Monday, March 9, 2015
Why World War II spy planes used pink camouflage
World War II marked a time of great innovation, which was sometimes practical and sometimes loony. Those two kinds of innovation came together when great military minds decided that to keep an airplane from being spotted, they needed to paint it pink. Find out why a pink aircraft can get lost in the sky.
The Spitfire is a much loved plane, even today. Built in the late 1930s, it has the look of a classic airplane, with an oblong, slightly rounded body, wings that look like a huge oval strapped to the plane, and a 'blister' of glass over the cockpit. Whenever someone steps out of a Spitfire they should have on leather flying gloves and an aviator's scarf blowing in the wind. That scarf, however, may be very tough to match with the plane.
The pink, slightly too washed-out to be an actual baby pink, still seems bright enough to signal every enemy within five miles. This is certainly true when the Spitfires were seen from above. They stand out brightly against the ground. To make sure they were rarely seen from above, these planes were painted to fly just under cloud cover. Although the planes were ideally meant to fly at sunset and sunrise, when the clouds took on a pinkish hue and made the plane completely invisible against them, they were also useful during the day. Clouds are pinker than we give them credit for.
One of the troubles with the Spitfire was the fact that the pilot felt garish and exposed. Having to keep an eye on the sky above to check for enemy aircraft, fly with cloud cover, and frequently fly at dawn or at sunset, these Spitfires were real challenges to their pilots. However, as early spy planes they allowed the Allies to collect much-needed data, while flying close to the ground. And of course, in the evenings, when the sky was pink with the sunset, they were far more invisible than a white plane shining against a pastel cloud.