Japan - 1939-1945
References: Steve Zaloga Japanese tank markings..Airfix magazine March 1977 pp.394-400and Saipan Chi-ha Military Modelling August 1999; Tank Battles of the Pacific War 1941-1945 Concord, 1995 (Armor at War 7004). Zaloga’s earlier Armour of the Pacific War, Osprey, 1983 (Vanguard 35) gives an interpretation of Japanese colours not supported by his later findings. The plates are still useful for patterns and markings, however. Taki’s superb website on Japanese armour contains FAQs on colour and lots of stuff on markings. http://member.nifty.ne.jp/takixxx/. Taki kindly supplied me with a translation of the 1942 regs.
Steve Zaloga has done all of the work available to me in secondary sources. There do seem to be some uncertainties in interpretation, but the picture below seems generally accurate
Base tone: The overall tone was set as “Tutikusa-iro”. This has been described to me as a light dull olive green mixed with brown and green. The 1942 document gives its reflectance of about 8.4% - that is on a scale where black is 2% and white about 85%. This isn’t actually all that “light”. “Panzer Grey” would be about 10% on the same scale. Black and white pictures suggest a tone not too far removed from that of US vehicles in dusty OD. For summer finishes and use in the “Southern area” (i.e. Pacific) “Kusa-iro” (“grass colour”) was to be used instead. This was the same tone as Tutikusa-iro but a different hue – it’s been described as “Willow Green” and was more saturated. Steve Zaloga has noted a faded yellow-green on a surviving Chi-Ha recovered from Saipan and this could well be this colour. The Japanese Army Air Force used a colour No.39 Kusa-Iro that has been described as “Spinach”. It does not necessarily follow that the tank colour was the same, of course, but this would fit the tone and description. This would give a medium-dark green, as opposed to olive green.
Whatever it was Tutikusa-iro was insufficiently green to work in a more tropical environment.
“Taki” has matched Tutikusa-iro using Gunze Sangyo Mr Color enamels: 95% No.41 (Red brown) to 5% No.4 (yellow). I’ve not been able to try the mix, but the result can only be a tan brown of some sort. Given the relationship between the two base tones and the suggested colour mix, I’m beginning to suspect that there may be a relationship between Tutikusa-iro and the “Helmet Brown” apparently found on softskins.
Mixes ranging from Humbrol 86, via 159+26 and 159+155 may be in order
Disruptive painting – The colours to be used were:
Tuchi-iro – dark brown of about 4.5% reflectance. Described as being matching a dark forest background or black soil. It has also been described in secondary sources as fading red-brown, but was always the darkest tone in the finish. 30% of the surface area was to be covered in “cloud” shaped blotches this colour each 1.5 metres in diameter. In black and white photos of tanks this seems to be the darkest colour, perhaps when fresh tonally similar to British SCC1a – a very dark brown.
In Army Air Force use No.43 Tochi-iro was a dark dull brown (Munsell 2.5Y 3/0.3.
Karekusa-iro – “dead” or “parched grass”. 15% reflectance; to be used on 20% of the surface area, in 1 metre blotches. In “southern” schemes Karekusa-Iro was to be used on all the suspension and on the undersides of gun barrels to give counter-shading. 15% is not especially light, but the critical thing here is that it should contrast with both the other colours, but more strongly with the brown than the green. This seems to be confirmed by black and white photographs where the lightest tone still contrast strongly with white. It’s lighter than OD, but the contrast is not that of for example “sand” and OD. It seems to have been a darkish dull sandy colour and has been described as fading grey. Taki has matched it with straight Gunze Sangyo No.21 Middle Stone, a colour that seems close to Humbrol 26 from the printed colour cards I’ve seem. (Faded with white spirit, 26 can be quite yellow and surprisingly light). The Japanese Army Air Force used a colour by this name, (No. 42) which has been matched to Munsell 7.5Y 4/1.3. I’ve only seen a digital version of this but it’s still a medium rather than a light colour and is an olivey sand grey. However, it may be that any darkish greyish sand is in order
The 1942 regulations suspended the use of black outlining, and no mention is made of the striking yellow bands seen in China and early in WW2. Contrary to the effect given in the recent Polish work, this yellow has been described as a strong bright colour.
So in summary:
China, Home Islands and SE Asia – a three tone scheme with a dull olive base and dark brown and a dark cull sandy tone for camouflage. The effect is of medium-dark/very dark/light-medium where Olive Drab and Panzer Grey are “dark”. Early in the War bright yellow disruptive bands with some black outlining during the war in China
SW Pacific – Base of a dark green, with the very dark brown and dull sandy colour
Navy – Amphibious tanks were an overall dark blue grey, apparently known as “silver grey” and in the range of FS595a 36118. Much work has been done on Imperial Japanese colours, and a good set of well researched colour chips is available from Snyder and Short Enterprises, via White Ensign Models. In general terms a grey in the range of Humbrol 112 or 79 fits best.
Green was also used on Leyte, and at least one instance of (apparently) green over striping is known. The Navy had two greens of its own – one rather bluer than FS595a 34092, the other a little richer than 34172. Obviously, I’ve no idea if the green used was one of these, but the lighter one might be a contender if a Navy green was used.
Interiors – Probably white, on the basis of photographic evidence
We’ve into very murky water here. My evidence is as follows:
The aircraft research is at www.j-aircraft.com. Look in the FAQs on the discussion lists.
Steve Zaloga Japanese tank markings..Airfix magazine March 1977 pp.394-400and Saipan Chi-ha Military Modelling August 1999; Tank Battles of the Pacific War 1941-1945 Concord, 1995 (Armor at War 7004). Zaloga’s earlier Armour of the Pacific War, Osprey, 1983 (Vanguard 35) gives an interpretation of Japanese colours not supported by his later findings. The plates are still useful for patterns and markings, however. Andrej Tomczyk Japanese armour Vol.1, AJ Press 2002 has excellent photos text and scale drawings, but I feel that whilst useful, the colour plates show too pale a yellow and too green a base tone for most uses.
ă Mike Cooper, 2004