Luftwaffe Colors 1935 - 1945


Michael Ullmann






Scott Van Aken


It was with a great deal of anticipation that I started reading this book. If you haven't been reading M2 for long, you may not realize that I'm a Luftwaffe junkie, a condition shared by quite a lot of modelers. I'm able to suppress the desire to crank out cross-emblazoned model after model after model, but I read about the subject all the time. Probably no area of modeling Luftwaffe subjects is more interesting or more contentious than camouflage. Early war stuff is pretty straight-forward, but when one gets to the later stages when things started to break down, it gets interesting to say the least.

Before I go any further into the book, let me hit on the stats. The book is hardcover, 9" x 12", 256 pages, 300 black and white photos as well as 16 pages of color camouflage diagrams and a paint chip chart at the end of the book. My book came with a form to send in to get an updated paint chart as there seems to have been some glitches or omissions in the one in the book. As of this writing I've not sent in my form so cannot tell you what is changed or how long it will take to get it.

Let me start off the 'what's in the book' part by telling you what it is not. It is not a book full of color profiles of Luftwaffe aircraft that you can use on your next model. That isn't to say that the book is not of interest or use to modelers, it is just that this is, shall I say, a more scholarly treatise of the subject than the usual run-of-the-mill book that you often see. The author has gone to great lengths to use available documentation on the subject, including primary reference material to delve into the actual requirements for Luftwaffe aircraft colors. You won't find specific individual aircraft camouflage schemes or deviations as this book goes strictly into what was required by specifications. In fact, a section of the book is a translation of those specifications into English. As such, it is by no means a quick read.

That is not to say that it is dry reading, just that it is a scholarly work and needs to be approached as such. What I found refreshing was that rarely does the author make blanket absolutes about identifying colors in photographs. While this may irritate some, the truth is that judging colors with absolution from a black and white or even a period color photo is near impossible. The author goes on to say that certain factories used the paints from specific paint manufacturers. Though these manufacturers were all working from the same specifications, their paints were not perfect matches for each other. As the war continued, the deviation from these specs became greater and greater. Finally, in the last months, there were instructions from on high not to paint the undersides of planes at all! Unfortunately, the underside of a plane is the most difficult to see in these photos so much of what we thought was paint in late war planes could easily have been bare or just primered metal.

In the book were other interesting bits of information that I'd not known, such as the tendency to paint the upper wings, or portions thereof, of seaplanes a yellow color. I also learned that the later war colors RLM 81/82 were also the same colors used to paint buildings and were chosen because of a lack of needed materials for the paint. In addition, I found out that many early Luftwaffe planes were painted with colors used on Lufthansa aircraft, and this included Spanish Civil War types, so keep your light greys on your He-51s and Bf-109Bs as this color was as common if not more so than RLM 63! Even that color is a lighter shade than most supposed.

The book itself is broken down into several sections and includes a historical background of where the RLM paint system came from, tropical colors, maritime colors, snow camouflage, night camouflage, gliders and sailplanes, markings and insignia, interior colors, caring for the paintwork and other sections. Most of the sections have a very large photo section that shows the information in practice. Even this somewhat jaded Luftwaffe fan found most of the photos new to him. They were also chosen for clarity and crispness whenever possible.  Included are many pages of two and three views of official camouflage patterns on various aircraft types, most of them in color.

Bottom line, should this book be on your shelf? Well, if you want a book of pretty profiles and something that looks like a compilation of several dozen decal sheet markings guides, then this may not be the book for you. If you are really interested in Luftwaffe camouflage and want to know where the colors originated as well as the instructions that dictated what was to be used where and when, then this is a book that you must have on your shelf.

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