Book Review: Camouflage and Markings of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana 1943-1945
by Ferdinando D’Amico & Gabriele Valentini

Reviewed by: Dan Salamone
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More than fifteen years in the making and well worth the wait. That could be a simple way to sum up this new reference on the camouflage and markings of the ANR from D’Amico and Valentini. However, this new resource for enthusiasts and modelers alike deserves much more.

Though the book covers the ANR as a whole, the authors have chosen to present the various units as separate entities, enabling an easier to digest evolution of camouflage and markings within each unit. Photographs and artwork are numbered, and referred to throughout the text so the amount of space to discuss each image is not confined to a mere caption. In addition, seven of the eight chapters include footnotes to further expand on the text.

Another feature of this book worth mentioning is the way the authors have chosen to focus on topics associated with ANR colors and markings. Sprinkled throughout the book, there are twelve “digressions” that range anywhere from a few pages, to a third of a page in length. Some subjects covered in this fashion include C.205 spinner paint application variety, RLM paint colors, features of Bf 109 variants produced by Erla, and G.55 technical variations. This is but one example of how the structure of the book helps with the flow of the main text, as well as allowing clear and concise illustration of topics through photography and art.

In the preface, the authors mention how they are proud of their modeling background. As a modeler, I appreciate how they have presented much of their material. For example, page 40 features a comparison of four photos showing differences in grey painted C.205 spinners. In one glance, you can see variations side by side, rather than needing to search through the entire publication. Another example, this time using color art, can be found on page 103. This time the subject is 2o Gruppo Caccia, and the unit badges/number style used by the three Squadriglia within the Gruppo. Thoughtful presentations like these can be found throughout this publication.

Although this book is “modeler friendly”, there is no paint chart matching camouflage colors to standards such as Federal Standard, or Methuen. In this respect, the book is geared more towards researchers and enthusiasts, but also allows the modeler to use their own judgment when choosing colors. This also fosters the understanding that some of the color schemes presented were indeed field applied, and in all likelihood used paints that were both plentiful, and most beneficial for the camouflage needs of the local environment. Careful study of photos and their accompanying text reveals the authors have taken into account some of the variables I have just mentioned.

Without question, the fighter units are the main focus of the book.  Squadriglia Complementare ‘Montefusco’, 1o Gruppo Caccia,  and finally 2o Gruppo Caccia are the topics of chapters two through four, the latter two units receiving attention worthy of their own books. These chapters are a combination of unit history, as well as a visual evolution of colors, markings, and equipment. Extensive coverage of the Bf 109 is provided, to the point that the information contained surpasses some publications dedicated to the type. The subject I personally found most surprising were the colors and markings applied to the C.205. Pages 65 and 66 illustrate 1 Gruppo Caccia Veltros that were delivered from the factory in a herringbone scheme of sand and green, but which were modified in the field with RLM 74 and 75 greys. The rationale for this conclusion is embedded in the text of pages 45 through 48, as well as the caption of the color profile on page 66. The authors feel that the unit needed to change the scheme to both meet a new tactical marking directive, as well as blend in better with the then current camouflage scheme in the unit. While seeming to make sense, it strikes me as odd that 3 Squadriglia would use greys to cover a scheme better suited for spring and summer camouflage needs, and do this on a brand new airframe in May. To add to this, the image on the bottom of page 67 shows a former 3a Sq. Veltro, in service with 2a Sq. in June of 1944. This Veltro seems to have retained its overall sand and green herringbone scheme, along with the updated tactical markings. Questions that arise out of situations like this should spark debate among readers of the book.

Authors: Ferdinando D’Amico and Gabriele Valentini
Publisher: Classic Publications, an imprint of Ian Allen
Publishing Format: Hardcover with dust jacket
ISBN:  1-903223-29-6
Description: 224 pages, 400+ photos, 103 examples of color profiles/art
Price: US $59.95 ( $37.77)
If I may digress for a moment, it is interesting to see the evolution of work from D’Amico and Valentini. Using the C.205 example mentioned above, some of the same photos appear in “Regia Aeronautica Vol.2,  Pictoral History of the ANR and the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force 1943-45”, published by Squadron/Signal in 1986. Pages 8 and 15 of this book show 3 Sq. Veltros with these field modified camouflage schemes, but the authors do not identify this in the captions. Citing them as either the grey splinter scheme, or as an experimental two tone sand and green scheme, a reader can now see that in fact these were “hybrid” schemes.  Sometime between 1986 and the publishing of this new volume, new information came to light that enabled a better understanding of both factory, and field applied schemes, used by the ANR.

One other topic that I will briefly touch on is the three tone splinter pattern seen on 2o Gruppo Caccia Centauros. Through photos and art, different variations of this pattern are illustrated. Of great interest are the possible color combinations, and rationale behind this seemingly anomalous scheme when compared to other ANR camouflages. The authors feel there may have been a German influence here, and that the paints themselves may have predated Tavola 10.

Although the bulk of the text and photos dwell on fighters, almost twenty pages are dedicated to Gruppo Aerosiluranti ‘Buscaglia’, and another twelve pages to transport units. The inclusion of the transport, as well as second line aircraft types, reinforces the impression that this book is as valuable to the researcher and enthusiast, as it is to scale aircraft modelers. Chapter eight, though only a few pages long, deals with shelters, blast pens, and ground concealment. The six photos in this short chapter are reinforced by many other photos throughout the book, which are referenced by number in the text. Again, a considerate and well thought out organization and use of information by the authors.

There is much more I could describe, but for sake of brevity will omit. After spending just a few hours reading this book, I was left wishing for a companion volume (or series) on Regia Aeronautica colors and markings. However, the endnote on page 214 contains a professional farewell from Ferdinando D’Amico, so any future works will be up to Gabriele Valentini himself, or a new generation of Italian researchers.

This new book is well printed on quality paper, and so far I have only discovered one typographical error. That said, there are a small number of color profiles that were not printed as well as the rest of the book.  Ferdinando D’Amico has posted a webpage with links to high quality profiles that can be downloaded and printed:

D’Amico and Valentini spent fifteen years in creating this book, and it shows. The thorough nature of their work lends great credence to their ideas and assumptions, this book should be viewed as the new benchmark for future publications on the subject. Anyone with an interest in WWII Italian aviation can buy this book with confidence, as it will become a keystone volume in any library on the topic.