Sunday 28 February 2010

JG 1 Focke Wulf Fw 190 checker nose colours

Another area of Luftwaffe colours that seems to have become a real can of worms is the issue of JG 1 Fw 190 checker board cowls. These 'Sonderkennungen' or 'special markings' were among the first attempts to come up with a colour scheme that would facilitate aerial re-formation of  JG 1 fighters after a pass through the bomber Pulks. The first 1./JG1 machines to be painted with this Schachbrettmuster (lit. chess board scheme) were photographed with plain white cowls and from around mid-1943 1. Staffel added black checks to the white cowling. The scheme didn't last long on the aircraft as reported by 1./JG 1 mechanic August Michalski;

" one day our airfield at Deelen was raided by P-47s - their cowlings were also finished in the chequer board scheme. Because of this the airfield flak failed to open up on them - they thought they were our own aircraft- and the P-47s were able to strafe the field entirely unhampered...following this debacle our Fw 190s quickly had their checker cowls over-painted .."

It is therefore difficult to see how these cowl colours could be anything other than black/white - after all why should they be?  Fw 190 Experte (NB 'Experten' is the PLURAL form) Peter Rodeike who covered this subject in an article in German magazine Jet & Prop (issue 4/03) is of the same opinion. In his piece Rodeike quoted ground crew testimony from Michalski (above) and states that " no former JG 1 personnel could recall any colour combination other than white/black as ever being used on JG 1 Focke-Wulfs ". Pretty categoric. He further states that information on yellow and red coloured chequers stem solely from 'interpretations' of archive film images held by certain US 'experts' and authors (if I'm being unkind he could have perhaps added 'with decals and books to sell'). In Rodeike's article one can trace two possible sources of the claims of yellow and red used.

One is a b/w photograph of the Fw 190 "White 1" (or "4") assigned to Bernhard Kunze, 1./JG 1, WNr. 410055, showing an oil smeared cowling giving the impression of a shade darker than white, obviously (incorrectly) understood as yellow. A 1./ JG 1 Fw 190 had white as the Staffel colour.

Thomas A. Tullis has on the other hand published an article in "Defenders of the Reich Vol 2", by Erik Mombeeck arguing why 1./JG 1 used yellow/black chequers. He suggests the black checkers/chequers had been painted on an already yellow nosed a/c or even that the "power egg (entire cowl/engine unit) could have been borrowed from a third Staffel aircraft due to engine problems". Both explanations seem quite unrealistic to me and seem only to serve the purpose of defending a preconceived idea. Note though that sister Geschwader JG 11 did have solid yellow cowls on some of their Fw 190s.

There are some stills taken from a film also published in b/w in "Defenders of the Reich Jagdgeschwader 1 Vol 2", by Mombeek. The colour version of the pictures are published in the Jet & Prop article and clearly show some undoubtedly white checkers, while others have a brown/red tone to them. Studying the photographs closely though you can see that areas of the grass and trees in the background are tainted brown, so for me this is pretty unreliable you can see from this still shot I've added from the article...

Commentary from Bernhard Kunze's nephew on the JG 1 checker cowl colour issue on this blog


  1. Hi all,
    I´m very thankful to read this statement on which I fully agree !
    I´m the nephew of Fw. Berhard Kunze (Fw190A5 -White 1, WN 410055) and I could do some work to enlighten and clear up most of the circumstances and details on Berhard´s fatal crashwith its 2./ JG1 FW190 A6 (Black 1, WN 550884) on Jan. 5th, 1944 close to Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany.
    One thing was facing me very often, it was the very inconsistant discussion of the checkerboard colour of the fighters he piloted. Corrections of the sometimes wrong published sketches of Bernhard´s 190-checkerbord-colours are really needed. In writing to all the relevant publishers I did many efforts to make the truth breaking through - but a pity without success. Everyone should know black/white is correct, instead of black/yellow. By no exceptions at any time all different squadrons of JG1 were painted always in the same respective identical color combination in analogy to the squadron number, and the numbering color of every single plane was corresponding to the coloring of checkerboard.
    Bernhard and others never used to have a yellow/black checkerboard !
    Because this was discussed in web and publications in a most controversially and misleading manner I personally have interviewed some contemporary eyewitnesses : e.g. former JG1 pilots, like Bernhard´s 1./JG1-squadron-colleague Lt. Berger as well as the sister of Bernhard (she eyewitnessed his Fw190´s) ! Both are witnessing independently from each other and very clear that Bernhard´s Fw190 and all 1./JG1 fighters always used to have a "black/white"-checkerboard - even if the lower engine cowl was painted in yellow .

    Hoping to contribute to a bit more clearness by this message.
    F. Börsch
    Febr. 27 - 2013

    1. My name is Matt Hoffman. I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. I am the grandson of Jim Bosse. Jim Bosse was an American Aviator from Cincinnati and was an Engineer/Turret Gun Operator on the B17 YB-40 Airplane "Wango Wango" that was shot down on June 22, 1943 by Bernhard Kunze over Huls Germany. He was part of the 8th Army, 92 Bomb Group, 327 Bombing Squadron. He enlisted in the war as a 17 year old (lied on his enlistment to go to war). He became a prisoner of war in Stalag 17B in Krems, Austria after being shot down and was liberated by the Russians in May, 1945. My grandfather passed away in 1993.

    2. Thanks for your contribution Matt!

  2. I herad From Jerry Crandall.
    2./JG 1 did have Black and Red checkered cowlings and I have the color film to prove it.
    Look at the phots posted they are the real thing. You cannot say those checkers are white and black when you can see the outline of the crosses and rudder are white.

    1. I can and I do. Where is this color film?

  3. Hello everyone,
    Would it be possible to see the above mentioned film anywhere in its full length?
    Milos Gazdic


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