Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Both of our Japanese fighter aircraft wear a yellow band along the leading edge of their wings. After late 1941, most Japanese combat aircraft have these markings. In Donald Thorpe’s famous book "Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings, World War II," he describes them as “identification panels” for “recognition” but has very little to say about the details. I have heard many scenarios over the years. Imagine one Oscar zooming head-on at another. All of those dark and dreary camouflage colors blend to gray. Would those yellow bands keep a pilot from blasting his out-of-place buddy? Or think about a squadron of Bettys coming home after a mission. Would the distinctive yellow help save them from some trigger-happy gun crew at their home airfield? And finally, imagine yourself as a pilot of a Zero, flying into combat. You look behind to see if your wingman is still with you. Those yellow bands mean that guy trailing you is a friend, not some wily Wildcat pilot moving in for the kill. More theories, anyone? We’d love to hear them.