Skip to main content

D-Day, 6th June 1944. Europe woke to a new reality; the Allies had launched the largest invasion onto a hostile shore that the world had ever seen. Nearly 5,000 vessels, and in excess of 160,000 troops crossed the Channel, and hit the Normandy beaches. They were preceded, in many cases by intrepid airborne troops, who either landed by glider, or stepped out into the night, from C-47 or Stirling aircraft.

There are many reasons for the eventual success of the invasion, but one significant component was the application of overwhelming air power. The Luftwaffe in France was reduced to a shadow of its former self, with the demands of Reich Defence and the Eastern Front soaking away the fighter wings of Fw190 and Me109s. On the 3rd June orders were issued to transport, tactical bomber, fighter and support aircraft units which would be overhead the invasion area to apply a series of alternating black and white stripes on upper and lower wing surfaces and around the fuselage. Unfortunately, because of the late notification, many of the units could only paint these bands roughly (unlike the neat stripes you see on this P-51D); they should be 18 inches wide for fighters, 24 inches for bombers). The idea was to prevent ‘friendly fire’ accidents. Although it is said that these stripes did not appear on other than single and twin-engined aircraft, this is incorrect. Both Short Stirling and Handley Page Halifax aircraft, when used as glider tugs, and making supply drops, were seen carrying invasion stripes.

Earlier use of special identification markings had been made, prior to D-Day, in the case of Mustangs of the Royal Air Force, as well as Typhoons. The early Allison-engined Mustangs of the RAF, with their square cut tails and wing tips, resembled the  Me109, so a single white stripe, at mid-chord, was painted on each wing. The ‘Tiffies’ had a special problem, as they were being confused with the low-level Fw190 'tip and run' raiders they were supposed to be intercepting; this gave rise to a series of experimental markings, including, at one stage, their whole nose section being painted white! The D-Day markings were, however, the largest recognition scheme to date.

It was acknowledged that the standard of aircraft recognition amongst the gunners on the invasion fleet, and with the land armies, left a lot to be desired, hence the need for ‘invasion stripes’; but even although the Allies used the unique twin-tailed P-38 Lightning, with its distinctive shape, for close escort of the fleet, they were STILL shot at! As the year wore on, some of the aircraft types which had been wearing 'full' stripes, altered them so that they appeared ONLY on the bottom of the wings and fuselage, and  sometimes on the lower rear fuselage, only. The need for recognition by Allied anti-aircraft gunners was still there, but Allied air supremacy meant that almost every other aircraft seen in the air would be 'friendly'.

This was not the last use of ‘invasion stripes’; they re-appeared during the Suez Campaign (yellow/black) and in the Korean War (black/white). This beautiful P-51D is out of the North Weald ‘Hangar 11′ collection, and was flown into the Great Vintage Flying Weekend by the owner Peter Teichman.

Oh, and one last thing, it is said that the painting of ALL the aircraft involved took EVERY gallon of white paint available in Great Britain! (Less black paint was needed, of course).

Originally posted to Kossack Air Force on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, World War Two Aircraft, and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site