German Camouflage Practices

In a recent book on German camouflage the authors stated that more than not German camouflage was not applied to horizontal (top) surfaces. Obviously this only applies to field or ordinance depot applications. I must admit until reading this last year this was news to me. The majority of pics that I have examined, do indicate that at least some has been applied to top surfaces. To some extent there is some difficulty in finding top view photos of German armor, although they do exist. I would think that by 1944 camouflage and deception would have been the norm to deprive allied airpower targets of opportunity.

What was the name of the book and who were the authors?

Camouflage and Markings of the Panzerwaffe by Artur Majewski - this is a large book and reads quite well, many photos and does list source documents used.

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I can’t say if it was ‘more often than not’ but it is true overhead shots are hard to come by, since most of the people taking the pics were on the ground. I looked through a few random books of German armor and found–and this is actually a criticism of the Majewski book that I read on the Panzerwrecks site–that a lot of the pictures are of early war vehicles and so it’s just a sea of gray anyway.

However, I noticed in the photos I flipped through that there were some that did not seem to have anything applied on the top of the engine decks and in some cases the turret roofs, while others were tarted up from top to bottom. And still quite a few simply wearing the dark yellow base. Granted, there is the dust element that can hide details, fuzzy images so you can’t tell a shadow from a shade of paint, and other issues but I think it is safe to say there were vehicles where the crews didn’t feel it necessary to paint the horizontals as long as it all looked good from a pedestrian’s point of view. I even saw one Pz IV where they only applied striping to the schürzen and none to the tank itself. I generally just try to emulate paints scheme for the kit itself or a known tank that the full details are well established concerning its coloration. So if they show paint on top, I put it on top.

There was a long discussion about this over on Missing Lynx when that book was first published. In the end, the general consensus was that the author over-stated his case based on very limited evidence.

One of the counters to this assertion was that one of the main objectives and goals of the late-war directives for factory applied camouflage was to counter Allied close-air support attacks (especially against train loads of factory fresh dark yellow vehicles which were - because of their bright contrast against the ground - highly visible and identifiable targets). The troops who were the tactical end-users without doubt clearly understood this potential danger and threat.

To be generous to the author, I might suggest that there was perhaps something quite literally lost in translation or interpretation of what he intended to say. If not, the claim has pretty well been, if not totally "debunked, at least demonstrated to be way overstated based on a very few exceptions to what was actually the normal practice.

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@Frank_Black Frank, thank you for the book title looks very interesting. I hadn’t see it before.

@SdAufKla Michael, excellent information thank you for sharingm

How do you think the other information in Camouflage and Markings of the Panzerwaffe by Artur Majewski is viewed by the community?

I’ve been looking at pictures of German armor for 30+ years and that was the first time I ever heard that statement. As has been said on this thread in the book alone no evidence supports this, I just wanted to know what others thought. Nice book though with a lot of photos and artwork.

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I agree with your observations. Nice book though.

Aircraft have a difficult time spotting tanks unless they are in the open or are moving. Camo that consisted of cut up bushes would probably be more effective than any paint scheme.