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"Painting WWII Japanese tanks?" Topic

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ScottS06 Nov 2017 1:14 p.m. PST

I've always been a "Russian Front" wargamer; I'm a lot more familiar with how the panzers and Soviet tanks were painted. (Not that there's a lot of variety with the Soviet stuff. ;)) But I've started a USMC in the Pacific project, and I'm having a hard time coming up with definitive paint guides for Japanese tanks.

I've found some that are along the lines of this:

I'm guessing that covers the "early war" paint job. I also see this:

Which looks intriguing, if a bit vague.

- Did they use any sort of standard "template," or just paint the tanks with whatever patterns they could come up with?

- Is a plain (i.e., single color) tank possible?

- If I wanted to paint a tank that would work for the later-war battles, like Peleliu or Okinawa, how should I do it?

repaint06 Nov 2017 1:18 p.m. PST

for late war battle, you can actually also use the tanks in early war camo. They did not repaint the older models to match the newer schemes.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 1:27 p.m. PST

Good reference:
PDF link

ScottS06 Nov 2017 2:05 p.m. PST

Wow, that's excellent. Thanks for passing that along!

I see that the Ho-Ro Assault Gun at the USMC's museum in Quantico is a single color, a very faded green. I'd tend to think that this was a museum re-paint, but given how faded it is, the presence of the little flag insignia, and the rust, is this possibly legit?

Skeptic06 Nov 2017 4:53 p.m. PST

On slide 17 of the document that repaint shared, there is a motorcycle driver who seems to be wearing what may be an armo(u)red vest of some kind!

SeattleGamer Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 5:19 p.m. PST

IMHO you really need to get the New Vanguard #137 (Osprey) Japanese Tanks 1939-45. You will find several color plates of interest.

I did a spot of research on this a few years back, and was basically instructed not to trust 90% of any color images I might find using Google. The reason? Most are pictures of models or restored tanks that were not painted according to the official scheme.

Here's what I discovered …

There were four official schemes:

#1: 1930s (China) – They used a base color of artillery brown (a medium shade) with patches of light sand, mahogany (dark) brown and dark olive green, often with the yellow disruptive stripes. This was called the four-color camo scheme.

#2: 1940-41 (Pacific) – They used a base color of artillery brown with patches of mahogany brown and dark olive green, often with the yellow disruptive stripes. This was called the three-color camo scheme (they dropped the patches of light sand).

In both of the above cases, sometimes the colors were separated by thin black lines, sometimes not. And the use of the yellow stripes was quite common, but not always present. The colors were most often painted on (by brush) and not sprayed on, so no feathering of colors.

An important note regarding the yellow stripes – and this is the main reason I was told I could spot an improperly painted tank photo. If you viewed the tank from above, you would find two yellow stripes: one going from the front to the back, and another going from side to side. They would most often meet on the turret roof, thus dividing the tank into four sections (again, when viewed from above). These lines would curve quite a bit as they made their way from one side of the tank to the other.

I was told they never used patches of yellow, and they never used more than two lines of yellow (one always front to back, the other always side to side), so any photos you see where there are patches of yellow used, or more than the two bisecting lines of yellow, that tank is improperly painted.

#3a: 1942 onward (Home Islands & China): The IJA decided to standardize their schemes, and opted for a base coat of parched grass (khaki) with patches of mahogany brown and dark olive green. This was referred to as the 1942 three-color scheme (and thus, the earlier three-color scheme became the pre-1942 three-color scheme). The use of black edging, and the use of the disruptive yellow stripes was eliminated.

#4a: 1942 onward (Philippines & Pacific Islands): Identical to the Home Islands scheme except that the dark olive green was replaced with a lighter green called willow green (a bright medium green). This was developed for the Southern Army and can be referred to as the three-color southern scheme.

These two schemes were painted on (by brush) during 1943 so had hard edges to the colors. But starting in 1944 the colors were increasingly applied by spray and the edges of the colors were feathered. For my purposes, I will refer to the feathered edges schemes as #3b and #4b.

It is important to know that once painted, Japanese tanks were often NOT repainted just because the official scheme changed, or their location changed. So you could (and would) find pre-1942 schemes on tanks encountered on the Pacific islands in 1944.

Most of the info above comes from the Osprey Japanese Tank book I mentioned above, plus posts in various forums throughout the net.

You essentially have SIX schemes, since #3 & #4 can be found with hard edges to the colors, or feathered edges. I think the safest scheme to use is either #2 or #4 as they were both designed for Pacific Island campaigns, and between these two, #2 would really work for the entire Pacific war.

One of the color plates in the Osprey shows a Type 97 Chi-Ha on Saipan in July 1944 painted in the pre-1942 scheme with the yellow stripes.

For the Type 95 Ha-Go there are two color plates, one showing the pre-1942 scheme (with yellow stripes) on a tank in the Philippines in 1941, and another which is a cut-away diagram showing the 1942 southern scheme on a type 95 on Iwo Jima in February 1945.

Sorry to blather on so long, but having spent a great bit of time trying to track down this info, I am more than happy to spare others that research! Hope this helped.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 2:35 a.m. PST

@ Scott S

I'd be cautious around that Ho-Ro scheme. The flag on the side is, AFAIK, a naval flag, with the radiating sunburst bars. The national flag is just the red dot on the white field.

The navy and army hated one another, to the point where the army had its own submarines and aircraft carriers and the threads on the screws they used went different ways.

So I think it's unlikely the army would have applied a naval symbol to a piece of army kit. It could, however, be that that vehicle was operated or taken over by Japanese marines or naval landing troops, who were part of the navy. In that case it's possible they would have put a naval ensign marking on although there's then the question of whether the schemes applied are relevant to any other vehicles, as whatever the navy did would on principle have been different to what the army did.

Seattle Gamer's info is excellent, thanks!

French Wargame Holidays07 Nov 2017 3:17 a.m. PST

Australian war memorial restoration of a Ha-Go type 95


ScottS07 Nov 2017 8:09 a.m. PST

That's VERY helpful, thanks very much!!

SeattleGamer Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 1:31 p.m. PST

The IJN (Navy) had their own tanks (and not just the amphib ones either)! The research above applies to the IJA (Army).

I have notes on the IJN painting scheme, but they are not very exciting at all.

For the IJN, amphibious tanks were considered vessels (not vehicles), and thus their standard color was grey. If the tank was not amphibious it was considered a vehicle, and they were painted a single solid color: either khaki (which can range from light tan to darker brown) or a dark green.

In either case, no fancy camo schemes.

ScottS14 Nov 2017 11:58 a.m. PST

I managed to track down a copy of this:

And it's amazing. Wow, does it have a lot of info.

RePriMo Wargame Terrain10 Mar 2021 3:54 a.m. PST

I use this guide
YouTube link

Legion 411 Mar 2021 7:19 p.m. PST

Very interesting … I've seen much of this before, but still informative.

machinehead Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2021 9:11 p.m. PST

ScottS, I think it is on loan I took this photo at the American Heritage Museum in Stow Mass.

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