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Proper colors for P-40N Geronimo

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Hello all, I am just about to start my 1/48 AMT (the Hase kit is too much for my budget) P-40N, titled "Geronimo."

I have decided that the Testors Radome Tan will work for the faded "sand"? color needed for the upper surfaces, but as for the bottom I have read conflicting information. Was it a duck egg blue? Neutral grey? Light gull grey? Just not sure, that is why I have approached my Britmoddler comrades on this issue. Any help would be appreciated, and if my color choice for the upper surfaces is suspect then feel free to make suggestions. I am on a bit of a South Pacific theme right now, I just tend to get a little "Eurocentric" in my choices and feel I need to branch out with USAAF subjects, as well as Aussie, Kiwi, and of course Japanese aircraft. I thought Geronimo would be a good choice, plus a nice easy paint job that wasn't olive and grey.




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Hyperscale Randy for these questions...


searched 'P-40 geronimo'




I'll quote Dana Bell,  as he's been doing this for a loooooong time (I had one of this books 35 years ago)



Geronimo colors...    August 25 2006, 10:21 AM 

Hi Dennis,

There's been some debate on the colors of this aircraft for about forty years now. I can't tell you you're wrong, since we've no proof what colors were applied. We do know the aircraft were re-camouflaged on the islands (Makin and Baker, IIRC) by the Corps of Engineers.

Back in the 1960s, when I first saw these schemes published, the word was that the aircraft were painted overall light gray. The only question was what gray was used.

By the 1970s, when I had access to original photos of the aircraft, it was clear that ALL of them had a different, lighter underside color, and that the demarkation was very hard to see. I also found B&W photos taken on the island showing the engineers painting their helmets a light color; the AAF caption said that the engineers were painting everything on the island WHITE to match the sand. (I should note that the photos seemed to show a paint that was just a touch darker than I would have expected for white.)

By the early 80s, Jack Lambert was explaining that his talks with vets showed that the aircraft were painted a sand color on top and a light blue below. Jack was also the first to publish this in his two books on the Seventh AF ("Sunsetters" and "The Pineapple Air Force").

It's interesting to note that the scheme first appeared around March 1943, at the same time the Corps of Engineers prepared it's unusual camouflage instructions for NW Africa. Those instructions included a light blue underside color based on white and an un-named blue. I find it hard to believe that this light blue underside could turn up on different sides of the world at the same time under the direction of the same organization without some connection. It's hard to believe it happened, but I still can't prove a connection.

I would be very surprised to find the underside color was still Neutral Gray - NG would have been far darker, AND the closeups show the underside stencils were also masked before repainting.

The CE had two sands readily available in their pallet: Sand (which was a beigy hue, similar to the "white" sand found on American beaches) and Desert Sand (which was a pink, almost identical to the AAF's Sand (aka "Tittie Pink" - just for you, Dad!) While CE Sand might be called white or remembered as light gray, there's very little chance that Desert Sand would have been described that way.

It is also possible that the engineers mixed an otherwise unknown shade - there's no evidence either way, but it's always possible.

Additionally, not having been to ANY Pacific islands, I don't know if the sand on Baker and Makin was a pinky shade or a white - it would help to know what the CE was trying to match!

So, my take on the thing:
Type of scheme - single tone uppers over a different single tone underside.
Upper surface color - most likely CE Sand, with other possibilities
Under surface color - most likely a locally mixed light blue; certainly not Neutral Gray; slight possibility of a different shade.

Using "pink" isn't wrong, and if that's what makes the most sense to you, enjoy the paint job. Good luck with the project!


Who's going to have to build one of these himself, one day...


and Nick Millman


Is there any evidence for the Army Corp of Engineer Sand or is it just speculation?

The P-40N's were painted the same as the P-39Qs of the 46th. The earlier P-39Ds were not re-painted and the OD upper surfaces had faded to a colour described as "approximating a dirty Nile Green". When 25 P-39Qs were delivered to Canton Island to replace the older Ds in August 1943, they were gradually re-painted because the OD "stood out too well against the treeless, white coral of Canton". 1st Lt Ben C Warren, the Squadron Engineering Officer described the re-painting thus:-

"We gave them a coral sand sort of coating on the top and painted the underside sky blue. Looking up you could barely see them against the sky".

John W Lambert described this colour as being similar to "desert pink". However photographs show very little contrast between the top surface and under surface suggesting the colour was quite light and bright. In discussions and on models/art the sky blue undersurfaces are often missed and neutral grey presumed instead. You can Google Kanton Island, Canton Island, Abariringa Island, Mary Island, Mary Balcout's Island or Swallow Island (all alternative names) to see colour photos of the coral sand colour. The island is now part of the Republic of Kiribati.

Incidentally the P-39Qs used the 150 Gal "bathtub" belly tank on ops, pioneering long range sorties with it, and the tank was retained during combat. It was not popular and adversely affected handling characteristics, causing some landing accidents.




BW pics here







has this pic of a house. Note sand colour







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FWIW the US Army Spec 3-1 Supplement colour No.306 Sand is Munsell 0.7 Y (Yellow) 6.6/3.7 which is very close to FS 33448 at 0.28 where <2.0 = a close match.


No. 313 Desert Sand is Munsell 4.0 YR (Yellow-Red) 6.1/3.2 which is close to FS 30313 at 1.97, just a tad lighter. 


Both FS values provide a good impression of the Spec 3-1standard colours but which are both "less white" than the coral sand at Canton Island. 


(With thanks to Mike Starmer for loaning me his original copy of Spec 3-1 to measure the colours)




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Wouldn't argue with what the experts have said (wouldn't dare) but an anonymous 45FS pilot quoted on p.121 of Curtiss Hawks At War describes the colour of his unit's aircraft as  "about the colour of good ol' Georgia red clay".  I have no idea how red the clay is in Georgia but the point is that, of all the colours in the spectrum he could have chosen, red is the colour the pilot mentioned (just as over in Tony O'Toole's Marauder I thread, the 14 Sq artist sketched his unit's aircraft in grey/green colours, not sand/earth).   


FWIW I used RAF Gulf War Sand on my model, which is, IIRC, FS 30279 and, to my eye, passable for an ever so slightly faded FS 30313 (it's the chip above it in the FS book).  The book's caption (not quoting the pilot now) says the aircraft were painted in "overall 'sand'": nowadays I wouldn't take the "overall" bit of that so literally and agree that the 45 FS aircraft had light blue undersides, certainly by the time they had reached Nanumea Island in the Ellice Group in December 1943.

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I am as confused as ever, but like a lot of aircraft in the Pacific Theatre of Operations the sun bleached the heck out of the aircraft. The "Georgia red clay" aspect is intreaguing but it would seem that if newly painted it would look perhaps a tad darker, that is until the sun had its way with the paint for a few months. I imagine Radome Tan will be my choice because it makes sense, and will look nice with the light blue (whatever that is) which may be just a whitened azure blue, or maybe a duck egg blue. Speaking of tan/red clay? Our local museum had a piece of the aircraft on display from a Ploiesti raid B-24D that had crashed in the desert shortly after the raid. The paint looked in remarkably good shape and Testors tan (the reddish tan) is a dead ringer for the color used by the USAAF. The reason I know this is that next to the aircraft part was a Monogram B-24 painted in Testors tan. Well, don't need to bore you guys with my stories, but it was an interesting coincidence. It is another one of those "we'll never really know, will we"? situations that we find ourselves in more and more as these historical relics, and pictures, fade further and further into the past. And, can we really trust the eyewitness accounts? We know that everyone sees everything differently, as well as describes it differently to boot. Well, I'm giving it my best guess, and when I get to the "other side" I will ask the pilot what the deal was with his plane, then you guys can have a seance and I will tell you what the real color was of all these planes! Pretty good idea, right guys?



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