Saturday 22 June 2024

Kariki 117 Colour I3 and 8609 Colour 3-3 Tsuchi iro

The colour I3 from the Tsuchi iro (Earth or clay) colour set on Kariki 117 was once mooted as both the Zero colour and the colour of Pearl Harbour era B5N2 'Kates' (97 Shiki Kanjo Kogeki-ki 九七式艦上攻撃機  or 97 KanKo - 九七艦攻). The late David Aiken described the 'Kate' colour as 'Grey Poupon', alluding to the appearance of French mustard, but it was also described as 'khaki'. The degree of grey, green or yellowishness perceived in the colour has varied according to different visual comparisons but the 3-3 swatch from the February 1945 8609 colour standard has been deemed identical to the I3 which it directly succeeded. The Japanese Aeronautic Association measured L*a*b* values of the 3-3 swatch are shown below, unsurprisingly 'brown', together with visual comparisons made previously by Japanese researchers. 

The Ryôichi Watanabe comparison to FS 20318 seems anomalous and he described Kariki 117's I3 somewhat enigmatically in an article in Arawasi magazine (Issue 9, Apr-Jun 2008) as 'used as a second coat on Zero fighters and other aircraft, but there are several people who wrongly believe that I3 is ameiro (a light brown or amber colour)'. Did he mean a second coat as between the red oxide primer and 'grey' topcoat or as the topcoat itself?  The comparison to FS 34201 by Owaki-san takes us into Zero 'olive grey' territory.  

The question of natural metal finish (nmf) under surfaces on some Pearl Harbor 'Kates' has run long and in its 1/48 scale kits Hasegawa has variously depicted grey green or 'silver'. The late Jim Lansdale was of the opinion that the finish varied as the result of production chronology and that he had examined KanKo artefacts where the dark green was painted over nmf and others where it was painted over the 'olive grey' finish. He estimated that the last 200-300 KanKo produced by Nakajima up to August 1941 were probably in a factory applied overall olive grey scheme, implying that older aircraft already in service may have been camouflaged dark green on upper surfaces but retained nmf under surfaces. His extant sample of metal from the so-called 'Hospital Kate' did not have any primer and he had seen no evidence of any primer on the olive grey painted aircraft. Does that imply that they were possibly IJN Depot rather than factory painted after the olive grey paint was adopted for the Zero? In any event the olive grey appears to have been the warmer. more yellowish Nakajima colour. It was possibly patches of that paint showing through the dark green camouflage paint that gave rise to the idea of PH KanKo sporting 'brown' blotches on the green camouflage.  

Fuchida described the Kates as being camouflaged very roughly and hastily in green and brown (茶褐色 chakasshoku) with his own aircraft remaining 'bright' underneath, which is a little ambiguous but might suggest the aircraft was unpainted prior to camouflaging and that the under surface retained a natural metal finish. The problem with Japanese descriptions of 'brown' has been discussed before but chakasshoku appears to cover colours from dark reddish brown to yellowish brown or tawny.  The box art on the Nichimo Kate was based on his description but depicts a very dark brown. FWIW the paint on the 'Hospital' Kate is a slightly variegated Munsell 7.5 Y 5-6/2 which puts it into that familiar slightly lighter than FS 34201/16350 territory. Therefore the difference between I3 and the Zero-type olive grey is probably unimportant. One detail that is easily overlooked is that the amber/olive-grey paint was glossy whilst the dark green camouflage was duller or flat. 

A fabric sample from the 'Southeast Loch Kanko' had a layer of red oxide, a layer of aluminium and a top coating of olive grey. A piece of the rudder fabric had bright red over the olive grey layer. Jim Lansdale noted that according to Bob Mikesh the under surface fabric of a B5N amongst the approximate 50 manufactured by No. 11 Kokusho during 1939-40 was doped a blue-grey colour approximating Munsell 5 PB 6/1. That would be approximate to FS 36320, so possibly not the more neutral, dove grey of J3.  The pigments in 36320 as might be expected for a low saturated 'purple blue'  are rutile (non chalking) titanium dioxide (white), green shade phthalo blue, quinacridone red and blue shade carbon black. But in addition to the manufactured aircraft the No.11 Kokusho may have reconditioned or modified many B5N airframes from 1942 until March 1944 applying an unknown variety of paints. The B5N was also manufactured by Aichi from June 1942 to September 1943 with a run of approximately 200. Probably one of the most common pitfalls for modellers is to assume that extant paint examples from one aircraft represent all the others unvaryingly. Generally speaking Japanese modellers are much more relaxed and pragmatic about this.

The heading photo is from film footage of a Midway-era KanKo taking off and the lighter outer wings are intriguing. Is the lighter colour on this bird olive grey (or 'grey poupon'!) and was the darker green (?) camouflage applied on board the carrier with the wings folded?

Make of it what you will . . . 

Image credit: B5N photo web; Colour schematic © 2024 Aviation of Japan


Michael Thurow said...

Thank you for this post Nick. I'm happy you resumed your colour research - so very important for us AoJ modellers.
Am I reading correctly that I3 may have been the standard 'basic' colour of PH Kates? The green blotches or flaked green upper camo seen on most Kates would then have been applied on top of it (aboard ship or in a depot)?

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks Michael.

I3 was the late David Aiken's assertion based on the evidence of colour appearance. The late Jim Lansdale described it as 'olive grey', the Zero colour, although we could presume the more yellowish Nakajima paint (and for the laster Aichi-built examples). There is still uncertainty about how and where the camo of the PH attackers was applied and Jim suggested from the evidence that it was applied variously over both nmf and olive grey aircraft. David asserted that the aircraft were camouflaged at bases before embarkation and Jim that the latter production examples were factory painted olive grey before the camo was unit or depot applied. IIRC the Nichimo kit instructions quoted Fuchida that the aircraft were hastily camouflaged on board the carriers. The aircraft with the lighter outer wings does suggest that some may have been painted on board with wings folded?

Jim and I agreed that the 'brown' blotches attributed to some PH Kates was probably the olive grey (or I3!) grinning through on those with mottled-type or rough camo.

We will probably never know for absolute certain beyond partial evidence based arguments and speculations.


Baronvonrob said...

Indeed we will never have any definitive answers but the research and speculation are fascinating...any ideas on just how these paints were actually applied hand brushed or spray painted?

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hi Michael and others

I found the Fuchida quote and have included it in the blog article..


Dan G. said...

It's possible the lighter colored outer wing panels were from another "Kate" entirely, possibly to replace the damaged wings of the "Kate" shown...

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Yes that's possible but the symetry of replacing both outer wings and their tone being exactly similar to the tone of the lighter patches on the inner wings and fuselages also suggests possibly not. It's a mystery!

WD said...

Thanks so much for this! I've lone wanted to know more about the Kates used at Midway, but I've got nothing. This gives me much to think about.


WK said...

I have a beautiful Hasegawa 1/48 Kate in the stash that I have been eying lately and I'll use this information (and probably more than a few emails) to help me with my build. Thank you Nick.


Mark Smith said...

Hi Nick,

This was of great interest, as Kate has retained a higher degree of uncertainty regarding colors than most Japanese types. It is good to see Jim Lansdale’s careful work of many years referenced.

Besides Soryu’s BI-323 I don’t remember seeing many photos or artist’s depictions of overall grey Kates, or models of them. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Perfect timing, I was just going to ask you about this! With the new Border 1/35 kit (awesome BTW), I'm planning on doing Murata Shigeharu's bird. I don't know of any photos of it, I only have the color profile in Model Art 378, which shows it "chipped" like Fuchida's mount. I was thinking it's the same livery (D2 atop NMF) but only have the profile to base that on. I would think that if it were applied atop a basecoat of J3 it wouldn't chip like that. I also believe I read that the PH Kates were painted on-land prior to departure and not onboard the carriers. I can't remember the title of the book but remember one of the pilots mentioning how upset the crews were that their beautiful "silvery" mounts were painted green.

I may be obtaining a fragment of hospital Kate here soon from my friend Ron. It's D2 atop bare metal with aotake on the reverse side. If I do, I'll send you a snippet:)

Thanks again sir for all you do for us, you're truly an amazing wealth of knowledge!


Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hospital Kate? That's strange because according to the late Jim Lansdale the Hospital Kate paint was as follows:-

'The “Hospital Kate,” relic, or artifact 'USAR 162', has two colors that were examined and compared to JPMA 2005-C color samples.  The 'olive-green' paint is a glossy paint color that is a very close match to a color between JPMA C27-50D and JPMA C27-60D (Munsell 7.5Y 5/2 ~ 7.5Y 6/2; approximately 7.5Y 5.5/2).  The hinomaru red is a glossy-red close to JPMA C05-40V (Munsell 5R 4/12). No primer coat appears evident between the outer layer of paint and the natural metal.'

I'll add these Munsell colours to the article, but the closest FS to 7.5Y 5/2 is our old friend 34201 deemed 'close but distinguishable'. 7.5Y 6/2 is more greyish but has no useful FS match.Natural metal it isn't!

According to Greg several artifacts from B5N2s off the carrier 'Kaga' which were shot down at PH and which were held in storage by the Nimitz Museum in Fredricksburg had a glossy base coat that was matched to FS 16350 or a slightly lighter shade of same. Top sides were very flat dark greens in the range FS 34079, 34064, 34084.

According to Jim Lansdale a large sample of the rudder fabric from the 'Hospital Kate' [AII-35x] has the lettering in red on olive-gray and dark-green fabric. Jim also noted Kanko artefacts where the olive grey paint had been applied over a coating of aluminium paint not natural metal. In 2006 Greg Springer had a piece of Kanko from the Hospital Kate analysed by the Molecular Microspectroscopic Laboratory at Miami University, together with several A6M2 pieces, and very kindly provided me with the report. That is very clear that the dark green camouflage paint was applied over a solid 'gray-green' base coat.

Back in 2015 Jim and I had a long email exchange about natural metal and aluminium painted Kanko which were an intriguing enigma. Jim had examined many pieces from B5N2, and had some of those relics in his collection, including two shot down at PH. Among them, he found several that had aluminum paint layered under the camouflage coating of olive-gray, gray, or dark green. Others did not have a layer of aluminum paint, but did have the red-brown oxide primer coat.

Also a 'Hospital Kate' paint mix from Greg Springer in 2008:-

'The base coat is a color close to, but lighter than and more green than FS 16350

All Model Master Enamels

40 parts 'Faded Olive Drab' stock # 2051
28 parts 'Armor Sand' FS 30277 # 1704
26 parts white FS 37875 # 1768
1 part black Chrome Trim # 2735
Cover with a gloss acrylic clearcoat.
This will give you the full scale color.

Model Art 510, suggests a mix with Tamiya XF-49 (Khaki) 60%, XF-21 (Sky) 40% and a little white, black, yellow and green.'

The patchy aircraft you plan to model was off Akagi so all bets are off! The basis for Shigeru Nohara's profile of AI-311 is unknown but follows the patchy appearance of Fuchida's AI-301 in the well known photos showing it returning to the carrier on 9 April 1942.