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Friday, October 28, 2016

Flames of War - Painting Japanese Army Infantry for the Pacific Theater

The Japanese used a variety of uniforms during World War II which varied in function and coloration (sometimes quite dramatically). In Rising Sun, Battlefront provided a painting guide for Japanese infantry and gunners based on the uniforms fielded in 1939. Unfortunately with the release of Banzai, the painting guide has not been updated to reflect the uniform colors common in the Pacific War. Of course, the figures themselves are the same as the ones released in support of Rising Sun, so there will be some variations between the miniatures and some of the fine details of the actual later war uniforms. However, updating the color palette will give your force a more Pacific War feel to it.


The Uniform

Any time I try to color-match paints to photographs or historical artifacts, I create a color swatch over the primer color I'm using for that batch of miniatures to ensure I match them as closely as possible. Below is the swatch I'm using for my Pacific Japanese - please bear in mind that for all images in this blog entry, the colors will vary somewhat from a true visual color because of the limitations of the scanning process.


At this point I'm still using all Vallejo colors as I have a large library of paints, and see no need to move over to the new Battlefront colors at this time. Battlefront recommended Khaki Grey (880) for Japanese Uniforms when Rising Sun was released. They now recommend the equivalent Comrade Khaki followed by Zhukov Shade with a highlight of Military Khaki. To my eye, these colors are too brown for the Pacific Theater. Japanese Pacific Uniforms tended to be greener than those paints would indicate.

In order to find a better color match, I consulted several references. The key three are listed below:

  1. Jowett, Philip – The Japanese Army 1931-45 (2) – 1942-45 (Osprey Men-at-Arms) – 978-1-84176-354-5
  2. Rottman, Gordon L. – Japanese Infantryman 1937-45 (Osprey Warrior) – ISBN 1-84176-818-9
  3. Sáiz, Augustín Hetai – Uniforms, Equipment & Personal Items of the Japanese Infantryman, 1931-1945 – ISBN 978-94-96658-31-8

I've done my best to correct the shifts in color caused by the scanning process in the images below, but there's only so much the software can do. My recommendation is to pick up or borrow a couple of the books.

Below is a Type 3 Uniform - note how much greener it is than the Khaki Grey paint above - closer to the Yellow Green (881), though there are a few versions that are somewhat more brown, they still have a greenish overtone closer to the Green Brown (879) than to the originally suggested Khaki Grey.


Note also a page showing some of the equipment (including the uniform) of a Japanese infantryman from the Osprey series. Once again the uniform is much closer to the Yellow Green (881). Furthermore the Tan Earth (874) seems to be a reasonable match to the Puttees, though I have seen some of the "real thing" that look closer to Khaki (989), and the boots appear to match the Leather Brown (72040) reasonably well. I've also seen some uniforms and shirts that look a bit closer to the Khaki (989) color.


The bottom line for me is that for Pacific War Uniforms, the Khaki Grey (880) color looks simply too brown. I'm therefore going to use the Yellow Green (881) for many uniforms. That being said, like all combatants in World War II, the Japanese had several manufacturers for military equipment, with a perhaps greater degree of variation - especially in color. I've seen caps, which generally match the uniform color, range from brown to almost a German Fieldgrey color, and uniforms vary almost as much. I'm therefore planning on painting at least a few miniatures in every platoon with alternate uniform colors to provide a believable amount of variation in uniform coloration.


The Helmet

Battlefront originally recommended Brown Violet (882) for the Japanese helmets. This is essentially the same color as American World War II helmets, which again seemed a bit off based on Japanese Pacific War helmets. Based on the photo below, the brown violet seemed a bit too green:


The photo washed out a bit during the scan, as an alternative to the Brown Violent one could use a a Chocolate Brown (872) as the base color. German Camouflage Medium Brown (826) appears to be a plausible alternate choice.


Final Color Selection

I've summarized some alternative choices for Japanese infantry on the swatch diagram below:


The Flat Red (957) and Flat Yellow (953) will be useful for painting rank insignia on the uniforms as a part of final detailing. The coverage on the Flat Red is pretty good, but the Flat Yellow so far has proven to be a bit thinner and may take multiple coats. I'm also considering colors for the SNLF (perhaps the Olive Grey noted above). Finally, bear in mind that the shade of any paint will depend on both what primer is used and what washes are used on top of it.

So these have been my thoughts on what would work as alternatives for Pacific War Japanese Uniforms. Ironically the one color that appears to be completely wrong is called "Japanese Uniform" (923) as it is entirely too yellow. The color may be useful for some of the webbing as these appear to have had almost as much variation in tone as the uniforms and other gear because of inconsistencies between manufacturing locations. I'm unfortunately still in the middle of painting my Japanese as the new house project is taking much longer than expected, but I hope to have them done early in the new year - watch this space for more!

Dr. Michael McSwiney has been playing wargames since the early 1980's and Flames of War since 2008. He is an author, contributor, and former playtester for Battlefront and maintains his own wargaming blog Miniature Ordnance Review.



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