The beautiful color schemes of the 1930s, the so-called "Golden Age" of aviation (and not just for those Chrome Yellow wings, either), gave way to the realities of impending war. Gray/Blue topsides and Gray bottoms became the first iteration of the many World War II schemes that we saw in the first CONA post. The difference here is the "Neutrality" markings that theoretically identified U.S. aircraft as off-limits to combat (unless it was to protect U.S. shores and waters). To that end the pre-War national insignia of a blue roundel with a white star and a red center remained on the aircraft, but now in six positions (upper left wing, upper right wing, lower left wing, lower right wing, left and right fuselage sides) for greater visibility. Thus the eternal dilemma was revisited: how to have enough camouflage so your opponents can't see you too quickly, but with enough visibility that your own side won't shoot you down by mistake.
To aid in that visibility red and white stripes (eventually standardized at seven red, six white like the U.S. flag) were painted on the rudder of the vertical tail. It still added a dash of color to the very subdued war camouflage. The Northrop (now Northrop Grumman) EA-6B Prowler (the first photo) and this Beech TC-12B (above) are really nice recreations of that early 1940s scheme. Alas, it was not to last as the attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 plunged the nation into war.
The red and white stripes went fairly quickly. But so, too, did the national insignia with the red center. It seems that nervous gunners on ships and ground units, and even in bomber aircraft as well as fighter pilots, took to shooting at anything with red in it as being automatically Japanese. After a series of "friendly fire" incidents, all red was removed from national markings on all U.S. aircraft, and any other markings period in the Pacific Theater. By the Battle of Midway, in early June 1942, the red was gone. This Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin) S-3B Viking is a nice representation of that Midway era scheme.
And yes - there will be more to come....
"Salt River Cliffs" ©
6 months ago