S u m m a r y
|Title and Author
||Luftwaffe Colours 1935-1945 by
Michael Ullman (Hikoki Publications)
||Hard cover, 256 pages; high quality
||Research based on original sources;
includes colour chips, photos and drawings; a most comprehensive
documentation of the origins and directives associated with Luftwaffe
||Colour chips are small and glossy;
some questionable conclusions about schemes and photos.
Reviewed by Mark S. Shanks
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The subject of Luftwaffe camouflage is arguably the most contentious issue in
scale aircraft modeling. I’ve seen grown men throw heated words and nearly come
to blows over this esoteric, and to non-modelers, slightly ridiculous, area of
knowledge. To make matters worse, every few years something new crops up,
forcing the toiling enthusiast to re-think their approach and, usually, make a
new investment to ensure their models aren’t laughed off the competition table
Karl Ries deserves recognition for being the first to attempt to establish the
basics of the paint schemes and heraldry of WWII Luftwaffe aircraft with his
4-volume series “Markings and Camouflage Systems of Luftwaffe Aircraft in World
War II” (1963, Verlag Dieter Hoffman). Ries included a 21-color chart in Volume
I of the series, although it was printed, not actual chips. But it DID establish
the LDv 521 and RLM colors used. Neither this chart nor the text in the 4
volumes mentions any of the “late war” 80-series colors, and Ries was woefully
incorrect in describing fighter camouflage after the 1941 timeframe.
The next development in the study came with the publication in 1970 of
Kookaburra’s volumes on the Focke-Wulf FW 190 & Ta 152. In Volume 2, Kenneth A.
Merrick proposed the then-astonishing premise that RLM 02 was used in
conjunction with RLM 71 as a primary camouflage color. Unfortunately, he went so
far as to state that this was the standard for the rest of the war, and that the
74/75/76 scheme “applied only to aircraft based in coastal regions in Western
Europe”. Merrick revised his assessment with 1972’s Kookaburra volumes on the
Messerschmitt Me 262. Volume 1 of the series has a profile on the back cover
showing a 262 in the late-war 81/82/76 colors, but the text describing
“Camouflage and Markings” in Volume 2 does not refer to any RLM numbers, instead
using descriptive terms such as “pale blue grey”, “blackish grey”, “pale whitish
In 1973, there were two major developments in this field. Merrick published
Volume 1 of “Luftwaffe Colors 1935-40” (Kookaburra, reprinted in 1975 in the US
by Arco Publishing Company), and Thomas H. Hitchcock released the “Messerschmitt
‘O-Nine’ Gallery” (Monogram Aviation Publications). The Monogram book contained
a 35-color chart comprised of actual paint chips. According to Hitchcock, “All
colors ... were professionally matched to actual German color charts with the
exception of colors 61, 62, 63, 78, 79, 80, 81, and 82." An addendum issued in
1976 updated this chart with addition of RLM 83, establishing 81 as “braunviolett”,
(and incorrectly) 82 as “dunklegrün” and 83 as “hellgrün”.
J.R. Smith and J.D. Gallaspy released Volumes 2 and 3 of the “Luftwaffe Colors
series in 1976 and 1977, respectively (Monogram Aviation Publications). In 1980,
Merrick and Hitchcock teamed to produce “The Official Monogram Painting Guide to
German Aircraft 1935-1945” (Monogram Aviation Publications). For the next 20
years, the three-volume set, plus the “Painting Guide” with it’s dozens of paint
chips, were the standard for anyone aspiring to accuracy in Luftwaffe modeling.
But, being long out of print, there was a vacuum for the newcomer to the hobby.
Michael Ullmann has stepped up to the plate with “Luftwaffe Colours 1935-1945” (
£34.95, Hikoki Publications) to bring us up to date.
The book is 256 pages printed on high-quality gloss-finish stock. It is an
evolutionary document, building upon material Ullmann wrote in “Colours of the
Luftwaffe 1935-1945” in 1997 (German).
There are 22 “chapters”, the first two providing extremely detailed
historical background on the RAL, the origins of the L.Dv 521 charts, the paint
companies involved, the influence of Lufthansa and Zeppelins on paint types,
quality, and applications. The next chapter is a chronological narrative of the
evolution of the L.Dv charts, mostly focussing on fighters. New to me is the
assertion that RLM 65 changed in 1941 to a shade much closer to RLM 76. I assume
this is confirmed on the L.Dv 521/1 to L.Dv 521/2 charts, although Ullmann
doesn’t give his reference.
As to the extraordinarily controversial late-war “RLM 84”-type colors,
Ullmann asserts “Variations of RLM 76 were also used, attributable to a shortage
of raw materials, resulting in a light grey-green or light grey blue.”
Additional chapters cover markings and insignia, aircraft interiors, and an
entire chapter devoted to “the mystery colours”: RLM 81, 82, and 83. Instead of
chapters dedicated to aircraft types, e.g., fighter, bomber, ground attack,
etc., they are organized into “Tropical Colors”, “Maritime Aircraft”, “Snow
Camouflage”, “Night Camouflage”, “Gliders and Sailplanes”, and “Export Colours”.
The last part of the book, pp. 198-254, reproduces (for the first time in
English, as far as I am aware) the entirety of L.Dv 521/1 Part 1, L.Dv 521/1
1941 Part 1: Powered aircraft, L.Dv/2 1943 Part 2: Gliders, L.Dv 521/3 1938
“Handling of aircraft paints”, Sammelmitteilung No. 1 June 1944 and
Sammelmitteilung No. 2 August 1944. The last page is a 44-paint chip chart of
RLM colors 00 through 83. Ullmann confirms “Shade 84 never existed. It would
appear that this designation was created by other post-war writers to explain
the light underside variants of colour 76.” The book is illustrated throughout
with many black and white photos, original official camouflage pattern drawings,
and 16 pages of color camouflage patterns.
Mr. Ullmann makes it clear in his introduction that this book “is based
exclusively on original documents”, and with that in mind, he has provided the
historian with invaluable primary source material. However, I disagree strongly
with some of his conclusions, primarily those concerning night fighter
camouflage. For example, on page 119, he features a well-known photo of the
vertical stabilizer of He-219 WNr 29004, G9+DH. He states, “The blotches of 75
are so symmetrical that it is possible that they were sprayed with a mask or
template.” It is far more likely that in fact the upper surfaces of the aircraft
were sprayed overall 75, and that 76 was oversprayed in a simple crosshatch
pattern. Even better illustrations of this type of night fighter camouflage are
shown in Volume 3 of Monogram’s “Luftwaffe Colors”. Page 111 has a color photo
of a Ju 88G-1 more clearly showing the cross-hatch of 76 OVER 75, while at the
bottom of the same page, a Bf 110G has a solid coat of 74 (or more likely, 75)
on the upper surfaces. Photos of Wilhem Johnen’s Bf 110G-4 unmistakably show
this same application of 76 over 75. Close examination of many other photos of
late-war night fighters will show that this amounted to a standard practice,
officially documented or not.
Many of the photographs will be familiar to long-time modelers, and most
disappointing are the interpretations given to some of them. Page 84 features a
well-known 109G with an unusual “sawtooth” top-surface patter, Ullmann states
this is a 74/75 combination, but the high contrast makes that most unlikely. The
same interpretation is made on 109s and 190s on page 59, and with that old
chestnut, the top view of an Me 210 (#21, page 20.) The same photograph (#124 on
page 72 and #316 on page 172) is described as two different aircraft (when it is
in fact, our old friend, FW 190D-9 “Brown 4”, of JG 26). There is no discussion
of the effects of orthochromatic versus panchromatic film on interpreting colors
in existing black and white photos, and surprisingly, there are no color photos
used for illustrative purposes.
The color chips themselves are also a disappointment. They are quite small (3cm
x 1.6 cm, as compared to the 5 cm x 5 cm in the Monogram guide) and gloss
finish, which makes accurate color discrimination more difficult. Not all of
them match the Monogram chips, but as I am the last one to argue that there
existed some sort of absolute and invariable standard, I will take both
publishers’ word that they used original sources and the chips were
professionally mixed and matched. A coupon is enclosed for a supplementary chart
of 10 colors (69, 70, 71, 72, 76, 79, 80, 81, 82, and 83). Apparently, some of
the chips were “slightly inaccurate, while others had even more variations”.
This is very good of Hikoki to be up front about it and provide a free update.
The smaller size of the chips has been cited as a cost-savings measure, but the
additional cost for the book would not exceed, in today’s dollars, that of the
Monogram guide when it was released.
I’m sure many modelers will look for color profiles. There aren’t any, but the
purpose of this book isn’t meant to provide specific color schemes, and those
profiles are available in abundance elsewhere. But what will the average modeler
make of the extensive L.Dv material? It’s hard for me to say how many people
need to know the recommended stirring time for the lacquers, or their storage
temperatures, the internal workings of the masking tape dispenser, or what the
paint viscosity gauge looked like. Also, the 16 pages of generic color
camouflage patterns might have been put to better use with additional photos,
particularly of application methods.
Is it worth the purchase price? Undoubtedly, especially for those who do not
have the Monogram volumes and painting guide.
However, in my opinion, there is a great deal of material here that will be
of more interest to the completist and historian than to the average modeler,
and much left out that I, for one, was hoping to see. For once, there are no
shattering revelations, but instead, a most comprehensive documentation of the
origins and directives associated with Luftwaffe camouflage. Perhaps the subject
(covering all Luftwaffe aircraft camouflage directives over a 10-year period) is
too broad for such a relatively slender volume. Again, Ullmann’s stated guiding
principle was using exclusively original documents. What this book does not do
is answer the many questions concerning the non-documented (but photographically
illustrated) exceptions to the rules and address the minutiae more near and dear
to the modeler’s heart.
A most worthy effort, one that I’m sure will find it’s way to many
enthusiasts, but all things considered, not really a “must have”.
Review Copyright © 2001 by
Mark S. Shanks
This Page Created on 11 June, 2002
Last updated 22 July, 2003
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