were delivered to Canton Island in standard OD. The 46th FS Engineering Officer 1Lt Ben C Warren thought that the OD stood out too much against the "white" coral sand and said that they were re-painted in a "coral sand sort of coating on top" with the under surfaces in "sky blue". Presumably the P-40s were painted the same or similar.

FWIW Sand 306 in the Supplement to US Army Spec 3-1 of 21 April 1943 is very close in appearance to FS 33448. However 306 superceded and was then listed as equivalent to colour # 3 Sand in the Corps of Engineers TC-1213 specified in FM 5-21 of 7 October 1942. That colour is more greyish and beige than 306 (which is yellower) and closer in appearance to FS 30277. Both those colours appear darker than the coral sand on Canton Island which is almost white.

The "Sand" swatch included in the NW Africa Camo Instructions of May 1943 is closer to 306 in appearance and is not the so-called "Desert Pink" which evolved from Sand 49 in Bulletin 41 of 16 September 1940, through 313 in Supplement 3-1 213, ANA 616 in Bulletin 157 of 28 September 1943 and eventually to FS 30279 in FS 595. I'll have the full story of the desert Sands evolution and the NW African Engineers colours on my blog shortly with the original US Army instructions. A number of publications have either failed to include all the schematics or reproduced them incorrectly.

The P-39s arrived in July 1943 but because of the veterans memory of "light grey" mentioned by Dana I'd venture that the paint used was possibly from older stocks of Sand paint to TC-1213 # 3 (FS 30277) but mixed with white.

Notwithstanding many depictions of the North Africa based P-39 "Pantie Bandit" in RAF-style desert colours, the P-39s went out in RAF-equivalent Temperate Land scheme and were then partially overpainted with OD. Also to be featured in due course on the blog with some interesting photos.

Nick

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Hi Michael,

I'm not sure who came up with the explanation that the aircraft were painted for service in the Med, but that just isn't true. There are photos of the aircraft in their OD/Gray camouflage before they moved to those islands, which is where the camouflage was applied.

The uppers may have been pink, but I suspect not. The Corps of Engineers had a color called Sand which resembled the beige sand found on many American beaches. The AAF had a camouflage color also called Sand, which was the desert pink we're all familiar with; the engineers had a nearly identical color called Desert Sand. The question becomes, which paint was used in the Pacific? Here's the evidence:

- Vets remembered a light gray color that, in the 1960s, led authors to describe the paint as overall gray.

- Wartime captions from military photographers on the islands described the engineers there painting everything '"white."

Pink is a long way from white or light gray, but beige could much more easily be confused in strong sunlight or weaken memories, so I suspect we're really looking at CE (beige) Sand.

The undersides are also a problem - Azure Blue was almost certainly NOT the paint used on those Pacific aircraft. The blue was so light that, in many photos, the aircraft looked like they were one color overall - Azure Blue would have been too dark to be confused for pink or beige.

In March 1943, the Engineers in Northwest Africa were recommending use of a very light blue mixed from an unspecified blue and a lot of white; the chips of that color resembled the pre-war, water-based light blue camouflage used by the Air Corps. Again, I suspect that that the same light blue was being mixed in the Pacific at the same time. That's a wild guess on my part, but whatever blue was used, it would have been much lighter than Azure Blue.

These are not going to be hard and fast rules, and we certainly haven't found a series of engineer reports on "how we are painting our fighters in the Pacific." But I think you'll end up with a more-accurate presentation if you go with beige and light blue.

Cheers,

Dana

As an addition to the evidence, this is the caption to the photo at the top of p.121 of Joe Christy and Jeff Ethell's P-40 Hawks At War (Ian Allen, 1979):

"The 45th FS's Warhawks were painted in overall 'sand', very close to the 'sand' in the RAF 'sand and spinach', or as one pilot described it to us, 'about the colour of good ol' Georgia red clay.'"

Never been to Georgia so don't know what colour the clay is there.

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Just to digress somewhat, what in hell is this "RAF sand and spinach" scheme to which many US correspondents/authors keep referring.

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"Sand and Spinach" is the Temperate Land Scheme of Dark Green and Dark Earth. It was a wartime term, I gather, or certainly early post-war, and not specifically a US one.

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As an addition to the evidence, this is the caption to the photo at the top of p.121 of Joe Christy and Jeff Ethell's P-40 Hawks At War (Ian Allen, 1979):

"The 45th FS's Warhawks were painted in overall 'sand', very close to the 'sand' in the RAF 'sand and spinach', or as one pilot described it to us, 'about the colour of good ol' Georgia red clay.'"

Never been to Georgia so don't know what colour the clay is there.

That seems to be a confusion of terms. There is no real similarity between the "Desert Pink" sand colour, the two Corps of Engineers Sand colours and the Dark Earth of the Temperate Land "sand and spinach" scheme. Both Spec 3-1 and ANA had separate colour standards for Dark Earth.

The quote is not attributed so it is not clear whether the "one pilot" was referring to the 15th FG 'sand' colour or just the 'sand' (sic) in the US supplied Temperate Land scheme. And it is not apparent how the 'close to' between them was arrived at or by whom.

I don't know what Georgia red clay looks like either but I'd be surprised if it was the same colour as the coral sand on Canton Island.

Nick

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Thank you all for your answers.

I can put aside the problem, whether the Canton Island-based a/c undersurfaces were painted Light Blue, Sky Blue or (pale) Azure Blue. Most important is they weren't left in Neutral Gray. Same applies to the uppersurfaces - no Desert Pink (for me that's the colour spotted on Ploesti raid B-24Ds, several B-25s and P-40Fs from MTO), no "spinach" Sand 49 (IIRC something between RAF Dark and Light Earth), no USAAF Desert Sand (close to the RAF Middle Stone), but something very pale made "ad hoc" by the Canton Island CE guys.

BTW the info about painting them in desert colours already in USA was taken from some Russian aviation magazine years ago - thank you for putting me the right way :)

Nevertheless I can understand, that no P-47s (flown by the same 15th FG the same time, but from other islands) wore such camouflage.

I'm also close to being sure, that - except for the B-24, B-25 and P-40F mentioned above - no USAAF a/c in MTO featured plain Desert PINK topsides. My suspicions/hopes were the P-40N, P-39, P-38, A-20 and B-26, but I can't find any photos confirming the existence of such rarities.

But there's still this Scale Modeler magazine from the 70s - Dana and Nick should remeber it too. A VVS P-39Q with white 13 on the fin, featuring plain Sand uppersurfaces and blue undersurfaces. Do you believe she could be painted such in the USA or the Russians had so much spare time to re-paint her (BTW I cannot remind the VVS a/c with plain sand topsides) ?

Cheers

Michael

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"Sand and Spinach" is the Temperate Land Scheme of Dark Green and Dark Earth. It was a wartime term, I gather, or certainly early post-war, and not specifically a US one.

Thanks Graham. TLS = sand and spinach, it seems someone needs colour corrected lenses!

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On 23/05/2016 at 22:43, leyreynolds said:

Thanks Graham. TLS = sand and spinach, it seems someone needs colour corrected lenses!

Refers to their green and brown livery doesnt it?

 

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It's always odd to see my old posts reappear in a necro-thread, but there's one other piece of evidence that might help modelers decide how to paint their P-39s and P-40s.  The attached link shows the color of the sand on Canton Island, as well as a similar paint used on the side of a building.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanton_Island#/media/File:Kanton_Island_02.jpg

 

Of course this doesn't prove anything, but I suspect the Corps of Engineers would be more likely to use their beige-color Sand than their pink-color Desert Sand to hide aircraft in that environment...

 

Cheers,

 

 

 

Dana

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I ordered both the Sand 306 and Des' pink (and 4 other coloeurs from Sovereign.

I took an inventory of my existing paints and then looked in each models coloeur plan to see what else i'll need for other kits in the future, that got me to my minimum 6 colours.

I'll check/test and see if one is better than the other when i paint the A-20, i also ordered Forest Green as one of the greens to go with Olive Drab and got my Light Gull Grey in the order too! Thanks.

This discussion is in theworldwars.net under aircraft colours and camouflage in US Army and USAAF.

I'm looking forward to using the Colourcoats; many here swear by them!

Edited by Markh-75

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