Modeling-ABC by Wilfried Eck

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Markings of US Navy  Carrier Aircraft

Part III - 1945


In the beginning of 1945 the Philippines were liberated, new carrier Task Forces were formed. On the way to Tokyo the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa had to be taken. As more carriers and aircraft than ever before were to participate a new aircraft identification system deemed necessary.

To standardise the system of tailmarkings, with Confidential Letter No. 2CTL-45, FF 12-5/F39-2/Ro, dated January 27, 1945, the Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) issued a list of markings for aircraft of all fleet and light carriers within Task Force 38 (rotation of TF 58).  The new markings - geometric again - were now to identify  the carrier itself (previously aircraft tail markings were inventions of individual squadrons). Also new was the repetition of the assigned marking on the upper side of the right wing (see Profiles below).

SB2C-4 of CV-9 Essex on the way to Hokodate

Plus and Minus of the new system were equally obvious. Now all aircraft of the assigned air group - which contained several squadrons - had an identical tail marking whereas previously differences were possible.

On the other side there was no way to identify a certain squadron exept for the numbers applied. In example CV-17 Bunker Hill (marking: vertical arrow): A F4U-1D Corsair with a yellow ring around the front of the cowling is often described as member of VF-84, but in reality it could also be from VMF-221 or VMF-251 as well, because CV-17 had three Corsair squadrons on board (the same goes for CV-9 Essex, Navy VF-squadron plus Marines VMF-124, -451, and CV-18 Wasp, VMF-216, 217).

The only clue to identification of a certain squadron was its numbering system. It became common to assign each squadron a certain block of numers (i.e. fighters 100 and following, torpedo planes 200 ff. dive bombers 300 ff), but not always and not clearly defined for all carriers.



As CV-6 "Enterprise" was on night duty all markings of VT(N)-90 were in gray colour

Night fighter units weren't too happy with the new markings. Too conspicuous and therefore not practical in night warfare. ComAirPac - authorized to assign different markings - was quickly convinced and permission for alteration granted, also for CV-6 Enterprise though day time carrier.

On some carriers the new marking was adhered to, but modified in another way (application on the underside of the left wing too or on both wings).

The profiles below show the actual ones used.


July 27, 1945 - now Task Force 58 again - brought another, final, change.

ComAirPac McCain was the opinion that geometric designs were fine to look at, but difficult to describe in radio messages. Use of letters seemed much more practical. To be applied on the vertical tail and the upper side of the right and the lower on the left wing (Profiles II). Size 24'', in August changed to 36'' for single letters and 30'' for double ones.

Though this list contained markings for all carriers nominally assigned to TF 58, they weren't actually applied everywhere.  The newest carriers weren't battle ready yet, some others in overhaul or severely damaged. But also those in action didn't display utterly haste.  The table below shows wich ones were actually used.

By the way: The letter code is still in use today, albeit with different letters ("Ax" for a/c of the Atlantic fleet, "Nx" for the Pacific fleet).


Start sequence on CV-18 Wasp, in the middle 5th aircraft of VF-86.


SB2C-4 Helldiver from CV-38 Shangri La (Air Group 85) at the end of the war


Hellcats of VF-32 on board CVL-28 Cabot in Sept. 1945, against directive still with geometric marking.


Letter Code actually applied:

CV-9 Essex


CV-10 Yorktown


CV-14 Ticonderoga:


CV-15 Randolph:


CV-16 Lexington


CV-18 Wasp:


CV-19 Hancock:


CV-20 Bennington:


CV-31 Bon Homme Richard


CV-38 Shangri La


CVL-22 Independence:


CVL-24 Belleau Wood:


CVL-25 Cowpens:


CVL-26 Monterey:


CVL-29 Bataan:


CVL-30 San Jacinto:




Other Markings:

As before. For attacks on Kyushu (homeland Japan) in spring 1945 a white or yellow ring around the front of the cowling was applied in washable paint.



All profiles below (Copyright) were made according to photos of the original aircraft. Markings not shown were used by Escort Carrier (CVE) aircraft, see CVE page.

Concerning the letter code not all aircraft are shown as the difference was only in type of aircraft, not in the marking itself.

Captions: Carriers in alphabetical order, Type of aircraft, unit, representative date.


Below: Examples of the letter code July 27, 1945


Markings on escort carriers