Even More About RLM 02

There probably wasn’t a Luftwaffe camouflage scheme that combined the colors dark green, light blue and RLM 02 “gray.” 

Anyone who has been around actual combat aircraft (I was a USAF crew chief) can tell you that change is constant, and when new instructions are issued, old instructions, in the USAF anyway, are destroyed. No effort is made to keep an “archival” copy except, maybe, under lock and key somewhere (in Washington?). Maybe.

In wartime, in some air forces (maybe the Luftwaffe in World War II) the old instructions were burned. New instructions with later dates and the absence of an older instruction concerning, say, a color scheme DOES NOT mean that no earlier instructions were issued. It just means that the older instructions were superseded and DESTROYED to keep them from being accidentally followed. I can’t prove that this is what happened in the Luftwaffe in 1940-41, but a similar situation has caused confusion for modelers trying to follow and understand USAF and US Government technical specifications in the last half of the twentieth century. New instructions do not mention, and do not reference, old instructions. That part of history is lost (to an extent). It’s certainly lost to the extent that present day model builders get confused over the true color of olive drab or the correct pattern to be painted onto an F-4 in 1969.

My opinion is that the Luftwaffe paint command (or whatever they were called) issued instructions that told ground crews to use RLM 02 on sides of the aircraft in an irregular pattern. This is clear from color photos. But we don’t see RLM 02 as part of the so-called “splinter” pattern. If that pattern wasn’t 74/75/76 (as I suspect it was) then it was “probably” 70/71/65. In some rare cases, it may have been a gray painted over either the 70 “black green” or the 71 “dark green.” This gray color was probably meant to be the same color as the old light gray 63. a 71/63/65 scheme was used in Spain and the local commanders and ground crews would have remembered it. Any of these schemes make more sense than 71/02/65. That doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t show up in any images.

But the fact that no records exist does not mean that the orders weren’t cut, and sent out to the troops, who dutifully burned them when new orders were issued. Based on my experience, and, yes, some deduction, I believe this idea makes more sense than assuming that if no paperwork exists NOW then it didn’t happen then–and any “light” color in photos must be RLM 02 just because it’s the only way to make the photos match the existing orders.


7 Replies to “Even More About RLM 02”

  1. What colours are meant to be in the above picture? I don’t see any ‘Black Green’, nor do I see a ‘RLM 65′. Maybe a bit of 71 if you look hard enough? It looks more like an RLM ’76’ underside (with added mud, or something) with possibly RLM 75 and maybe 74?

    This whole thing does my head in.

  2. Hey old buddy,

    I see you are still on a hiatus. I ran across this interesting post from one of your admirers and wondered if you had ever read it?


    A pity he didn’t post it on britmodeller, or one of the other haunts of other 02 fanatics. As you can see, nobody came to the party and actually believe his research.

    Hope all is well and you have a merry christmas,


    1. I’m going to start blogging again at some point. So many cool things to report! Thanks for the link, I always appreciate finding a new source of consternation for the designated villains in my own personal melodrama. I imagine them stroking their cats (like Blofeld) and cursing under their breath. “Damn all heretics!”

  3. “But it is RLM 02 because….it is!”. It would make a fine Monty Python movie.

    That guy in the link did a really thorough job of pointing out the lack of facts around the case, and I especially enjoyed his take on photos; While we can find photos that cover virtually every other aircraft showing colours that, while possibly shifted or faded, still roughly equate to those we expect to see, suddenly this falls down a hole when looking for the precious. You obviously sparked him off, and he really dug in to the issue with gusto and came up with zip, hence throwing it to the forum. Again, he kept nice and calm even though some of the responses were definately passive aggressive. Unfortunately, nobody actually came out and said ‘hmm, you may have a point there’. I guess when they look at their model collections and see swathes of RLM02 painted 109s, it starts a terrible internal quandary in their minds.

    After looking at so many photos myself, I am almost ready to throw the RLM 65 on 109s during the bob and afterwards down the toilet, unless it truly is as they say made up of two (or more) variants. I have yet to see in photos the deep blue/greenish blue it is sold as by countless companies. Then we come to another blue, RLM 78. Again, I cannot see evidence of anything that resembles the dark, steel greyish blue the model paint companies send our way, instead always looking more like a light, sky blue at darkest. And RLM 79…one light earlier on, then a darker one for the Tunisian campaign…ugh…

    RLM colours are just a minefield.

    Once you head down the rabbit hole, theres no turning back

    1. I really have to get back to this blog, just to discuss this RLM 02 stuff, if for no other reason. In particular I’d like to introduce into evidence a letter to the editor of Scale Models magazine from Thomas H. Hitchcock of Monogram Aviation Publications, printed in the February 1973 issue. In it, Mr. Hitchcock states that “The LDv.521 in my possession is a 1938 edition and includes the three greys: 74/75/76. This pre-dates the 1941 assumption of their introduction.” The letter, in general, is in response to “the latest book” by Karl Ries. Apparently, Mr. Hitchcock disagrees with Ries, but somehow the letter doesn’t spell out the disagreement exactly. Hitchcock just says that Ries “doesn’t go far enough” in describing the adoption of 74/75/76, and that it happened earlier than 1941. All I know is that these guys, at that time, set down “in stone” what is commonly believed about Luftwaffe colors now. But there’s no law against questioning them, as far as I know. Is there?

  4. Whew! Great job keeping your eye on the ball.
    I’m 75 and just getting over hormone and radiation treatment for a prostate tumor. I have trouble concentrating and remembering what the heck I just read. So my replys lately tend to be truncated and/or poorly written.

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