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The USA - 1941-1945


Colours US Army Engineers Standard Camouflage Colours.  Pre mixed.
Patterns Given in FM-5-20 and FM-5-21 Oct.1942 and FM-5-20B and TM-5-267, July 1943.  Operational Memorandum 34 of March 1943 covered Sicily
Applied by a. factory, b. Army Engineer Camouflage Battalions.
Documents As "Patterns"  



The US Army had a particularly thorough approach to vehicle camouflage, which seems to have been almost equally thoroughly ignored in practice.    As in British use, with the exception of some touching up no painting was undertaken by the crews, unless under the guidance of Engineer Camouflage Battalions or in the case of winter finishing/mud daubing.   One plus with US AFVs is that the Federal Standard FS595a to which many modellers refer as a general colour guide was the standard used by the US Army


The majority of US vehicles were plain Olive Drab, No.9 in the US Army Engineers vocabulary, referred to by the Army itself as 319.  Until the 1970s OD was one of the oldest continuously used military colours in the world, dating at least from the 1860s.   It is usually quoted as matching the US FS595a colour 34087, and this has caused no end of problems as 34087 was a mistake in the standard.  As Mike Starmer has pointed out to me, the colour is too light and too brown.   In 1984 an amendment to the standard made OD 33070 in FS595b.   Looking at colour film from 1944-45, I’m struck by how un 34087 (595a) the vehicles are!


OD can be mixed with Humbrol 155 and Revell 42 in ratio 1:1.  The British colour SCC15 was intended as an exact match for OD (when fresh) and so its mix will work as well.  When faded OD looked either browner or greyer than SCC15, which kept its green tint.   


Camouflage patterning was described officially in four main documents


FM-5-20, October 1942 

5-20 was an initial attempt to provide for camouflage painting for a variety of different settings and it discussed general principles.  FM-5-20B was revision with pattern diagrams.  I know of 5-20 only through references elsewhere and a 1959 version. 


FM-5-21, 7 October 1942

Provided pattern painting diagrams and background instructions for use in temperate, desert and arctic conditions using 2-3 colours.  In some instances the patterns were very complex, but the overall effects is very like that of the British MTP46, brought in a year earlier – darker upper surfaces smudged into the verticals by blotching.   Both are primarily designed to destroy shapes against aerial observation.   It is very difficult to find examples of 5-21 in use outside the USA, although some – a very few – 76mm Shermans do seem to have a tempting dark line around their turret tops, which might just indicate that they were in black a la FM-5-31 temperate schemes.   As he idea was that the two colours – black and OD – blended together and a they were already tonally similar then it is not surprising that its hard to tell.  I am convinced from photographic evidence that it found its way onto trucks in the USA


Operational Memorandum 34, March 1943

Bold two toned schemes using an OD base, with either No.6/305 Earth Yellow or No.8/312 Earth Red.  The effect was like a larger boned version of the British October 1942 and April 1943 patterns, and the scheme was for use in Sicily and Italy.  The actual pattern designs seem to have been ignored, with vehicles being sprayed in large sweeping areas of colour, usually Earth Yellow.   


FM-5-20B and TM-5-267, July 1943

2-3 tone schemes with some white counter-shading.   Although standard patterns were issued the spirit of the instructions seems to have been followed rather than the letter.   This sprayed black rolling bands are common, as are the same using No.5 Earth Brown.  Occasionally, and mainly in Italy, signs of white counter-shading under the gun barrel, and top run of the tracks appear, as provided for in these instructions.   Understandably, given the flexibility of interpretations, its difficult to be sure just which instruction the Engineer doing the painting had in mind! (If any).



No.9 OD – discussed above

No.5 Earth Brown – Matches FS595a 30099 – Weisfelt suggests Humbrol 26+29+98 in ratio 2:1:2.  In my copy of 595a 30099 seems a dark dull brown, darker than British SCC2 and duller.

No.6 Earth Yellow – 30257 – a light earth with some yellow aspect.  Weisfelt says 26+29+63 in ratio 1:1:7.   The 26 and 29 calm the vivid 63 down a bit.  Revell 88 may be a good starting point.

No.8 Earth Red – 30117 – strong medium to dark red brown.  Humbrol186+black is a good basis.



Generally as Army (sorry guys..) but Weisfelt notes some limited use of USMC Green 33/Dark Forest Green late in the War as a base tone instead of OD.   Wilcox and Smith say that a “Forest Green” matched FS595a 34079, but this seems to be an Army colour.  They call the USMC colour “No.23 Marine Corps Green, and state that this came from  “the old Yards and Docks list of colors”.  Their conclusion is that it was as common as OD on USMC vehicles and matches FS595a 24052.   Down this dark the FS595 greens are very hard to differentiate except in direct sunlight, but if this colour was used, then it would appear as a dark dull green with some hint of blue perhaps, a hint missing from the more olive Army tanks.  Weisfelt mixes the USMC colour with 2 parts Humbrol 66 to 1 part 116.

Given the similarity in tone of OD and the USMC Green, I’d be quite reluctant to jump in favour of the latter unless I’d got a colour shot showing the two side-by-side and different beyond the range of OD variations.

Wilcox and Smith note the use of No.1 Light Green over the USMC Green on Saipan, and  “No6 Earth Yellow and “No.13 Desert Pink”  (Dessert Pink is the colour of blancmange…).   They say that this pair came out on equipment shipped from North Africa.    Earth Yellow is covered in the list above.   The other two colours are:


No.1 Light Green – FS595a 34151 – 34151 could use Humbrol 159 as a starting point


No.13 Desert Sand (note not Pink) – 30279 – According to my eyes this is something like a Mix of 110+touch 64 or 72 and 119


Amtraks appear in what Weisfelt calls “Pale Blue”, but which Zaloga calls Ocean Gray.   I must say that looking at available US Navy colours and practices and photographs I favour the latter.   The most up to date statement of USN practice is by Alan Raven in the excellent journal Plastic Ship Modeller 1997/3.    Colour chips are available from Snyder & Short enterprises.  Both these and Plastic Ship Modeller are available in the UK via White Ensign Models.   If this was “Pale Blue” then according to Weisfelt it is matchable with Humbrol 157.  This match helps reinforce my view that we may be dealing with 5-O Ocean Gray, which for 1944 would be mixable with 2xHumbrol 104+1x67+1xwhite 

I’d like to thank George Hogg who sent me Wilcox and Smith and a copy of FM5-21


References.   Wilcox, L and Smith J  U.S.Army & Marine camouflage colours  [?] Modellers Journal Publications, 1970;  Weisfelt, F  Colours of [US] Military vehicles  Tankette 27/5-28/3.   Zaloga 

Steven, J.  US Armour camouflage and markings 1917-45 Osprey, 1984 (Vanguard 39).   Wise, T D-Day to Berlin Arms and Armour Press, 1979.    I’ve not made reference to the ever-popular D-Day to Berlin before in these articles, as despite its lovely photographic coverage its colour plates and texts for two thirds of the book are badly in need of re-working.  The section on the British Army in particular is misleading now, and has misled.   The problem seems to be that whilst the author has actually read some of the relevant ACIs and MTPs he may not have had access to the relevant BS colours, and confuses SCC2 with Dark Earth (the RAF colour) and confuses SCC15 with SCC7 and Khaki Green G3, labelling SCC15 “khaki drab”.   Given the scarcity of the two Standards needed this is understandable.   Anyway, rant over - its US section appears very thorough, although its failure to cite sources is a let-down.  By the way, note how dark most of the vehicles look.


ã Mike Cooper, 2004






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