bandstag

Prologue

Nowadays we have plenty of evidence that from late 1943 onwards home-based Luftwaffe fighters carried special unit recognition markings. However fuselage bands first came to be adopted by home defence units, by February 1944 they had official status. That month the Luftwaffe disseminated instructions to subordinate commands about the camouflage and markings of fighters and Zerstörer: within Luftflotte 5 on the 8th, followed two days later by a more comprehensive signal to unspecified addressees.

CX/MSS/T89/41

VL 5945

From Ops Abt. IA (Op (Roman) I) on 8/2:

Changes in the camouflage painting of a/c made by individual fighter or heavy fighter Gruppen on their own initiative have on several occasions led to confusion with enemy a/c and thus caused perplexities and doubts when enemy were sighted. For all fighter and heavy fighter units it is therefore ordered:

1) That in principle no changes may be made in the camouflage paint as delivered from the factory (except for smoothing, polishing etc.)

2) The marking with a series of numbers within the Staffel remains as before.

NOTE: Source is almost sure this letter was sent by Luftflotte 5 to AOC GAF in Finland.

CX/MSS/T92/31

VL 6122

From IA on 10/2.

To avoid confusion with enemy a/c, C-in-C GAF has issued the following instructions to all fighter and heavy fighter units.

1) That in principle no changes may be made in the camouflage paint as delivered from the factory (except for smoothing, polishing etc.)

2) In the case of those units operating in defence of the Reich, the stipulated band round the fuselage £ Bauchbinde £ will remain as the marking of the individual Geschwader.

3) In principle all Kommodore and Kommandeure of units operating in defence of the Reich to fly with white fins and rudders.

4) All fighter a/c of Luftflotte 3 and Reich are to have a black and white spiral painted on the spinner. Size one and a half spirals turning in the same direction as the spinner. Width ⅕ of the diameter of the spinner.

5) The marking with a series of numbers within the Staffel remains as before.

NOTE: Paras. 1) and 5) of the above were included in similar orders for AOC GAF Finland (MSS/T89/141).

For present purposes two things are worth noting here: the emphasis on distinguishing friend from foe — a reflection of the growing reach of American escort fighters? — and that fuselage bands had already been “stipulated … as the markings of the individual Geschwader.”

Understanding

I first encountered the idea of coloured bands as an emblem of home defence service (Reichsverteidigung) in the works of Karl Ries. Ries produced a pioneering series of illustrated books on Luftwaffe aircraft: Markierungen und Tarnanstriche der Luftwaffe im zweiten Weltkrieg (four volumes) began in 1963; Dora, Kurfürst und die Rote 13 (also four volumes) started the following year. I remember these books for their photographs of operational German aircraft in their original markings, rather than prototypes or repainted, captured machines.

continued on next page ...

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PART ONE OF SIX


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