Panzer Colors 1934-1945

Panzer Colors 1934-1945
by George Parada


Panzerkampfwagen I light training tank entered production in 1934 and remained in production until 1939 with almost1500 produced. Two main models were manufactured at this time – Ausf A and Ausf B. Both were armed with two 7.92mmMG13 Dreyse machine guns and weighted some 6 tons. From 1942 to 1943, small number of Ausf C fast reconnaissance/ airborne tanks and Ausf F up-armoured fast reconnaissance / infantry support / assault tanks was produced. PzKpfwI in its original form remained in service till late 1942 / early 1943. Panzerkampfwagen II was also a light trainingtank and it entered production in 1935 in small number and full-scale production started in 1937. PzKpfw II remainedin production till 1943 and produced in 11 main variants (Ausf a1 to Ausf F) with almost 1800 made. All variantswere armed with 20mm KwK 30 or KwK 38 L/55 automatic cannons and weighted some from 7.6 tons to 9.5 tons. From1942 to 1943, small number of specialized fast reconnaissance light tanks (Ausf G, H, J and M) was produced thateventually led to production of Panzerspahwagen II Ausf L Luchs light reconnaissance tank in late 1943. In 1937,both Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf A medium tank and Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf A medium support tank entered production. PzKpfw III was produced in 14 variants armed from 37mm to 75mm gun and flamethrower until 1943 with total of almost6000 made. PzKpfw IV was produced in 12 variants armed from short 75mm to long 75mm gun until 1945 with totalof some 8600 made. Both were in service to the last days of the war. In August of 1942, new German heavy tank- Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf H/E entered service and remained in service in significant numbers to the endof 1944. Tiger was armed with deadly 88mm KwK 36 L/56 gun and weighted almost 60 tons. Only 1355 were producedfrom July of 1942 to August of 1944.

PzKpfw I entered service in 1934 and first tanks were painted in Reichswehr camouflage scheme from 1922 that consistedof dark grey, dark green and dark brown matte colours. The scheme was applied to the entire vehicle in a formof cloud like patches or large irregular patches. Since the beginning, interiors of all enclosed armoured vehicleswere painted in light cream or ivory colour (RAL 1001). In 1935, PzKpfw II entered service and in the same year,OKH ordered to use new colours including dark grey and dark brown/green. Dark grey was used to cover 75% of thevehicle while dark brown/green covered the rest. New colours were also applied in a form of cloud like patchesor large irregular patches. Both colours were much darker than previously used ones and very well blended withsurroundings when covered by some dust and dirt. In 1937, small number of PzKpfw III and PzKpfw IV tanks entered servicebut it was not until mid 1940 that they were in service in significant numbers. In late 1939, OKH decided to useonly the dark (panzer) grey (RAL 7021) and by mid 1940, it was the only colour used, as it was factory applied. In the winter of 1941/42, all German vehicles on the Eastern Front were provided and applied with washable whitewinter camouflage paint that was used to cover all the visible areas. In the spring, the paint was to be washedoff revealing original dark grey. At the same time, vehicles on the Eastern Front were often applied with camouflagepatterns similar to those used in 1934-1939 period as well as mud and foliage. All vehicles send to North Africaarrived there painted in their original dark grey. In March of 1941, it ordered that vehicles in and destinedfor North Africa were to be painted in yellow brown/sand yellow (RAL 8000) as a base colour with grey green (RAL7008) for camouflage patterns. Yellow brown was to be used to cover 75% of the vehicle and grey green the rest. In the field, vehicles were often applied with mud and captured British paints. In addition, starting in springof 1942, vehicles used in the southern parts of Russia, were often applied with tropical camouflage, similar oridentical to those used in North Africa. In March of 1942, both colours used in North Africa were replaced bybrown (dark sand) (RAL 8020) and dark (panzer) grey (RAL 7021). Brown was to be used to cover 75% of the vehicleand dark grey the rest. In late August of 1942, near Leningrad, first action involving Tigers took place. NewTigers were painted overall dark (panzer) grey (RAL 7021). In December of 1942, Tigers also saw combat near Tunis. Vehicles were painted overall dark grey with a thin coat of dark olive green (RAL 6003) sprayed over it. In Februaryof 1943, by the order of OKH, dark grey was replaced by dark yellow (RAL 7028) as the base colour for all Germanvehicles. For camouflage patterns dark olive green (RAL 6003) and red brown (RAL 8017) were to be used. Sometimesalso olive green (RAL 8002) was used as well, especially in spring and summer. New colours were sprayed and brushedby the units in the field following the order according to their own needs. This allowed units to match theirvehicles to local weather and terrain conditions. All those various paint schemes applied to all vehicles in serviceat the given time and area in case of North Africa and Southern Russia.


In mid 1943, PzKpfw IV was the main German battle tank, while PzKpfw III was slowly relegated to second line dutiesand its chassis was the base for conversions (e.g. Sturmgeschutz III). Conversions based on PzKpfw I were in servicein very small numbers, while small number of PzKpfw II along with significant number of conversions (e.g. MarderII and Wespe) was in service or was entering it. In July of 1943, new tank that was a German answer to the SovietT-34 tank – Panzerkampfwagen V Panther heavy medium tank entered service. From December of 1942 to April 1945,some 6000 Panthers in three main variants were produced – Ausf D, A and G. All were armed with long 75mm KwK 42L/70 gun that was able to destroy all enemy armour at long ranges. In February of 1944, another new heavy tankalso entered service – Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf B also known as Konigstiger (King Tiger). Tiger II was armedwith long 88mm KwK 43 L/71 gun and weighted almost 70 tons. From December of 1943 to March of 1945, only 489 wereproduced.

On August 19th of 1944, OKH ordered that dark yellow (RAL 7028) was to be factory applied as the base colour withdark olive green (RAL 6003) and red brown (RAL 8017) for use in camouflage patterns. In addition, to those threemain colours, small yellow, light grey or white spots were applied on green and brown areas, while small greenspots were applied on dark yellow areas. This overall camouflage scheme was known as the "ambush" schemeso common on late war Panther and Tiger II tanks. As with any other scheme there were numerous variations dependingon the unit, its location and supplies available. On October 31st of 1944, OKH ordered that dark yellow (RAL 7028)was to be replaced by primer red oxide (RAL 8012) as a base colour with dark yellow (RAL 7028) or field grey andred brown (RAL 8017). On November 31st of 1944, OKH ordered another new colour scheme to be introduced. Darkolive green (RAL 6003) was the base colour with dark yellow (RAL 7028) and red brown (also known as dark chocolatebrown) (RAL 8017). Sometimes red brown (RAL 8017) was replaced with "brick" red brown (dark red) (RAL8012) colour. Similar case was with dark green (RAL 6002) and dark olive green (RAL 6003). Also due to overallshortages, many vehicles were only painted in overall base dark yellow (RAL 7028). In early 1945, dark yellow(RAL 7028) was again to be used as the base colour with red brown (also known as dark chocolate brown) (RAL 8017)and dark olive green (RAL 6003). All schemes introduced from October 31st to the last days of war, were hard edgedfactory applied colour schemes with disruptive edges defined sometimes in white (RAL 9002). The use of washablewhite winter camouflage paint was widespread on the Eastern Front but rare on the Western Front. In the springof 1945, new scheme was to be introduced with dark (panzer) grey (RAL 7021) as the base colour with red brown (alsoknown as dark chocolate brown) (RAL 8017) and dark olive green (RAL 6003). It is unknown if it was ever implementeddue to the overall state of the German Army. The colour schemes introduced in 1944 and early 1945, were appliedin variety of patterns and often colours were not exactly the same as specified. Different colours were a resultof use substitute paints and ex-Czechoslovakian army paints (e.g. dark green, cream and dark brown). The choiceof colours and patterns depended on local and weather conditions as well low level unit orders that reflected whereand when particular units operated. In addition, foliage and mud were often used for more convincing camouflageor to make up for paint shortages. It is also reported that late in the war interiors were painted dark yellow(RAL 7028) instead of light cream or ivory colour (RAL 1001) due to shortages and need for armoured vehicles.

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