Sunday 22 June 2008

Zero Interior Colours

Questions about Zero interior colours are regularly asked  so I thought it would be useful to post the information here as a permanent reference. There were variations of course but this is a basic summary.

The Mitsubishi colour was typically an olive green measured as Munsell 10 Y 4/4. The closest FS equivalent is 34151 which is not quite yellow enough. This colour is identical to Thorpe's N5 'Light Olive Green' and is identified as colour AN34 by Robert C Mikesh in his 'Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945' (Monogram Aviation Publications, 2000). Curiously it is similar to the Army colour #29 'Ki Midori Iro' (Yellow green colour) seen in the cockpits of some Nakajima Army aircraft like the Type 1 fighter. 

The Nakajima colour was a slightly greyish green measured as 2.5 GY 4/2. The closest FS equivalent is 34097 which is too green and not quite grey enough. This colour is identified as N33 in the Mikesh book. There is no direct Thorpe equivalent, the nearest being N4 Light Grey Green which is 7.5 GY 5/2, the closest FS equivalent to which is 34226.  This is like a faded version of N33 and is also an interior colour identified in his earlier 'Japanese Cockpit Interiors' (Monogram Aviation Publications, 1977).

Thorpe identified another interior colour as N6 Buff Green, measured as 7.5 Y 5/4, the closest FS equivalent to which is 14255 (a little too dark). This colour is also included in the earlier Mikesh book but is not mentioned in connection with the Zero or identified in the later book. This Buff Green is often cited as the Nakajima interior colour and indeed the White Ensign Models Colourcoats paint ACJ004 'Nakajima Interior Grey-Green' is more like this colour than N33.

Mr Mikesh identified a brush painted tan colour measured as 3.2 Y 7.6/3.5 as being seen in the cockpits of two A6M3 aircraft, a Model 32 and 22, the closest FS equivalent being 33578. This colour is identified as N38 in the later Mikesh book. Ichiro Hasegawa has also reported a matt yellow, similar to this colour, as being seen in the cockpit of an A6M2 aircraft. Important Update: Ryan Toews has since provided further observations and an update about this colour, posted here.

With appreciation and thanks to Ken Glass for kindly providing the sRGB values for the fractional Munsell notations. Further interior colours specific to individual Mitsubishi and Nakajima aircraft may be found here and here.

Friday 13 June 2008

The Vexed Question of IJN Browns ~ Part 6

James F Lansdale has now posted some Munsell values for browns in his own report on IJN "kumogata" (cloud pattern) camouflage at

These values for H2 are drawn from the Yokosuka Ku (Yokoku) report No.0266 and differ in appearance by researcher as shown.  The colours are much less reddish than the facsimile Kariki 117 chip for H2 and reflect Watanabe-san's reservations as expressed in Arawasi magazine:

"Seeing these colours, grave doubts remain as the differences are so great, even taking into account colour shift and fading.

In that case, could there also be the possibility that the colour number used in Kugihô 0266 were according to a paint specification other than (Kariki) 117?  We presumed that the colour numbers used in Kugihô 0266 were those in (Kariki) 117, but there is not one reference to (Kariki) 117 in Kugihô 0266."

The colour measured from the remains of a Type 1 Rikko (either K-913 or K-393) by Dr Charles Darby appears to be much closer in character to the facsimile chip for H2 and the Navy colour N11 as identified by Donald W Thorpe, but of course we have no way of knowing whether this colour was actually H2 as applied.

Also, it is not possible to determine that the brown colours as displayed in Kugihô 0266 and Kariki 117 were the same brown colours used in the early kumogata schemes applied in China, as depicted in the contemporary artwork shown here. The precise appearance of the early kumogata browns remains somewhat elusive.

The Hasegawa suggested GSI Creos paint mix for their G3M kit results in a rich, reddish medium brown somewhere between 5 YR 3/3 and 5 YR 4/4, a colour closest to Thorpe's N11 Medium Brown (5 YR 3/4) and the colour found on the Type 1 Rikko K-913/K-393 but with a stronger chroma.

Not all bad news for modellers, though. Armed with the contemporaneous artwork and the colours identified in Kariki 117, by Don Thorpe and shown here, it is possible to make an informed choice about how to present the IJN browns on a model. 

Images credit: Rendered colour chips ©Straggler

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Kanoya Ku Type 1 Rikko over Prince of Wales

To continue our exploration of the IJN "kumogata" theme James F Lansdale has kindly provided this contemporary artwork of a Kanoya Ku Type 1 Rikko flying over HMS Prince of Wales in December 1941.

Osamu Tagaya's "Mitsubishi Type 1 Rikko 'Betty' Units of World War 2", #22 in Osprey's Combat Aircraft series is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in this incident or Japanese naval bomber operations. 

Type 96 Carrier Bomber Fights on Land!

A splendid contemporary painting of a Type 96 Carrier Bomber (Aichi D1A2) landing on a Chinese airfield to destroy aircraft. Note the bright medium green and dark reddish brown camouflage colours depicted by the artist and the interesting detail of the tail code painted on a green band.

Image credit: ©Donald W Thorpe via LRA

The Vexed Question of IJN Browns ~ Part 5

Some more contemporary images of IJN aircraft in China from Donald W Thorpe via LRA. Distant view of B4Y2 on an airfield (top) and images of G3M bombers in flight.

James F Lansdale has commented about these images as follows:

"Contemporary art and contemporary colorized photos of IJNAF aircraft over China show kumogata finishes with light green and a mustard color predominating. Others show darker green and dark chocolate brown, and still others show medium green and terracotta."

Jim points out, and I concur, that we should not assume these are all accurate interpretations by the artists of the colors actually used.

Images credit: ©Donald W Thorpe via LRA

Tuesday 10 June 2008

The Vexed Question of IJN Browns ~ Addendum

In an addendum to Part 3, James F Lansdale has kindly written to me regarding the Asahi Journal article as follows:

"The piece I originally received from Charles DARBY was a deep burgundy chocolate which I matched visually to FS595b 20059. As with the majority of FS matches, this was as close as I could come at the time in the 1990's. Seldom are the FS matches exact or dead-on.

The Munsell system is far better with a greater range of colors.

It was not until after my report to Tom HALL that I obtained the JIS Munsell color references from Katsushi OWAKI and I also began to use colorimetric readings from electronic devices. However, the point I made regarding this 'brown' color and its FS reading is now moot!

I have more recently found out from DARBY that the sample in question did not come from a Type 1 Rikko, but (from) the spinner of a Hien."

Thanks for the correction, Jim. Hopefully Jim will be posting some colour readings for the Type 1 Rikko "kumogata" colours shortly.

P.S. The image is of the late, great Max Wall and has absolutely nothing to do with this post!

Monday 9 June 2008

The Vexed Question of IJN Browns ~ Part 4

This contemporary painting (upper image) of a Nakajima Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplane over China depicts a strong reddish brown and a surprisingly light green. It makes me wonder whether interpretations of the colours from monochrome photographs of 96 Kansen have got the colours reversed. Reddish brown photographs quite dark in black and white.

The Type 97  Carrier Attack Aircraft (97 Kanko - Kyu Nana Shiki Kanjoh Kohgeki-ki) was another IJN type that received an application of green and brown camouflage during operations over China. 

Hasegawa's 1989 edition of the kit called for the brown on an attractive red-tailed China based 12th Ku example (lower image) to be mixed from 60% Yellow + 30% Brown + 5% Black+ 5% Red, all using GSI Creos (Gunze Sangyo) Aqueous colours. When the same kit was re-issued in 1995 the colour mix for a China based 14th Ku example was given as 65% Brown + 20% Black + 10% Yellow + 5% Red. 

Images credit: ©Ichiro Hasegawa & Hasegawa Seisakusho Co. Ltd 1989

Army Type 2 Fighter 'Shoki'

These wonderfully evocative images of the Type 2 Fighter 'Shoki' are from a wartime children's book and have been very kindly shared by Sung Sin Myung whose grandfather served as a JAAF pilot in the CBI theatre.

Sometimes translated as "Demon Queller" or "Devil Queller", Shoki is actually the Japanese name for a Chinese Taoist deity (more properly an immortal) called Chung Kuei or Zhong Kui. There are numerous myths and legends about this character and he is featured prominently in paintings, statuettes and door posters, usually as a fierce faced bearded man in the plain robes and cap of a scholar, armed with a sword.

According to one myth, in ancient times the Tang Dynasty emperor Tai Zong was plagued in his sleep by evil spirits and demons. His resolute minister Zhong Kui and a steadfast companion Hu Jing De stood guard over the emperor overnight and kept the demons away. Both characters became immortalised as door or threshold gods, their painted effigies used to protect homes and temples from evil spirits. They came to represent resolute defence against evil spirits and demons - a fitting name for the Type 2 which found success as a fast-climbing point defence interceptor.

In Japanese culture Shoki dates back to at least the Kamakura era (1185-1392).

Images credit: ©Sung Sin Myung

Sunday 8 June 2008

Another Type 96

Ken Glass very kindly contributed these photographs that he took of another Fine Molds A5M2a, built by Art McNitt, a modelling buddy in the Augusta GA area. Unfortunately Ken does not recall the brown paint used for the model.

The Vexed Question of IJN Browns ~ Part 3

In the late and much lamented Asahi Journal, Vol.3 No.4, Tom Hall cites a relic from a 1 Shiki Rikko (Ichi Shiki Rikujoh Kohgeki-ki - Type 1 Land-based Attack Aircraft - 'Betty'), belonging to noted colour researcher and collector James F Lansdale, as revealing "a dark chocolate colour around FS 20059". In the article it is mentioned that Jim Lansdale felt that at least one other brown was used. 

At first glance this colour seems to bear little relevance to any of the Kariki 117 chips but when one considers the FS 20045 match for N0 provided by Ryôichi Watanabe a slightly different picture emerges. The difference between 20059 and 20045 is 4.02. There is no equivalent Navy colour identified by Don Thorpe but curiously the closest FS match for his Army colour A11 Dark Brown(Munsell 10R 2/2) is also 20059 @ 5.35.

This dark chocolate colour appears frequently in artistic representations of Navy aircraft, but is again quite distinct from the yellowish and medium reddish browns discussed earlier.

In Model Art 510 H2 (see previous posts) is matched to FS 30099 and this colour was also cited in a post about 1 Shiki Rikko colours at by François P Weill. The basis for this match is unknown. However, it is difficult to discern a close similarity when comparing the H2 facsimile chip to FS 30099.

The Vexed Question of IJN Browns ~ Part 2

William Reece very kindly contributed photographs of his excellent 96 Kansen (Kyu Roku Shiki Kanjoh Sentoh-ki), built in 1/48th scale from the Fine Molds kit. William says he is not totally happy with the colours chosen but it looks very good to me!

In Model Art 510 Shigeru Nohara suggests that well-known 96 Kansen white '4-122' , a 13th Ku aircraft flown by PO 1/c Mitsugu Mori in February 1938, was painted in camouflage of D1 (dark green) and H2 over J3 undersurfaces.  It is not clear how Nohara-san arrives at this information but it may be significant that H2 features in Kugihô 0266.  
The appearance of J3 has already been discussed elsewhere on this blog. Unfortunately H2 was missing from the Kariki 117 copy examined by Ryôichi Watanabe, so we do not have a JPMA, Munsell or FS595b comparison for that particular colour. D1 is said to be like FS 16081, a very dark grey rather than green, and said to look like a German "field grey", whereas the D1 chip in Kugihô 0266 is described as a "dark green-black colour". Puzzling.

The Fujimi 1/72nd 96 Kansen kit calls for Gunze Aqueous H72 or Mr Color 22 'Dark Earth' for the camouflage brown, with silver painted or natural metal finish undersurfaces. The box art by artist Masahiro Mino appears to show the more yellowish brown colour, whilst the box side profile depicts a darker more reddish brown. I would be very interested to learn about the painting instructions in the Fine Molds kit. Comments welcome.

Comment ~ A Mystery Message from Hawaii

The majority of correspondence received for this site is friendly, informative and generous. I have never, knowingly, provided any input to to the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor, to the San Diego Aerospace Museum or to Mike Wilson, apparently the Founding Curator at the former and the former Assistant Curator and Restoration Supervisor at the latter. It was a surprise therefore to receive the following message from Mr Wilson via the Private Message Board at


Thanks for your input, but I think we all know the Japanese didn't use FS #'s to paint their airplanes. Those of us that do historical color and markings research as a profession are well aware of when and where to qoute (sic) FS #'s and when to not (sic).

Mike Wilson
Kalaheo, Kaua'i

Founding Curator, Pacific Aviation Museum, Pearl Harbor and former Assistant Curator and Restoration Supervisor, San Diego Aerospace Museum."

Somewhat strange then that professional historical color and markings researcher Mr Wilson cites nothing but FS #'s in his posts concerning the thorny subject of "Brown-Tailed Kates" at!

And as readers will know I invariably qualify any FS #'s cited in connection with Japanese aeroplanes with the DE2000 colour difference formula recommended by the Commission International de l'Éclairage (CIE). Although I prefer to use Munsell values to communicate and display colour I am well aware that a majority of enthusiasts only have access to FS595b in order to gain an understanding of the appearance of these colours and well aware of the limitations and non-historical context of this standard. That said Mr Wilson's admonition (?) fell firmly into the category of unnecessary information.

My attempts to contact Mr Wilson to ascertain exactly what he is on about have been met with a wall of silence and I remain none the wiser. Hopefully, if he should happen to read this post he might do me the professional to amateur courtesy of unravelling his less-than-friendly mystery message. 

The cliques, jealousies, professional snobbery and zeal for "exclusivity" which riddle this area of research do no favours for the subject matter and no favours to its many enthusiasts. I'm told that the same was true for Luftwaffe research a few decades ago so hopefully those most responsible for the situation will eventually grow out of it.  

One of the great things about having your own blog is that you can't be censored, misrepresented, "ganged up on" or misquoted on it. The freedom the internet extends to express opinions and share information will become truly revolutionary as more people begin to use it. More power to their elbows.

The Vexed Question of IJN Browns ~ Part 1

A query from a correspondent recently set me thinking about the vexed question of IJN Browns.  Kariki 117 (Kaigunkôkûkiyo Toryô Shikibetsu Hyôjun, Kariki 117 Bessatsu - Paint Identification Standard for Navy Aircraft, Supplement to Provisional Regulation 117) contains no less than 4 distinct "brown" groupings:-

A Kasshoku ~ Browns; these are four reddish or sienna type browns (see plates)
H Cha iro ~ More browns; these are four medium to earth browns
I Tsuchi iro ~ Earth or clay browns; these are slightly greenish olive ochres
N Azuki iro ~ Yet more browns; "Azuki Bean" colours, four more browns that range from a dark chocolate to yellowish, sandy earth

As far as I know the reason for so many browns and their intended use has not yet been revealed, nor have the many anomalies in the descriptions and comparisons (variously published) been reconciled. One copy of Kariki 117 is noted as a revision dated 10th April, 1942, but it is not clear when the original regulation came into force and what bearing, if any, it may have had on the camouflage colours applied to Navy aircraft in China before the outbreak of the Pacific war.   

When modellers and artists depict the IJN browns on, say, the Type 96 Carrier Fighter ('Claude') or Type 96 Attack Bomber ('Nell'), they seem almost equally divided in selecting either a yellowish earth colour or a darker, more reddish brown. The profiles in FAOW 91 on the Type 96 Attack Bomber depict both the yellowish earth and the reddish brown. The yellow earth colour is similar to H3, or perhaps I1, whilst the reddish brown is somewhere between A1 and A2.

Don Thorpe ('Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage And Markings World War II', Aero Publishers, California, 1977) identified the brown in the Type 96 Attack Bomber 'kumogata' (clouds pattern) camouflage as N11 'Medium Brown', which was measured as Munsell 5 YR 3/4. The closest FS 595b colour is 20122 @ 3.71 (2.0 or less = a close match), so it is not a particularly useful comparison. This colour does not appear to easily align with any of the matches cited for the Kariki 117 colours, although perhaps fitting somewhere between the appearance of the facsimile chips for H1 and H2.

At this point it is worth mentioning that the variously published matches to FS595b and JPMA (Japanese Paint Manufacturers Association) chips (the latter aligned to Munsell values) are not consistently in agreement and in one or two cases widely divergent. It is presumed that the matches have been made visually, and therefore subjectively, which may account for the differences. In a recently published article Ryôichi Watanabe makes the point that he has noticed differences between the colours included in Kugihô 0266 (Kugihô 0266 Reishikikansen Meisai ni kan suru Kenkyû - Air Technical Report 0266, Research into Type Zero Carrier Fighter Camouflage) and Kariki 117, although the colours bear the same letter/number identification.

"Seeing these colo(u)rs, grave doubts remain as the differences are so great, even taking into account colour shift and fading." (Ryôichi Watanabe, 'True Colours: Kariki 117', Arawasi International, Apr-Jun 2008, Issue 9).

Even Watanabe-san finds it puzzling why N3 should be so  similar to H4. Wakarimasen (I don't know).

The colour information provided in the old LS kit of the 'Nell' (circa 1960) was also contradictory. The description given was "yellowish brown", suggesting perhaps the H or I colours, but the profiles depicted a reddish brown colour, more like the A series.

I looked at the more recent Hasegawa kit and the colour is described as "dark brown", to be obtained by a mixture of 40% Brown + 30% Yellow + 30% Green, using primary colours in the Gunze Sangyo (now GSI Creos) Aqueous or Mr Color ranges. I have now tried this mix and it results in a strong reddish medium brown, somewhere between Munsell 5 YR 3/3 and 5 YR 4/4.  The colour is closest to the Type 1 Rikko K-913/K-393 colour (see Part 6) and Thorpe's Medium Brown N11 but has a stronger chroma.

To be continued . . . 

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Toshirou Mifune, Aviator

The great Japanese film actor Toshirou Mifune was born in Tsingtao, China in 1920, the son of photographer Tokuzo Mifune. In 1925 the Mifune family moved to Dalian, China where Tokuzo opened the Star Photographic Studio.

In 1940 Toshirou was drafted and joined the Manchoukuo Air Force, being posted after training to the 7th Hiko Chutai as an aerial photographer. In 1941 he was transferred to the 8th Hiko Chutai's intelligence unit and subsequently sent to Yokaichi in Shiga, Japan to augment JAAF aircrew.

By the end of the war he was serving with the 17th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai at Kumanosho in Kumamoto. The main aircraft types that Toshirou flew in were the Type 98 Direct Co-operation Aeroplane ('Ida'), Type 99 Assault Aeroplane ('Sonia') and Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Aeroplane ('Dinah').

Famous for his role in Kurosawa's 'The Seven Samurai' and other classic Japanese films, Toshirou also took parts in the English language films 'Hell in the Pacific' 1968 (with Lee Marvin) and 'Midway' 1976.

Toshirou Mifune died in 1997 at the age of 77.

Image credits: Author's collection