|RLM Colors Pt 3:|
The July 1st order quite clearly refers only to "All new aircraft types
whose mission would have called for the use of colours 70 and 71..."
i.e., bombers and transports. No mention of fighters and the 81/82
colours is made. Yet paradoxically, the evidence is clear that most of
the new Ar 234 B jet bombers were painted in the 70/71 scheme up
until production ceased in April 1945. Perhaps stocks of these colours
(as held by Arado) were never exhausted and thus the new colours were
not required. Considering this example and other similar ones, one is
forced to ask when the decision was made to paint fighters with the new
81/82 colours. And why.
2) Another very important clue to the relative shades of 81 and 82 is
presented here. Of the two older colours 70 and 71, the former was a
'dark' shade while the latter was a 'light' shade, enough such that there
was an observed contrast between the two, albeit a limited one. The use
of combinations of 70/71 and 81/82 as specified indicates that for the
new colours, 81 was the darker and 82 the lighter shade respectively.
This makes perfect sense given the colour combination suggestions
3) This point reinforces the inference that the RLM was trying to make
the change-over process to the camouflage colours as least disruptive as
4) Here we are given a strong suspicion that several Os-lists may have
existed for a specific aircraft type: the standard one and one or more
"modified" lists. Unless one has access to or knowledge of all the
Os-list variations for each aircraft type, it is therefore impossible to
state unequivocally which was the 'true' or 'correct' camouflage scheme.
For colour 83, whose existence is acknowledged in this order, no official
documents have been discovered which without a doubt identify RLM 83 with
the colour name "Dunkelgrün". This relationship is interpretive and based
on photographs, crash reports, comparative analysis with surviving
aircraft, wreckage fragments, etc. (Smith and Creek, 1994, p.247; Smith
and Gallaspy, 1977, pp.134, 136-137). Interestingly, Hitchcock (1983,
p.13) states that "Colour 83 has been officially recorded only as
As the war progressed, the use of this dark green became commonplace.
Perhaps the phase-out of Graugrün 74 began much earlier than is believed
and a simple order was issued by the RLM to the effect that from this
point forward, replace colour 74 with colour 83 without any alterations
to the camouflage pattern. This might explain why no
Oberflächenschutzliste have been discovered for the Bf 109 and Fw 190
fighter aircraft which actually describe (let alone identify) this
colour. Indeed, the RLM perhaps thought there was no need to bother and
therefore none were produced. Could the 75/83 scheme actually be a
long-lived transition scheme to the later 81/82 colours? Or could the use
of 81/82 on fighters be an effort to use up stocks of these new colours
once intended for bombers that were no longer in production?
It is quite significant that the 75/83 scheme first appears on the Bf 109
and Fw 190 fighters (and their variants). The ramped up demand for
fighter production from late 1943 onward and resultant need to simplify
and shorten production times must have had a profound influence on the
camouflage colours used on these aircraft.
In the above document, even the RLM Technical Department acknowledged
that it was unable to supply manufacturers with the proper colour sample
cards for colours 81 and 82 (note: still un-named by the RLM). Therefore,
testing of the correct colour shades, presumably by the manufacturers
themselves of the paints received from their subcontractors, was omitted
and/or not required. Perhaps that given the variability of colour shades
of these new paints the RLM could not (or would not) assign them a
descriptive name. However, the following documents tend to suggest that
either the paint manufacturers, the aircraft companies, or both decided
on their own to do just that, which could also explain the variety of
names encountered for these colours!
Finally, the introduction of these new RLM colours appears as an exact
parallel to the situation in November 1941 where the L.Dv. 521/1
contained colour samples for new colours 74, 75 & 76, yet not for 78, 79
& 80 (and 77), even though these latter colours and their uses were
described! (Smith and Gallaspy, 1977, pp.45-46). Evidence suggests that
the 'grey' scheme was in use from at least March 1941 (Merrick and
Hitchcock 1980, p.24), and the new 'desert' colours were introduced to
North Africa by the end of that year (ibid., p.100).
August 15, 1944
Sammelmitteilung Nr. 2:
This document was officially issued on this date and contained the
following paragraphs (Smith and Gallaspy, 1977, pp.96, 125, 129):
The temporary day finish 7126.76 is introduced to replace 7126.65. The
new blue finish will be used to re-camouflage aircraft in permanent night
finish for daylight missions. Insignia will not be overpainted. The use
of masking tape will be necessary, as the finish will be applied by
Note: 7126.76 is intended primarily for use at the unit level. Camouflage
colours and their application to aircraft have lately been entirely
revised. Firms producing camouflage charts will receive from
Erprobungsstelle Travemuende a camouflage atlas containing all the
necessary information. With the publication of this atlas, it is
forbidden to use any other colour shades and schemes, including special
requests from operational units without the express permission of
As a result of the new revision, the following colours will not be used
in the future: 65, 70, 71 and 74. Colour 70 however, is still prescribed
for (metal) propellers.
A further comment on the style and application of national markings is of
interest as it mentions together the existence of all three 'new' colours
(Smith and Gallaspy, 1977, p.129):
It is apparent that, despite repeated instructions for simplification,
economy measures, etc., crosses and swastikas are still being applied in
the same manner. Only the outlines of the crosses and either the black
portion or the white surrounds of the swastikas are to be painted as
On light colours 76 and 21 (i.e., snow camouflage) only the black
outlines of the crosses and the black swastika. On dark colours 72, 73,
75, 81, 82 and 83 only the white outlines of the crosses and swastika.
COMMENT: Even by the middle of August 1944 the RLM Technical Department
still had not sent paint samples of the 'official' camouflage colours to
those companies producing the camouflage charts. This appears to indicate
that these charts were produced by separate companies and only after
their completion would they be sent to paint producers and aircraft
manufacturers. How long this would have taken would be anyone's guess,
given the deteriorating supply and economic conditions in Germany at the
time. However, until the paint companies received these charts,
variability in camouflage colour shades could only have increased with a
corresponding decrease in actual paint quality.
It was also ordered that colours 65, 70, 71 and 74 would not be used in
the future. Is this merely a reiteration of the previous July 1st order,
were manufacturers ignoring the order, or perhaps by this time stocks of
these colours were dwindling and those of 81 and 82 were becoming more
widespread and being used on an increasingly regular basis? The latter is
suggested as the instructions regarding simplification of national
markings specifically excludes these colours and mentions 81, 82 and 83
together, surprisingly, as 'dark' colours. This mention of colour 83
appears to coincide with Fw 190s being painted in a new grey and green
scheme, the latter colour 83 replacing the darker 74 Graugrün (Aders,
1986, pp.22-23; Merrick and Hitchcock, 1980, p.32).
This is probably an appropriate time to discuss the colour informally
known as "RLM 84". The designation "RLM 84" is a spurious one and should
not be used and perpetuated. This notation appeared in the literature
during the first half of the 1980's to describe a series of four
green-blue to grey-blue light-coloured paints found on the undersurfaces
of late war German aircraft, mostly fighters. The colours were first
described by Merrick and Hitchcock (1980) and actual paint samples were
presented for four of these shades, but most significantly, no RLM
notation was given nor was claimed.
The earliest documentation of the use of the term "RLM 84" appears in an
article published by Ivie and Sheflin (1985). In their article, the
authors several times note an example of the sky colour in photo captions
and a colour profile / photograph of a Fw 190 D-9 as ". . . 84, the
undocumented blue-gray undersurface color seen on several late war
planes." (p.6); ". . . the undocumented Gray-Blue undersurface color 84."
(p.9); and finally "The undersurfaces are believed to be in a form of the
undocumented Blue-Gray color (provisionally numbered 84), a color sampled
on several Luftwaffe aircraft after the war." (p.31). Correspondence with
Sheflin (personal communication, 1996) confirmed that the "RLM 84"
designation was indeed a provisional one (as stated in the previous
quotes) and reflected his own attempt to reconcile the observed and
confirmed usage of these colour shades by Merrick and Hitchcock with the
then-current understanding of late-war Luftwaffe colours and the RLM
numbering system. It was not in any way based on official documentation.
Pointedly, since 1980 when Kenneth Merrick and Tom Hitchcock published
the Monogram Painting Guide, not one official Luftwaffe document has been
discovered by serious researchers that specifically refers to "Farbe
(colour) 84". There is no doubt that these colours, (and perhaps other
similar ones) were widely and systematically used during the last year of
the war, though most importantly were found only on fighters and related
aircraft. However, all painting charts and instructions
(Oberflächeshutzliste or Os-liste) for aircraft known to have been
painted in these shades specifically state that the underside colour was
to be RLM 76, or, to remain unpainted in natural metal. Indeed, the last
Os-liste for the Me 262, "8-262 A-1", published by Messerschmitt on
February 23, 1945, described the 'new' 81/82/76 camouflage scheme to be
applied to the Me 262A with the paints listed in the plans/document
described as "Farbton 81 = braunviolett" and "Farbton 82 = hellgrün 82"
with the underside colour designated as "Farbton 76 = Lichtblau" (Merrick
and Hitchcock, 1980, p.47; Smith and Creek, 1983, p.20; Radinger and
Schick, 1993, p.110). If a new underside colour was officially
introduced, its application was likely limited to those aircraft produced
/ recycled over the proceeding 8 weeks or so until capitulation.
There are two possibilities regarding how these various underside colours
may have originated. The first is that the four known "sky" colours were
not new colours purposely introduced by the RLM, but were in fact poor
quality examples of RLM 76. Given the extreme stresses suffered by the
German economy at the time and the dispersal of component manufacturing
and assembling/final construction, the shortages of raw materials
dictated that all manners and means of substitution and stretching of
materials was considered and/or implemented. For paints this could
include changes in pigment and dye types (inorganic to less stable
organic), poorer quality bases, use of primers as camouflage colours,
reducing the number of coats, omission of primer paints, leaving specific
parts unpainted and so on. It is instructive to recall that these strains
on the system were being experienced since 1944. After the cancellation
of the bomber program in mid-1944, considerable stocks of high quality
paints remained which included RLM 65, 70, 71, 72 and 73. Wisely, the RLM
stressed that existing stocks of these and other paints (e.g., RLM 75)
were to be used up and used in conjunction with newly introduced colours.
Documented camouflage schemes and colour samples from aircraft such as
the Do 335, He 162, Me 163 and others confirm this.
An alternative explanation would require that these underside shades were
in fact variations of a new RLM colour which was to be designated as
"84". Although based on a hunch, Ivie and Sheflin (1985) may in fact have
been correct in their supposition of these new colours' correct identity.
While no official documentation has been discovered, these colours were
encountered with increasing frequency on late-war aircraft. Considering
that whenever the RLM introduced a new series of camouflage colours, it
also included a new underside colour as well: e.g. 74/75/76 (Lichtblau),
and 78(Himmelblau)/79/80. It would not be improbable to expect that the
new 81/82/83 camouflage colours might also have included a new underside
colour too: 84? Could perhaps the very late introduction of this
colour/shades and lack of documentation be indicative of a test phase for
this paint or a new experimental colour?
Regardless of its status, the question remains as to the actual creation
of this "sky" colour (and its variations). It may have been an entirely
new colour based on non-strategic materials, mixes of older RLM colours,
or served as the base for the other newer colours, RLM 81 and 82. As has
been documented by Merrick and Hitchcock (1980) there were at least four
(and perhaps more) variations of this underside colour which the authors
(not the RLM) described as "graublau", "grünblau", "graublau", and
"lichtblau". This would not be unusual as such variability is known to
have existed within batches of RLM 76 which was officially known as
either "Lichtblau" or "Weissblau". This colour variability invariably
reflected the paint manufacturers' considerable difficulty in obtaining
the proper raw materials and maintaining quality control of their paint
production during this late phase of the war. Their inability to match
their paints to the official shade may have compelled them to approximate
the proper shade utilizing materials immediately available to them, in
other words, stocks of the redundant RLM colours 65, 70, 71, 72 and 73 .
Could a thinned RLM 02 mixed with lightened RLM 65 do the trick? Could
perhaps primer paints have been used instead of 65? How about really
thinned and whitened 65 with a touch of 71? Or 72? Or 73? The possible
colour combinations and percentages are as numerous as the aircraft that
To conclude, it may never know where, when, and how these colours were
created, and by whom. So far researchers have yet to discover a single
document where a colour was designated as "84", but the fact remains that
a series of undersurface colours differing from the prescribed RLM 76 was
applied to German fighter aircraft by manufacturers (and dispersed
subassembly contractors?) during the last months of the war. This author
believes that for identification purposes, respecting our current state
of knowledge, these colours NOT be referred to as "RLM 84". It is
proposed that they be designated using the simple descriptive colour
names assigned to them by Merrick and Hitchcock (1980) as noted above and
each referred to as the "late-war underside colour, XXXXX variant". This
proposed nomenclature should help clarify matters until such time that
new research and data will conclusively settle the question on these
fascinating colour shades.
"Reality Strikes" September - October, 1944
September 13, 1944
Oberflächenschutzliste 8 Os 155:
Released by Blohm & Voss and approved by the RLM, designating the 'green'
81/82 camouflage scheme to be applied to the BV 155. The colours were
designated as "Olivbraun 81" and "Hellguen 82" (Hitchcock, 1990, inside
front cover & p.19). The following is an exact translation of this
document, courtesy of Kenneth Merrick:
Sch/01 Advance announcement B&V 13 Sept. 1944
The E-stelle Travermuende authority provides the following:
The BV155 shall have on the uppersurface the colours 81 Olivebrown and 82
Light Green. The mottling spacing and placement should be similar to the
Bf 109 camouflage scheme. The fuselage sides, side of the vertical tail
and leading edge of the wing and horizontal stabilizer should be painted
in colour 76 (no name given). Hereafter, except for the wing and
horizontal stabilizers leading edge, the aircraft should be then in a
cloudy overspray with colour tones 81 and 82. Also, we look ahead to
simplify the paint schemes which we should know shortly and will publish.
Afterwards, the above mentioned aircraft which will be used for day
service, camouflage on the undersurfaces should be deleted.
With the mottle scheme, it should be applied on the aircraft sheet metal
between the camouflage and its painted line. The pattern is to be soft
flowing lines. The colour scheme is to be sprayed on at the present time.
In case of needed puttying, (aircraft putty 7270.99) it should be applied
on bare metal beyond the border lines of the paint scheme and the bare
metal should be polished in the usual way but no camouflage on top of the
putty. The painting of the undersurface is being deleted to economize.
A/c materials test division for surface protection.
COMMENT: Here is what the author believes is a perfect example of a
camouflage document typical of the period. It is important in that it is
the first to describe the use of colours 81 and 82, and provides evidence
that the descriptive names of these shades were assigned by the
manufacturer. Significantly, such was the supply crisis that even at this
early date it was ordered that the undersides of the aircraft were to
remain unpainted. Another point to ponder: Could "Olivbraun" in fact be
RLM 80 Olivgrün, which could have been inserted as a substitute from
excess and redundant stocks for the as yet still officially un-described
colour RLM 81
Factory Camouflage Directive, Fw 190 A:
It is most probable that this document or a related order (possibly a
document only and not an Oberflächenschutzliste), existed in some form
and specified the 75/83 scheme for the Fw 190 D-9 as well (see above
COMMENT: First operational use of the Dora took place in early October
1944 with III./JG 54 whose aircraft were camouflaged in the 75/83 scheme
that is well documented with photographic evidence.(Smith and Creek,
1986, p.10). However, a change occurred in the camouflage colours used in
early 1945, from the standard 75/83 scheme to the 81/82 combination, and
it is most probable that a variety of transition schemes existed (e.g.,
81/83, 82/83, 75/81, etc.) Furthermore, the seperate production and
finishing of the Jumo 213 engines in RLM 83 (or possibly 71) would have
also complicated the prescribed and transitional camouflaged schemes
Oberflächenschutzliste 8 Os 109K:
This was released by Messerschmitt and approved by the RLM, designating
the 74/75/76 camouflage scheme to be applied to the Bf 109K (Hitchcock,
COMMENT: The existence of this document is known only through other
documents and specifics on camouflage colours and schemes is unknown.
Given physical and photographic evidence, it is very probable that the Bf
109 K had two late-war schemes; 1. Grauviolett 75 / Dunkelgrün 83, and 2.
Braunviolett 81 / Dunkelgrün 83. (The vintage of this reference
identifies Dunkelgrün as RLM 82, not RLM 83 as is currently accepted).
As noted previously, the 75/83 scheme might be thought of as a
transitional scheme from 74/75 to 81/82. For the different G-variants of
the Bf 109, it is noted that there could be as many as four to six
different camouflage colour formats depending on the aircraft version
(Hitchcock, 1979, p.13). When these schemes were introduced is unknown,
but likely progressed from the 'grey' to 'green' scheme from mid 1944 to
early 1945. The chaos begins.
"Chaos and Compromise" - November - December, 1944
Oberflächenschutzliste 8 Os 152:
Released by Focke-Wulf and approved by the RLM, designating the 'green'
81/82/76 camouflage scheme to be applied to the Ta 152 (C or H?). The
colours were designated as "81" and "82", however, no descriptions of the
colours were provided (Ethell, 1990, pp.10-11, 22-23).
COMMENT: Photographic evidence strongly suggests that although the 81/82
scheme was applied to the Ta 152 H series, the Ta 152 C-1 aircraft were
finished in the 75/83 scheme as worn by the Fw 190 D-9. Perhaps this was
due to the fact that the Ta 152 C-1 has a size and shape virtually
identical to the Fw 190 D-9.
November 26, 1944
Oberflächenschutzliste 8 Os 335A:
Released by Dornier and approved by the RLM, D.Luft.T.2335 designated the
'green' 81/82/76 camouflage scheme to be applied to the Do 335A
interceptor (Smith and Gallaspy, 1977, p.136). The colours were
designated in the plans as "Dunkelgrün 81" and "Dunkelgrün 82" (Smith and
Creek, 1983, p.23; and Lutz, 1983, p.31).
COMMENT: This is the third of only four confirmed Oberflächenschutzliste
(BV 155, Ta 152, Do 335 and Me 262) which specifies the use of colours 81
and 82. Not surprisingly, each of the manufacturers described the colour
differently, with Dornier designating and interpreting these colours as
"Dunkelgrün". Comparison of original paint chips from the Smithsonian's
Do 335 with its Me 262 found that Dornier's "Colour 82" was a very close
match for Messerschmitt's Hellgrün 82. There was no match at all for
Dornier's Dunkelgrün 81, however, the closest match was the dark green
found on the Point Cook Australia Me 163, in all probability Dunkelgrün
83 (Hitchcock, In: Smith and Gallaspy, 1977, pp.136-167; and Hitchcock,
1996, pers. comm.).
These findings therefore suggest that the Smithsonian Do 335 was
originally painted not in the old 70/71 scheme (in which the first Do
335s were painted throughout most of 1944) nor the new 81/82 scheme (as
planned), but a hybrid or transitional scheme of Hellgrün 82 and
Dunkelgrün 83. However, upon its restoration the Do 335 was painted in
the prescribed new 81/82 scheme and not those colours originally found on
the machine (Smith and Creek, 1983, p.15).
Oberflächenschutzliste 8 Os 156C?:
To date, the only known evidence which actually links official paint
chips to colour designations 81 and 82 is this document/plan for the
Fieseler 156 Storch. Smith and Creek (1994, p.247) claim that: The
colours . . . are best described as a darker variation of American
wartime Olive Drab and a light medium green not unlike the postwar
American Field Green.
COMMENT: Surprisingly, the source and date of this document/plan are not
cited in the above reference. Beyond their numerical designations '81'
and '82', descriptive names to the colours are not given in this
reference. It is supposed that this document dates from sometime in the
Autumn of 1944. Prior to this date, the Fi 156 wore a variety of
camouflage colours and schemes, based on their theatre of operation.
However, most were completed in colours 70/71/65 (Merrick, 1977, p.41).
A.I.2 (g) Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report Serial No. 263 January 8, 1945:
This is a detailed examination of a Fw 190 D-9 "Black 12", WNr. 210079,
which crashed from a low-level bird hit on its radiator while taking part
in the January 1, 1945 "Bodenplatte" raid on Allied airfields. Regarding
the camouflage, the report stated:
The camouflage is a mottled on the fuselage, with the green
predominating. The upper surfaces of the wings are a rather brighter
green than is usual with German aircraft, whilst the undersides of the
wings are light blue. The spinner is black with a white spiral.
COMMENT: A change in the camouflage colours worn by Focke-Wulf 190 D-9 is
indicated during this month, and perhaps sooner. There appears to have
been shift away from the 75/83 scheme to the 81/82 scheme, and although
no official documents have so far been discovered, it is likely that a
revised Oberflächenschutzliste or other order was issued to factories as
intended by the RLM (Smith and Creek, 1986a, pp.22-23). This use of a
"brighter green" colour is at odds with what the RLM intended for the Fw
190 D-9, but likely reflects the growing seriousness of disrupted
supplies and raw materials and the subsequent effects on aircraft
From this crash report, it is obvious that the "brighter green"
uppersurface colour was new to Allied intelligence and caught their
attention. Their comments were certainly a good description for RLM 82
Hellgrün and the "greeny-grey" label fits well for RLM 02 Grau.
Curiously, the other uppersurface colour failed to elicit a response.
Perhaps the wings were indeed painted a single colour, or, it was in
combination with the oft-encountered RLM 75 Grauviolett? Regardless, by
the end of the war, colour photos of late war Doras reveal them to have
moved into the green 81/82 scheme (e.g., Smith and Creek, 1986a,
A.I.2 (g) Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report Serial No. 265 January 29, 1945:
The subject aircraft, an Me 262 A coded 9K+MK (M in white), WNr. 170273
of 1./KG 51, was shot down by flak on December 25, 1944. Regarding the
aircraft's camouflage, the report stated simply:
The machine was camouflaged with the under surfaces in light blue, whilst
the upper surfaces were in shades of bright green.
COMMENT: This sighting of "bright green" is a full two months before the
"official" Me 262 document on camouflage colours described as
"Braunviolett 81" and "Hellgrün 82" was published. This writer interprets
the colours as 82/83, with the latter (most probably Dunkelgrün) having
its green tones enhanced due to its juxtaposition with the brighter
Hellgrün 82. In this writer's opinion, this was merely another transition
camouflage scheme with the use of colour 82 and a darker contrasting
colour (83 being substituted for 81) on bomber aircraft as was intended
by the RLM in its July 1, 1944 order Sammelmitteilung Nr.1 (see above).
"Collapse" January - May, 1945
January 18, 1945
Factory Camouflage Directive, He 162 A:
This document (possibly Oberflächenschutzliste 8 Os 162A?), and another
on February 28, 1945, specified that the He 162 was to be painted in
parts (major components), and although the colour designations 81 and 82
were presented, their descriptive names were not (Smith and Creek, 1986b,
pp.22-23); Merrick and Hitchcock, 1980, p.45).
COMMENTS: This aircraft, like the Me 163, is known to have had examples
painted in the redundant colours 70 and 71, possibly in combination with
the newer 80-series paints , e.g., 70/82 or 71/81 (Merrick and Hitchcock,
1980, p.45). The aircraft's undersides were in many cases left unpainted.
February 20, 1945
Jagdgeschwader Markings - B.Br.Nr.2/45 g.Kdos.:
This is the famous and oft-quoted RVD Order issued by OKL. Since mid-1944
several units on the Western Front had been wearing colourful tailbands
for recognition purposes and it was not until late February 1945 that the
Luftwaffe formalized the unit, colour(s) and pattern designations for the
Jagdwaffe. Even so, several of the units never wore their assigned
Reichsverteidigung bands. For the interest of the reader, the text of the
order is quoted in full, although the accompanying sketches are not
20 February 1945
Subject: Jagdgeschwader Markings
By the order of the Reichsmarschall and for purposes of improving aerial
recognition, Jagdgeschwader aircraft are to be marked by
fuselage-encircling colored stripes as indicated in the appended
enclosure. Attention of troops down to platoon level is to be drawn to
these markings which should simplify the recognition and distinction of
our own aircraft."
Unit Colour of Stripes RLM Designation
J.G. 1 bright red (23)*
J.G. 3 white (21)
J.G. 11 yellow (27)
J.G. 27 bright green (25)
J.G. 53 black (22)
J.G. 54 bright blue (24)
J.G. 5 black / yellow (22 / 27)
J.G. 7 blue / red (24 / 23)
J.G. 26 black / white (22 / 21)
J.G. 52 red / white (23 / 21)
J.G. 77 white / green (21 / 25)
J.G. 301 yellow / red (27 / 23)
J.G. 2 yellow / white / yellow (27 / 21 / 27)
J.G. 4 black / white / black (22 / 21 / 22)
J.G. 6 bright red / white / bright red (23 / 21 / 23)
J.G. 51 bright green / white / bright (25 / 21 / 25)
J.G. 300 bright blue / white / bright (24 / 21 / 24)
(* RLM designations in brackets are the author's and are NOT on the
COMMENT: Although this is not entirely relevant to this discussion, it is
included for completeness sake and general interest. Of the colour
descriptions noted in the document, one is worthy of comment. One would
be hard pressed indeed to describe Blau 24 as being a 'bright' colour.
Colour photos and wreck fragments suggest that a lighter shade of blue
existed and was used for the RVD bands of JG 300 (J. Crandall, 1996,
pers. comm.: J.H. Kitchens, 1994, pers. comm.; and Smith et al., 1979,
p.50). Was this a field-mixed lighter shade of RLM 24? An unknown new
February 23, 1945
Oberflächenschutzliste 8 Os 262A:
Released by Messerschmitt and approved by the RLM, this document
designating the 'green' 81/82/76 camouflage scheme to be applied to the
Me 262A. The colours are described in the plans/document as "Braunviolett
81" and "Hellgrün 82" (Merrick and Hitchcock, 1980, p.47; Smith and
Creek, 1983b, p.20; Radinger and Schick, 1993, p.110).
COMMENT: Here finally is the classic late-war Me 262 camouflage scheme
described. However, how was the plan transformed into reality?
Photographic evidence reveals a lot of strange Me 262 schemes out there:
overall dark-coloured Me 262s of Kommando Nowotny (RLM 70/71?) in
November 1944, overall dark-coloured Me 262s of JV 44 (RLM 81) in April
1945, et cetera. Realistically, given the collapsing economy and severe
transportation difficulties, what proportion of all Me 262s produced were
actually finished in the prescribed 81/82 scheme? How many shades of 81,
82 and 83 were likely to have been manufactured given these
Interpretations and Conclusions
On their own these various fragments of orders, reports and observations
provide varying degrees of useful information, some of which is extremely
important, others less so. When considered alone, they provide useful,
but limited information. However, when considered in a chronological
context and with an appreciation of the historical events which occurred
over this interval, these seemingly isolated items reveal important
relationships and establish trends which offer a clearer understanding of
the genesis and usage of the late-war Luftwaffe colours.
From the available data quoted and discussed above, this writer believes
that a several important trends in the evolution of the Luftwaffe's
camouflage system for its various aircraft types can be identified.
However, before the discussion proceeds, it was thought useful to
tabulate the various colour names and their known (and/or interpreted)
RLM designations (Tables 1 and 2). Two methods were selected, one by
colours as listed alphabetically, the other ranked by the RLM colour
Table 1: Ranking by colour name (alphabetic)
Camouflage Colour Description RLM Designation
Braunviolett brown-violet 81
Graugrün grey-green 74
Dunkelgrün dark green 71, 81, 82, 83*
Grauviolett grey-violet 75
Grün green 83
Hellgrün bright green 82
Lichtgrün light green 82
Olivbraun olive brown 81
Olivgrün olive green 80
Schwarzgrün black-green 70
(* Note: No official documents have been discovered which link RLM 83
with the colour name "Dunkelgrün". However, Hitchcock (1983, p.13)
states: "Color 83 has been officially recorded as 'green.' " but fails to
identify the source, date and context of this official record. The
relationship of "83" to the descriptive name "Dunkelgrün" is
interpretive, and based on photographs, crash reports, wreckage
fragments, etc. (Smith and Creek, 1994, p.247; Smith and Gallaspy, 1977,
pp.96, 100, 124-125, 129, 134, 13-137)).
Table 1 is clear in noting that the RLM's descriptive colour names for
those discussed here were limited to a single RLM numeric designation,
except one. From the data, the name "Dunkelgrün" was assigned to no less
than four defined colours; first to RLM 71 in 1937 and later in 1944 to
RLM 81, 82 and 83. There is no question that the RLM designated 71 as
Dunkelgrün, but did it also do the same for the remaining three colours?
Given the RLM's past history and actions, the evidence strongly suggests
that it did not.
Table 2: Ranking by RLM colour designation
RLM Designation Camouflage Colour Description
70 Schwarzgrün black-green
71 Dunkelgrün dark green
74 Graugrün grey-green
75 Grauviolett grey-violet
80 Olivgrün olive green
81 Braunviolett brown-violet
81 Dunkelgrün dark green
81 Olivbraun olive brown
82 Dunkelgrün dark green
82 Hellgrün bright green
82 Lichtgrün light green
83 Dunkelgrün* dark green
83 Grün green
(* Note: As above.)
Table 2 ranks the colours by their RLM numeric designations, with results
that reinforce the belief of an orderly of camouflage colour system in
existence until the introduction of the new late-war colours 81, 82 and
83 in July of 1944. It is obvious that a break down in the system
occurred soon after, with a total of eight names existing for three
colours, one of which, Dunkelgrün, being common to all. The question is
where this break-down occurred, and why.
Table 3 reveals that it was in the October-November 1944 period that a
change-over from the mid-war grey scheme to the late-war green scheme
began to take place. Most importantly all the aircraft affected were
fighters but strangely official documentation for these important changes
remains elusive. Coupled with this, the first Allied encounters with
aircraft wearing one of these colours, usually Hellgrün 82, are noted as
occurring in late December 1944. This is almost six months from their
official introduction. What caused this long delay?
Table 3: Chronology of Camouflage Schemes and Colours
Date Company Aircraft Darker Colour Lighter
??/04/44 Messerschmitt Me 163 B** 70 Schwarzgrün 71 Dunkelgrün
??/04/44 Messerschmitt Me 163 B** 74 Dunkelgrau 75 Grauviolett
16/06/44 Arado Ar 234 C*** 70 Schwarzgrün 71 Dunkelgrün
17/06/44 Messerschmitt Me 262 A** 74 Graugrün 75 Grauviolett
13/09/44 Blohm & Voss BV 155*** 81 Olivbraun 82 Lichtgrün
??/09/44 Focke-Wulf Fw 190 D** 83 (not given) 75 Grauviolett
??/10/44 Messerschmitt Bf 109 K** 74 Dunkelgrau 75 Grauviolett
??/??/44 Messerschmitt Bf 109 K** 83 Dunkelgrün 75 Grauviolett
??/10/44 Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A/F** 83 (not given) 75 Grauviolett
??/11/44 Focke-Wulf Ta 152 H*** 81 (not given) 82 (not given)
26/11/44 Dornier Do 335 A*** 81 Dunkelgrün 82 Dunkelgrün
??/??/44 Fieseler Fi 156 C** 81 (not given?) 82 (not
??/??/44 Messerschmitt Me 163 B** 81 Braunviolett 83 Dunkelgrün
??/12/44 Messerschmitt Me 262 A* 82 Hellgrün? 83 Dunkelgrün?
??/12/44 Focke-Wulf Fw 190 D* 82 Hellgrün? (no other
??/??/45 Messerschmitt Bf 109 K** 81 Braunviolett 83 Dunkelgrün
??/??/45 Messerschmitt Bf 109 K** 81 Braunviolett 82 Hellgrün
18/01/45 Heinkel He 162 A** 81 (not given) 82 (not given)
??/01/45 Focke-Wulf Fw 190 D** 81 (not given) 82 (not given)
23/02/45 Messerschmitt Me 262 A*** 81 Braunviolett 82 Hellgrün
*** Confirmed Oberflächenschutzliste
** Suspected Oberflächenschutzliste
* A.I.2 (g) Crash Report
It is important to place the dates of these orders and documents into the
context of the war situation that the Germans were facing. By July 1,
1944, the Allied armies were beginning to expand the Normandy bridgehead,
and concurrently, the tempo of the strategic airwar was stepped up.
Throughout late 1943 and early 1944 the Allied bomber offensive ranged
deeper into occupied Europe with increasing strength and devestating
results. This situation demanded that the Luftwaffe devote most of its
energies to the formation and training of fighter units, and most
importantly, the production of fighter aircraft. With the steady erosion
of the air situation and losses of experienced pilots, the writing was on
In response to these pressures and the serious fuel famine, the Luftwaffe
disbanded most of its conventional bomber forces in July-August, 1944,
which by this time were limited to operations on the Eastern Front. The
units included KG 1, 2, 30, 54, 55, 76 with the remnants of the bomber
slowly withering away as attrition and lack of fuel took their tolls.
However, their most important component, their experienced pilots, were
quickly transferred to the expanding fighter force. By September, the
reorganization of the German aircraft industry was bearing fruit as
production of fighter aircraft was reaching new record numbers.
Production of conventional bombers such as the He 177, He 111 and Ju 88
was virtually at an end.
With this perspective in mind, consider now what the Luftwaffe had
planned since mid 1943. At that time, it would appear that the RLM had
decided the low-contrast 70/71 camouflage colours for bombers and the
grey 74/75 fighter colours, originally designed for continental Europe
and maritime operations respectively, were unsuited to the wider range of
terrains and climatic regions over which it was now fighting. Browns and
greens, more reflective of freshly plowed fields and mixed forest
vegetation and crops would be more suitable over a wider range of
geographic and climatic regions. Furthermore, the perceptible shift in
the war's course demanded that defensive considerations now be given more
importance, including the camouflage of aircraft on the ground.
It is now time to review the important July 1, 1944 order. It is striking
to note that nowhere in the quoted document are "fighters" refered to and
this is made most clear in Point 1): " All new aircraft types whose
mission would have called for the use of colours 70 and 71, are from now
on to be painted in colours 81 and 82." In July of 1944, the only
aircraft whose missions called for colours 70/71 were BOMBERS and like
aircraft. Additionally, the order states that it was for NEW aircraft of
this type that were to be so painted. However, by this time, bomber units
were soon to be disbanded and production of these aircraft, and newer
types would shortly cease. A classic case of events overtaking planning!
So what to do? The RLM, in recognition of the deteriorating economic
conditions, demanded that all older paints be used up prior to drawing
upon stocks of newer colours, whenever they would become available, and
provided suggestions on the use of substitute colours with and in place
of the newer colours. It even acknowledged that the colours could not be
tested properly and that the required colour charts remained uncompleted.
It is understandable then why formal colour names would not be assigned,
but this decision opened the door to those manufacturers who felt the
need to have some sort of descriptive name for the paints applied to
their aircraft. Others, however, did not. Thus, in this writer's opinion,
most of the names for the late war colours were derived from the
manufacturers and NOT from the RLM.
By the late summer of 1944, the RLM and German industry undertook a major
shift towards the manufacture of fighter aircraft at the expense of all
other types. Previous plans for the continued development of newer
aircraft, especially bombers, were quickly canceled as was existing
production. The RLM also had a problem with their new camouflage colours,
as the aircraft for which they were intended were no longer being built.
Additionally, these new colours were no doubt becoming increasingly
difficult to produce, and indeed transport, due to raw material shortages
and the collapsing transportation system. Thus, it is entirely prudent
that existing stocks of older colours be used up by all the factories
regardless of the types of fighter aircraft that they made, with various
colour combinations of old and new colours considered acceptable.
Furthermore, this increased aircraft production owed much to the
dispersal of various sub-contractors who manufactured and finished major
aircraft components who themselves were under difficult conditions and
would be increasingly forced to paint their components in whatever paints
were made available to them.
From the data tabulated earlier, the October-November 1944 period
indicates that much turmoil and confusion was taking place regarding the
introduction of new fighter types and their camouflage. This writer
suggests that prior to or at the beginning of this period, the RLM
decided that FIGHTERS should now wear these camouflage colours originally
planned for BOMBERS. The RLM appears to have described and introduced the
colour RLM 83 in late 1943 and photographs and crash reports indicating
that this colour, most likely known officially as "Dunkelgrün 83"
appeared on fighter aircraft in August-September 1944. In addition, the
current 75/83 schemes would be phased out and the new colours used in
combination with them until such time that they were exhausted. As the
A.I.2 (g) Crash Reports reveal, the first aircraft wearing Hellgrün 82
were encountered later in December of that year.