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"US Army Vehicle Tactical markings in the Cold War - Sources?" Topic

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6,326 hits since 9 Dec 2013
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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wehrmacht09 Dec 2013 12:48 p.m. PST

Hi guys,

Ashamed to say my Google-fu is failing me. I'm looking for info on US Army vehicle markings and camo for the late-Cold-War period – mid to late '80s.

I have M113s, and M60 and an early M1 Abrams to paint and I'm having difficulty finding references.

Thanks for any help!



boy wundyr x09 Dec 2013 1:03 p.m. PST

Hi there – I asked a similar question a year ago, and got some helpful responses:
TMP link

Legion 409 Dec 2013 9:51 p.m. PST

Check the GHQ site … in many cases they have pics of their models painted up …

Personal logo marcus arilius Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2013 2:42 p.m. PST

we only had unit and vehicle #'s in front and back. which we covered up with mud when in the field. you would have your road march authorization code written in calk on the M60's sponson boxes on each side. no national markings like White Stars. early M1's only in OD green.


Personal logo marcus arilius Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2013 8:12 p.m. PST

that should read chalk.

11th ACR11 Dec 2013 12:27 a.m. PST

During major FTX's (REFORGER) you would see large Blue,Orange or Yellow panels with White or Black number on them that ID' ed what unit they were.




Also there was a series of markings on the back the back of our M-60's and M113's. The ones on the M-60's were made of plywood or made of thin metal sheeting. The ones on the M113's M901's M220's were painted on the back ramp. There were different shapes, Square, Hexagon Circle etc. with a smaller shape inside of it then with a Roman numeral inside. The panel was green and the shape and number were yellow. I seem to remember we had these up till around 1990. The main shape was about 3 -4 feet across. They were supposed to be for ID'ing the vehicles foreword of you. Now that I think about it most of the vehicle's in the unit's I was in had the panels or painted on them. The plan was if you did go in to combat you would kick the panel off your vehicle or throw mud on it if it was painted on. This was a permenent unit ID marking system. I think I may still have a unit manul that gives the code for what ment what. Let me go threw my pub's and see wht I have.



Here are both types.

And soft skins.


11th ACR11 Dec 2013 1:02 a.m. PST

Some of these M1's have the rear panel's as well as the REFORGER Blue Force markings. YouTube link
Here are some different ones.
YouTube link
YouTube link

I know that in the 11th ACR we went to the V and number on the side hull in 1990 and we dumped the panel on the back of the turret's around that same time. If the M-1's and Brade's are desert sand in Germany, it is Post Desert Storm time frame.

wehrmacht19 Dec 2013 2:20 p.m. PST

Great stuff, thanks 11th ACR!

I guess we'll (thankfully) never know what actual combat marking would've been, but would they have resembled the markings that are shown for the Reforger exercises?



11th ACR21 Dec 2013 7:57 a.m. PST

The series of markings on the back the back the vehicles were a permanent marking, un-till you "would kick the panel off your vehicle or throw mud on it if it was painted on".

So you would be correct to have U.S. units marked with these series of markings during the cold war, from some time pre 1980 threw early 1990's.

Still have to go threw my pub's and see if I have unit manual that gives the code.

Been working double shifts so I will try this weekend to dig threw them.

11th ACR27 Dec 2013 12:17 p.m. PST

More tape of 1980's REFORGER, showing tempery Blue Force markings. (A 3rd AD, Scout Sect.)
YouTube link

FTX Caravan Guard 1989. Tempery unit markings were round instead of sqaure.
YouTube link




PS I cant find that unit marking guid still. I will contact a retired CSM that will remember what each part of the shapes ment.

trance18 Jul 2016 7:15 a.m. PST

The large geomorphic yellow shaped indicated BN. the smaller black shapes the company. the white bars Platoon and asmaller white bars under those the vehicle in the platoon.

Legion 418 Jul 2016 8:13 a.m. PST

"Tanks" for the memories 11th ACR … thumbs up My M113s looked like the camo on the top M2 color plate …

seneffe03 Aug 2016 3:29 p.m. PST

The Tankograd Volume on the M1/IPM1 'Cold Warrior' has a section explaining the tactical marking panel schemes for several armoured and cavalry units. Very nice book.

PS- Plain Forest Green base colour scheme on all M1s in USAREUR according to the photos in that book- plus some interesting extra whitewash or mud camouflage by certain units. No MERDC.

Legion 404 Aug 2016 5:45 a.m. PST

The Tank Bn in the Mech Bde I was assigned to '86-'90. The 197th Mech at Ft. Benning, GA. Was part of the 18th ABN Corps. That Armor Bn had a unique organization, 3 M60 and 1 M1IP Companies. The M1s and all the vehicles in the Bde were the standard 3 color camo pattern. Forest Green, Brown and Black. Like as I mentioned the M2 is painted in the top pic/plate …

RudyNelson04 Aug 2016 5:34 p.m. PST

When I was the Safety Officer for the First Cavalry Division, one of my duties included inspecting the Divisional paint Shop. The 2nd Armored Division used a different base scheme at the time. So we each had a shop as did 13th CosCom.
They had an army field manual which detailed paint schemes and tactical information placement.
I thought it had been put on line. You might check and see if it is still around.

Legion 405 Aug 2016 8:19 a.m. PST

I do remember an FM with color plates as painting guides. The CARC paint was very toxic and had to be applied when sprayed in a sealed facility. And special suits had to be worn by the painters. Like a head to toe MOPP suit.

RudyNelson09 Aug 2016 3:07 p.m. PST

Yes we had to close down the paint shop more than once due to improper breathing precautions. It never made the general happy when it happened.
The radar dispersing component added to the paint was the reason given to me for it being toxic.
When I reported to my cavalry troop a few years earier, all of the vehicles (11 to a platoon) had been hand painted by the crews. So there was no uniformity in appearance. All of the senior NCOs were Vietnam veterans, so names on the vehicles and other add ons were common.

Within six months we had gotten permission to have all vehicles repainted for uniformity. LOL.

Legion 409 Aug 2016 3:50 p.m. PST

I never did like how toxic CARC was … And on occasion one of my crews did hand paint the camo. Yep, names and other add ons were common too. So I see our experiences were similar. thumbs up

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