PanzerTracts Order Form PanzerTracts Publication Samples PanzerTracts Retailers Panther Details Panzer Home Page

Panzer Facts #4


by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle

The correct camouflage colors and patterns applied to German Panzers from 1933 to 1943 have been published in the recently released Panzer Tracts No.1-2 - Panzerkampfwagen I - kl.Pz.Bef.Wg. to VK 18.01. These colors are based on German Army orders and manuals and original RAL paint chips from 1922 to1941.

How did we succeed in getting these colors and patterns right when so many other attempts have failed? The answer is simple - persistent in-depth research that took over 15 years. This investment in time and money was needed to sort out the right answers when we were faced with seemingly contradictory evidence. We also refused to release the results until we could accurately print the colors through a tightly controlled process.

What caused others to publish results that are so far off the mark? It shouldn't have been lack of guidance. Our good friend and mentor, Walter J. Spielberger wrote an article entitled "Coloring of German WWII Tanks" which was printed in George Bradford's AFV News Vol. No.3 in November 1965. Spielberger stated that: "Up to 1935, the Reichswehr colored their vehicles in the usual multicolor pattern, mainly green, brown, and yellow. Starting in 1935, the official paint for all German vehicles, including armor, was a dark grey/dark brown combination. Since 1940 the dark brown was discontinued and all vehicles were painted in dark grey only. . ."

As an example let's look at the Squadron/Signal Publication "Panzer Colors" since it is widely known and many modelers, model magazines, and other authors use it as their key reference. The authors of "Panzer Colors" state:in their Sources and Acknowledgements:
"The basic information on official WW II German camouflage color specifications is contained in a c. 1957 paper by F. Wiener, written for the R.A.C. Tank Museum at Bovington. . . Walter Spielberger's book on German armored cars, 1900-1945, provided the material on Reichwehr color schemes. . ."
on page 9 in the text:
In 1922 new standards for painting vehicles were issued, retaining the wartime gray, green, and brown for combat type vehicles, . . .
on page 10 in the text:
In 1935, the new Wehrmacht standardized a new basic scheme for all large items of military equipment, including all vehicles and large weapons. The colors were dark gray and dark brown, and the proportion of color to be used was 2/3 gray to 1/3 brown, . . ."
and, on page 11:
"The Campaign in France and the Low Countries was fought by German vehicle painted overall dark gray, . . ."
Walter Spielberger had already correctly determined that the Reichswehr colors were yellow, green, and brown not gray, green, and brown. So where did the authors of "Panzer Colors" come up with the idea that the "Reichswehr" colors were gray, green, and brown - and - where did they get the false impression that Panzers employed in Poland and the Campaign in the West were painted dark gray? Let's take a look at the reference that they claimed was used.

David Fletcher at The Tank Museum provided a copy of the document that the authors of Panzer Colors stated that they had used. The report "Der Anstrich des Heeresgeraets 1939-1945 1945" was written by Fritz Wiener (a close associate of Walter Spielberger). This report had been translated into English in November 1967 as "Painting of Army Equipment 1939 - 45" and contains the following relevant statements: "With the change from multi-coloured combat uniforms to plain colours, striking colours were avoided on equipment. As far back as 1914 all armies went on active service with their equipment painted grey-green, grey-brown or in a similar unobtrusive colour. During the first World War they attempted to make large equipments (guns, vehicles, etc.) less visible to the enemy by painting them with large irregular patches in shades of grey, green, and brown. This so called "Mimicry" type of painting was then adopted by the Armed Forces (Reichswehr). . . After 1935, the Armed Forces introduced a new and considerably darker shade of grey-brown for use on their equipment. . . .This paint was in general use in the Fall of 1939, but the first alteration came in 1939 (sic - 1940 in the original document).

Fritz Wiener then goes on to quote the earliest dated general order that he had found: (HM 1940 No.804) Painting of Equipment: In order to save paint the following instructions will be observed for the duration of the war: 1. Equipment previously painted dark-grey/dark-brown will be painted in dark-grey only. (OKH. (Chef Ruest u. BdE) 31.7.1940.

Pictured here: Scan of the photograph of the original RAL color swatches No.45 dunkelbraun (dark brown) and No.46 dunkelgrau (dark grey).
Now that we've conquered the six pre- and early-war camouflage colors, we're currently working on achieving close reproductions of four colors used in Nord Afrika and four colors used from 1943 to 1945. We plan to publish an accurate reference book on German camouflage colors from 1922 to 1945 next year. Until then, if you are interested in accuracy, it might be a good idea to paint only models of Panzers in service up to March 1943 (but not in North Africa).

2002 Panzer Tracts