Photo: Wikimedia Commons


The abandoned A6M3 Type 32 coded T2-157, which belonged to Kókútai 204, as captured by an Allied photographer on Munda Island in September 1943. Several interesting details can

be recognized such as yellow leading edge stripe or blue-black anti-glare paint which was not only applied to the engine cowling but also to the cockpit deck and canopy frame interior


“stirred the pot” in Japan where, as it seems, the

majority of people very much preferred the image

of the light grey Zero.

“The Wars” were fought over the actual color

appearance and, as I said in the second paragraph, its accurate identification in kariki 117. At this

place I just must mention David Aiken, the former

director of the Pearl Harbor aviation museum, great Japanese aviation enthusiast for which he was

given the nickname “Captain Kamikaze” by his Texas IPMS chapter fellows. For some reason David

focused on Zero color description by its designer

Jiro Horikoshi - hairyokushoku, literally grey-green. David fell in love with the word green. In the

“wars” he claimed it was M1 from kariki 117 which

is in the group of grey-green colors and similar to

RAF interior grey-green. He compared Zero color

to the color of pistachio nuts in direct opposition to

Lansdale’s theory of “yellow mustard” color. Until

the last moment David promoted “grey-green” based on the teachings of his “sensei” in Japan. Many

times, he was asked to share the knowledge from

the “mysterious sensei” but silence was the response. I have to confess I myself challenged him

to it, at least three times. David relied too much on

the online images, including images of Tamiya paint

bottles, rather than any analysis of actual paint. His

“heritage” was preserved, however. He had managed to convince the leadership of the Pearl Harbor

museum to paint the restored A6M2 (rather poorly,

in my opinion) in the infamous “pistachio green”.

The effort has also been made to identify “ame-iro”

as I2/I3 tsuchi-iro (color of the earth) from kariki

117. These colors are literally yellow-brown ones,

and the grey tone is not that apparent. In the end

“The Wars” ended and peace was signed with the

clause that the color was “olive-grey”, somewhere

between FS16350 and FS34201, but lighter (FS=-



Federal Standard) and the best equivalent is RAL

7034 Gelb Grau (yellow-grey). Based on Nicholas

Millman’s (see below) opinion, analysis and research RAL 7034 is the closest match to the original color.

The science steps in

Namely color science. I had no idea about it all those years prior. One can learn new things through

hobbies, correct? Earlier I mentioned the name Nicholas Millman. As a participant in “the wars” he

was initially skeptical a bit. As a paint color and

coatings specialist from the UK, a great enthusiast

of the Japanese and other Asian countries' aviation

(see his blog took the

scientific approach. The color is a result of the pigments it contains and their binder. If we perform

the chemical analysis of a well preserved sample,

we will find out its pigments and binder composition and can perform “Jurassic Park” on any paint

colors i.e., bring it “back to life”. Nicholas was involved in the process. Largest quantity of pigment

was white (titanium dioxide), then small proportions of carbon black and chrome yellow. Yellow-brown tinting of urushi-type resin binder on white

pigment played a certain role as well. The paint

was re-created and looked very close to the best

preserved samples of the “amber grey”, between

FS16350 and FS34201 with a “fugitive” green cast.

Why these pigments? As mentioned earlier, even

though Japan possessed a well-developed paint

industry, it was still learning from the other developed countries, including Germany.

Before 1940 there were problems with the binder

stability and paint yellowing. It could have been a

reason why Japan bought the German license for

special paints for light metal alloys. It cannot be

just a coincidence that “amber grey” designated J3

SP (SP = special paint for light metals, to differentiate it from the ordinary grey) by Millman, used on

Zeros on the manufacturing lines, resembled the

German RLM 02.

As far as I remember the articles by the leading

expert on Luftwaffe colors, Michael Ullman, German paints were of high quality, did not degrade

quickly (did not yellow) and also did not chip off

even without a primer application. In addition to the

chemical analysis, we have some written records

that corroborate the existence of the specially

developed paint for the light aviation metal alloys.

Zero maintenance manual states: “The paints to be

used are transparent paint (light blue color) for the

interior and special paint for light metals (grey rat

color) for the exterior and the surface is to have

a polished finish”. In kariki 117 there is a group

L of grey colors designated “nezumi iro” i.e., rat (or

mouse) color and L2 was compared to FS16350.

by the Japanese historian and researcher Ryoichi

Watanabe Then we have a supporting document,

Kugisho report nr.0266 (Kugisho=Kaigun Kōkū Gijutsu-sho, Navy Air Technical Arsenal based in

Yokosuka) about Zero camouflage trials which “Arsenal” conducted in cooperation with Yokosuka Kōkūtai (kōkūtai=IJNAF unit) between November 1941

and February 1942. The report states that “the paint

color currently in use for the Type 0 KanSen is J3

(hai iro, ash or grey color) leaning slightly toward

amber color (Ameiro)...” and “ame-iro'' is mentioned at least six times throughout the text. Therefore, we are led to the existence, and mass application of the amber grey (J3 SP) by the following


1. Examination of actual paint samples from many

A6M2 and A6M3 model 32

2. Evidence of the Kugisho report - consistent with

INFO Eduard - January 2022