Tank commander Sam

What I learned this week about: Late war German camo schemes

If the current atmosphere of the world in general has taught me anything, it’s that there is no reason not to be incredibly self-indulgent with my blog posts. On the list of Things That Are Important to Sam, agonizing over whether or not the words that I publish in the growing void of the internet are relevant is not even on the list.

Which brings us here, to the misleadingly titled blog post because, in fact, this is a topic near and dear to the hearts and minds that reside here.

World War II is a frequent subject of discussion, reading, gaming, watching, etc. in general. It started with my willingness, early on in our relationship, to give Band of Brothers a try (as someone who for years could not bring herself to watch a war movie, much less a mini-series based on actual people), and it’s evolved from there, culminating in one of two things: watching Generation War (never again) or planning a D-Day history trip that we went on last year (100% would do it again).

Said trip was, in fact, inspired by this very topic.

If you’re unaware of it, allow me to introduce you to the Tank Museum near Wareham, Dorset England.

I first learned about this museum through Saturday morning YouTube watching. I am not always engaged in them, but it’s pretty standard fare…instead of cartoons, we’ll have miniatures painting, war history, or tank videos on while we enjoy our coffee.

It was in this way that I learned that I like tanks. Or I like the enthusiasm that the museum curators have for them anyway. We all have our things.

This has become a running theme in our house since the first time we heard, in one of these videos, the phrase “we all get excited about late war German camo schemes.”

We got a picture at the tank museum of us with the tank that was highlighted in that particular video.

So…late war camo schemes.

First thing, I guess – why German camo schemes?

They had some amazing tanks; I don’t know what to tell you. The Tiger is one of the most feared and infamous tanks of World War II, and there is only one functioning Mark VI in the world right now.

Sam and Sherman Crab
One of Hobart’s funnies – this one cleared mines!

There’s also a story behind it! There are other tanks out there that I like way more…Sherman Crab, I’m looking at you. But as explained above, there’s like a Thing here.

Anyway, let’s talk about what “late war” means.

If you study history or went to school in Europe, you know that the war started in earnest in 1939, though it isn’t as though it just happened overnight. Planning something like the invasion of Poland takes time, after all, and for a megalomaniacal smear on the Earth who dreams of world domination, that goes double. This is early war! Lots of high hopes for world domination in these days.

In June of 1941, Germany invaded Russia under the umbrella of one of my favorite codenames – Operation Barbarossa. Tanks play a big part in Barbarossa, what with Russia being huge and all.

Things did not go well for the Germans on the Eastern Front.

And frankly the attitude of a certain chancellor did not help. A little bit of ego got involved, and through 1942 they started to lose ground, officially losing their foothold in North Africa in 1943, which paved the way for the western Allies to swoop on into Italy, pressuring the country to turn AGAINST the axis powers.

1944 brings us to the late war.

German forces were spread too thin. There were like 100 fronts (this is obviously an exaggeration, please do not @ me), and they were winning on 0 of them.

For the soldiers on the front lines, things were falling apart swiftly. Supplies were severely limited, but expectations remained high…ridiculously high, with an insane leader of the country shouting from a bunker in Berlin that they should cede NO ground.

I mentioned Generation War; it’s a miniseries I could never bring myself to watch again, but if you want to feel the absolute desperation and desolation of this time in the war, go ahead and give it a spin.

At this point, Germany was producing arms at the highest rate yet, but when you are the bully, no one actually wants to help you, and despite the various countries they had toppled earlier in the war, they were running out of resources.

Armies have to eat.

Tanks need fuel.

And speaking of tanks…pigments need solvents! As production of tanks and aircraft ramped up, despite the dwindling resources available, motorized military equipment began shipping out as quickly as possible. They were losing tanks almost as fast as they could produce them, so they were sent to the front lines hot off the presses.

And alongside those tanks would be cans of pigments with which to paint the tanks.

Sam and Eric and Mark V
The tank that started it all…a Panzer Mark V in late war camo scheme

Tank crews would receive their new vehicles, with their tins of pigments, but no solvents would be provided because again, having lost in both North Africa and the Caucasus regions of the Soviet Union, they had lost sources of petroleum.

But soldiers are innovative types, and they did what they could with what they had. Maybe what they had was water. Maybe it was vodka. Maybe it was urine. Or mud. Or some sort of fruit juice. Or literally anything at all that they could mix the pigments into and slap onto the exterior of their cramped homes-away-from-home.

Fast forward, and Berlin falls, Hitler takes the coward’s way out, and the Allies go home.

If you find yourself  many years later a history buff, especially one who has collected 15mm miniatures to play intricate war games, you might find yourself needing to know  just what colors were used by the German army, so that you mini German army can be historically accurate?

And if you’re going for historically accurate late war German camo, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you probably don’t have to worry too much, since there was no consistency in the color scheme. The bad news is I can’t really tell you how to get that authentic feldgrau mixed with old tobacco water look.

Nor do I know how to properly encapsulate, with acrylic paints and plastic, the horrors and pain of war.

But somehow, in the muted and irregular colors left on abandoned tanks in fields across Europe, we can get close.