The Colors of Zero

With the surprise release of Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero plastic model in 1/48 scale by Eduard the interest in this airplane, and it

can be said in Japanese WWII aviation as well, skyrocketed.

One of the most frequent inquiries by the modeling community, and I dare to say worldwide, is what those correct colors

applied to Zero actually were. Easy answer, isn’t it? Overall

grey of course! Well, yes, but there are at least hundreds of

shades of grey.

So, was it a very light grey as featured in a memorable profile by Mr. Balous in “Letectví a Kosmonautika” (Aviation and Cosmonautics) magazine

in 1968? By the way, a series of articles published

in L+K, “Zeros over Pacific” (adopted from the book

Samurai! by Martin Caidin and Fred Saito) for the

next fifty years got me deeply interested in Japanese aviation and the air war in the Pacific and Far



East. I am sure there were quite a few of us from

that generation. At that time, and political system,

the access to the information about such topics

was rather restricted. Regardless, “pirate” copies

of Maru Mechanics, Koku-Fans or Thorpe’s books

were made on xerox copiers with their stinking

paper. By the way, late Donald W. Thorpe was probably the key figure in the Japanese WWII aircraft


coloration and markings research in the world outside of Japan. Freelance writer, illustrator, computer engineer and an avid member of IPMS residing

in California was the first in late 60s to mid-70s to

introduce the system into Japanese colors and camouflage schemes Even though largely superseded nowadays, its many schemes and camouflage

colors stood the test of time until today. Thorpe’s

nomenclature was used by other researchers, namely Robert C.Mikesh, at that time curator of National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Seemingly I deviated from grey Zero. What did Thorpe

conclude in this particular case then? He designated the camouflage scheme as O5 (O for overall)

and color as N10 (N for Navy) light grey which is

slightly “cooler” than FS 26493 and in RGB it is

a perfectly neutral grey! This was not a departure

from all-grey Zero image held by the modelling community, cinema industry (movies such Tora! Tora!

Tora!, Final Countdown or Midway) or the general


What did the Pacific war veterans, many of whom

were still around and eye-witnessed Zero appea-

INFO Eduard - January 2022