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American Lockheed Lightning participating in the Normandy campaign showing the D-Day invasion stripes.
Looking up at invasion stripes on a C-47, on the 70th anniversary of VE Day in Washington, D.C.

Invasion stripes were alternating black and white bands painted on the fuselages and wings of World War II Allied aircraft, for the purpose of increased recognition by friendly forces (and thus reduced friendly fire incidents) during and after the Normandy Landings. The bands, consisting of three white and two black bands, wrapped around the rear of an aircraft fuselage just in front of the empennage (tail) and from front to back around both the upper and lower surfaces of the wings.

Stripes were applied to fighters, photo-reconnaissance aircraft, troop carriers, twin-engined medium and light bombers, and some special duty aircraft, but were not painted on four-engined heavy bombers of the U.S. Eighth Air Force or RAF Bomber Command, as there was little chance of mistaken identity — few such bombers existed in the Luftwaffe. The order affected all aircraft of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force, the Air Defence of Great Britain, gliders, and support aircraft such as Coastal Command air-sea rescue aircraft whose duties might entail their overflying Allied anti-aircraft defenses. To stop aircraft being compromised when based at forward bases in France, D-Day stripes were ordered removed a month after from the upper surfaces of airplanes, and completely removed by the end of 1944.

The use of recognition stripes was conceived when a study of the effects of thousands of aircraft using IFF on D-Day concluded that they would saturate and break down the existing system. Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, commanding the Allied Expeditionary Air Force, approved the scheme on May 17, 1944. A small scale test exercise was flown over the OVERLORD invasion fleet on June 1, to familiarize the ships' crews with the markings, but for security reasons, orders to paint the stripes were not issued to the troop carrier units until June 3 and to the fighter and bomber units until June 4.

Marking description[edit]

Geoffrey Page, commander of 125 Wing, about to take off on a ground-attack sortie in his Supermarine Spitfire (1944). The roughly-applied nature of the invasion stripes painted on his aircraft can be seen

The stripes were five alternating black and white stripes. On single-engine aircraft each stripe was to be 18 inches (46 cm) wide, placed 6 inches (15 cm) inboard of the roundels on the wings and 18 inches (46 cm) forward of the leading edge of the tailplane on the fuselage. National markings and serial number were not to be obliterated. On twin-engine aircraft the stripes were 24 inches (61 cm) wide, placed 24 inches (61 cm) outboard of the engine nacelles on the wings, and 18 inches (46 cm) forward of the leading edge of the tailplane around the fuselage.

In most cases the stripes were painted on by the ground crews; with only a few hours' notice, few of the stripes were "masked".[1] As a result, depending on the abilities of the "erks" (RAF nickname for ground crew), the stripes were often far from neat and tidy.

Operation Starkey[edit]

The stripes for this two-day deception operation in 1943 were black from the wing tip to a position on the wing where the chord is 5 feet, then four bands of alternating white and black. This was the same for the upper and lower surfaces. These were applied to all aircraft operating at low level. For single engine aircraft the stripes were 18 inches in width. For twin engine aircraft, including the Westland Whirlwind, the stripes were 24 inches in width.

Hawker Typhoon[edit]

A Hawker Typhoon of No. 56 Squadron RAF, painted with recognition stripes under the wings (April 1943)

An earlier use of black and white bands was on the Hawker Typhoon and early production Hawker Tempest Mark Vs. The aircraft had a similar profile to the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and the bands were added to aid identification in combat. The order was promulgated on 5 December 1942. At first they were applied by unit ground crews, but they were soon being painted on at the factory. Four 12-inch-wide (300 mm) black stripes separated by three 24-inch (610 mm) white, underwing from the wingroots. From early 1943 the Typhoons also had a yellow, 18-inch-wide (460 mm) stripe on each of the upper wings, centred on the inner cannon. All of these markings were officially abandoned 7 February 1944.

The Luftwaffe's Jagdverband 44[edit]

The late-war specialized all-jet Luftwaffe fighter squadron, Jagdverband 44, possessed a number of Fw 190 D piston-engined fighters to protect their units' Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters during the jets' takeoff and landing operations, as the jets were most vulnerable to Allied piston-engined fighter attack at those times. The Fw 190D aircraft of this so-called Platzschutzstaffel (airfield protection squadron) used a solid red color scheme, with narrow white stripes, under the wings and central fuselage to identify them as "friendly" Luftwaffe fighters, for similar reasons as the "invasion stripes" had been used in Operation Overlord ten months earlier over Normandy. The Staffel was nicknamed 'Die Würger-Staffel'.


A Hawker Sea Fury launches from HMS Glory in 1951

Invasion stripes were re-introduced on British and Australian Fleet Air Arm aircraft operating during the Korean War in 1950. Similar stripes were also used early in the war on F-86 Sabres of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing.


The stripes were used again by the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, and the French Air Force during the Suez operation of 1956. Single-engined aircraft had yellow/black/yellow/black/yellow stripes one foot wide. The pattern was the same on multi-engined aircraft but the bands were 2 feet (61 cm) wide.


Soviet tanks in 1968

During the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the special marking of the invasion forces was also necessary as they used mostly the same types of vehicles and aircraft as the armed forces of Czechoslovakia. Their marking consisted of one long white strip going in the middle of the car from the front on the roof to the back, and two additional strips in the middle of both sides.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ D-Day was originally scheduled for June 5.
  • Robertson, Bruce. 'Aircraft Markings of the World 1912-1967'. Harleyford Publications, Letchworth,. England. 1967.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_stripes — Please support Wikipedia.
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106 news items

The Aviationist (blog)

The Aviationist (blog)
Thu, 05 Jun 2014 05:03:12 -0700

Both aircraft were painted with the characteristic “invasion stripes”, alternating black and white bands painted on the fuselages and wings of allied aircraft during WWII Normandy campaign to increase recognition by friendly forces and reduce friendly ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Wed, 21 May 2014 11:09:45 -0700

A Eurofighter Typhoon adorned with commemorative D-Day invasion stripes has been unveiled ahead of the 70th anniversary of the landings. The state-of-the-art jet has been specially painted with the famous black and white markings in tribute to the role ...

The Aviationist (blog)

The Aviationist (blog)
Mon, 21 Dec 2015 13:48:20 -0800

Even though it also participated in the War in the Pacific, attacking Japanese airfields and shipping early in WWII, it was used primarily in Europe, against German industrial and military targets. Serving with the Eighth Air Force, in UK, and ...

The Aviationist (blog)

The Aviationist (blog)
Thu, 10 Sep 2015 04:09:44 -0700

One British classic aircraft from WW2 helping out its Cold War compatriot at Scottish airshow. This video was filmed on Sept. 5, at Prestwick airport, during the Scottish Airshow 2015 and it shows the last flying Vulcan bomber experiencing a nose wheel ...

The Aviationist (blog)

The Aviationist (blog)
Fri, 09 Oct 2015 06:41:15 -0700

Ever wondered what it was like to fly in a Spitfire during the Battle of Britain? This video will give you an idea. The video below will bring you aboard a vintage Spitfire recreating classic Battle of Britain moves over the English Channel, in order ...

Tulsa World

Tulsa World
Wed, 26 Aug 2015 22:05:01 -0700

World War II P-38 bearing “Invasion Stripes” for easy identification during the invasion of France on June 6, 1944. — U.S. Air Force Photo. F-38 Marines. Lesa Jones lesa.jones@tulsabusiness.com ...

Warbirds News

Warbirds News
Fri, 16 Oct 2015 13:29:12 -0700

In fact she currently wears the same codes (5A-K) and invasion stripes she flew with 329 Squadron during this time. Interestingly, 329 Squadron was manned by French personnel from a former French Air Force unit absorbed into the RAF. MK959 left 329 for ...

The Aviationist (blog)

The Aviationist (blog)
Sat, 18 Jul 2015 08:36:21 -0700

The following video was filmed with different GoPro cameras from aboard the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 from 29 Sqn based at RAF Coningsby that was given a retro WWII era paint job as part of the commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the Battle ...

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