Painting the right way?


Confusing to say the least.

No one agrees on how Gabby Gabreski’s P-47D was painted.

The subject of 56th Fighter Group camouflage is one that brings out a lot of opinions and few verifiable facts. Unless you can find an old 56th crew chief with a good memory, your guess is as good as the next guys.

That said, there are a couple of color photos in existence so depending on the printing process used you have a couple of options. When the powers that be in Washington decided to do away with camouflage for single seat fighters in Europe, some units didn’t like the idea and the 56th was one. One camp says that when natural metal P-47s began to arrive they used available R.A.F. colors for their paintwork, since there was limited paint being sent over seas from the U.S. The idea was that if Washington didn’t think camouflage was necessary in the ETO then the priority for paint being shipped across the Atlantic would have been pretty low.

That said, your P-47 could be Extra Dark Sea Gray or Ocean Gray with Dark green patches. The underside is said to be natural metal by one group and a light gray by another. If  U.S. paints were available, 36118 Gray and Olive Drab or Medium Green would be a good guess. Again, the undersurfaces are open to argument.

If you want to pursue this photographically, try to get:
“Fighter Command” by Jeff Ethel and Robert T. Sand. 1991, Motor books Int.

ISBN 0-87938-473-5  “Beware the Thunderbolt” by David McLaren, 1994, Schiffer Military pub
ISBN 0-88740-660-2

 These both contain a number of color photographs of 56th Group P-47s, and you can draw your own conclusions, keeping in mind that old color negatives can look quite different depending on who does the printing. Somewhere, maybe someone else on this news group can point you to them, are a couple of color photos of “Gabby” Gabreski’s last P-47. I forget where they are any more, memory ain’t what it used to be. (Too many fumes??)

Bill Shuey



6 thoughts on “Painting the right way?

  1. Good question but what is your gut feeling for the shades? Seriously, this color conundrum is a big one when it comes to historical stuff. For example my opinion about German gray of ww2 armor was that it’s more greenish, which is NOT what the current foray of modelers tend to paint – a blue tinted dark grey.
    In your particular example unfortunately I have no idea about ww2 aviation when it comes to allied equipment however I recall reading on numerous accounts that usaaf aircraft were painted with whatever British colors were at hand at the time, so that might be a good start point instead of going right away to what the official docs say what the paints are, if any.

  2. the 56th Fighter Group sure did make it interesting for us!

    Obviously with improvised camo there is no right answer, just what looks best to you. Although Gabby’s plane in particular has been depicted and speculated over a lot, so there is a lot of conjecture you can read if you are so inclined. I know the invasion stripes were initially painted wrong too, but later fixed. A good source is “Down to Earth”, his autobiography. But it was written 40 years after events so such detailed matters should be treated carefully.

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