by Tommy H. Thomason

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sea Blue vs. Insignia Blue

I usually stay away from color stuff because it's not one of my areas of expertise and it's fraught with potential for error, which I prefer to avoid. This post is therefore for discussion purposes, not to provide a definitive color statement.

Toward the end of World War II, the complex Navy camouflage scheme for carrier-based aircraft was gradually replaced with an overall Sea Blue color. However, the national insignia was retained intact. This provided examples that directly compare Sea Blue and Insignia Blue. (Note that the colors may not have been accurately depicted in the original that I scanned, much less on your computer screen.)

It was eventually suggested, probably by Grumman, that the Insignia Blue surround of the national insignia was redundant and should be eliminated on all-blue airplanes. It was reportedly deleted well before the official authorization to do so was issued in June 1946.

A red bar was added in January 1947 to reinstate all the colors of the U.S. flag.*
 (This F4U would appear to have spent some time ashore in its recent past...)

I like the color in the picture immediately above but it appears to be lighter and bluer than Sea Blue color chips from Elliott, et al. Here are the current Federal Standard colors (Insignia Blue = 15044; gloss Sea Blue = 15042) according to Colorserver:

The sea-blue story is complicated by the fact that according to Dana Bell, "There were two completely different versions of ANA 623 Glossy Sea Blue. Citing the instability of the original pigments, in 1947 BuAer reformulated the color and issued new color chips. Modelers have been arguing about this for years, not realizing that some of us have the early chip (on heavy card stock) and others the newer chip (on a metal plate). The newer chip is indeed darker and is also a bit greener."

The new blue paint was also notably tougher and faded less. Note the difference between the two Corsair pictures above.

*Note that action with respect to authorization often occurred in due course. How else to explain this F4U national insignia that still has the Insignia Blue surround and also the red bar?

The picture is obviously too green; here is an auto correction, which looks about right:

That the bar is faded may be indicative of it being added in the field with paint at hand.

My impression is that Grumman painted overall-blue F6Fs with paint that didn't fade as dramatically.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Markings: A Cautionary Example

Two F4Ds, same squadron, possibly deployed but maybe not:

My guess is the Skyray at the top of the picture was a replacement aircraft that hadn't been completely marked by the squadron yet. (The presence and absence of the in-flight refueling probe isn't a marking thing but is a similar issue with respect to the configuration of a particular aircraft.) The difference in location of the squadron identification was particularly interesting. It appears three times in the picture (the angle it was taken from puts the marking on the right side of the lower airplane out of view) and each is in a different position longitudinally. The anti-glare panel color probably depended on when the airplane had gone through overhaul. I can't explain the difference in national insignia orientation. I think that at the time it was supposed to be angled.

Note that national insignia orientation wasn't as hard and fast as you might think as exemplified by this letter in the May 1949 Naval Aviation News:

Chris Paulson posted a comment with a link to a couple of F9F-5 pictures from his father's collection. I've cropped and added them to this post for your convenience.

Note the "20" on the nose that's angled nose down relative to the national insignia:

It's a bit subtle, but the placement, size, stroke weight, etc. of the "AE" on the vertical fin and rudder varies:

One of the Panthers is unpainted. See for the explanation.