(10) P-38 Lightning at War

At the beginning of the mass-production P-38 already fell under the 24114 specification which stated that aircraft were to be painted in Dark Olive Drab no.41on the upper surfaces and Neutral Grey no.43 on the underside with a fluent wavy contact line of the colors. The colors were satin and they were spray painted without stencils. Since the 9th of May, 1942, propellers, which were initially unpainted, according to the appendix no.3 of the previously mentioned specification, were ordered to be painted flat black, while according to appendix no.4 they also received the Identification Yellow no.48 color tips. Theoretically since April but practically since September, 1943 the Dark Olive Drab no.41 was replaced with lighter Olive Drab no.613. More or less at the same time the Neutral Grey no.43, which was produced for the British, was replaced with a similar shade of Sea Grey. On the 2nd of January, 1944, so during the production of P-38 J, the instruction T.O.07-1-1 was enforced and ordered to leave aircraft in their natural color which was officially called the Natural Metal Finish. In the case of P-38 it meant the use of putty and painting some parts of the aircraft silver. The other surfaces were left unpainted, yet they were polished and plated very precisely and at a very high esthetic level. The whole surface of the aircraft was additionally coated with one or more layers of nitrocellulose varnish. The inside of the engine compartment, landing gear chambers and the elements of the landing gear as well as the armament compartment that, until that time, had been painted in Zinc Chromate Primer or Interior Green were left in their natural metal color. To eliminate the effect of blinding the pilot by the light reflected from the smooth metal surfaces the inner, top surfaces of the engine cowlings and the front part of the fuselage, in front of the windshield, were covered with the left-over Olive Drab or in some instances black paint. On the inner sides of the engine cowlings, just like in the previous camouflage, elliptical, mirror polished part of the plating was left, which allowed the pilot to visually control the lowering of the forward landing gear. The reconnaissance versions of Lightning were at first covered with an experimental “hazy” camouflage. In order to achieve this effect, the aircraft were painted with semi-transparent, oil based paint of light blue color which was sprayed over a flat black base. The distinctive “haze” was reached by spraying on the paint with different intensity. The aim of this camouflage was to make the upper surface of the aircraft darker and the undersurface lighter. Sometimes the standard Olive Drab/Neutral Grey camouflage was used as the base. In the later period synthetic paints were used with Sky Base Blue as the base and Flight Blue as the second, sprayed on layer. In some photographs one can notice that a certain number of the aircraft were camouflaged with British PRU Blue paint. P-38M night fighter had all its surfaces painted with glossy black Jet no. 622 paint.