After seeing the movie Dunkirk I learnt that the Luftwaffe didn't actually use the yellow coloring on the Me-109 until a few months after the battle of Dunkirk. Was this perhaps done to avoid friendly fire? I'm eager to hear other possible explanations.


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    $\begingroup$ I have a friend who is really interested in WWII and especially the German Luftwaffe. I asked him and he told me the yellow nose indicates the squadron leader. $\endgroup$ Jan 8 '18 at 12:30

You're right that the yellow tactical markings were used in order to reduce the friendly fire incidents (similar to the Allied D-Day stripes). As noted by Alan W. Hall in Messerschmidt Bf 109 warpaint:

Quick identification has always been a necessity in aerial conflict ... Channel front fighters of the Luftwaffe started carrying yellow cowl and rudder markings. Some painted the entire cowling forward of the windscreen yellow, while others just painted the undersides of the cowling.

The image below shows some of the various tactical markings used at the time.

Tactical markings

Bf 109 tactical markings; image from asisbiz.com

While the yellow paint seems to have been used before, it saw widespread use from August 1940 during Battle of Britain, and was used in some cases in other theaters too. Also, other aircraft like FW 190 also used some variations, like the yellow painted rudder.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer! Do you happen to know if yellow had any further symbolic meaning? Or was the particular choice of yellow (instead of any other color contrasting them to opposing forces) based on contrast to the blue and white sky? $\endgroup$
    – vestland
    Jan 9 '18 at 14:23

JG26 pilot Steinhilper records in his diary that yellow paint arrived at aerodromes on August 24th with orders to paint all cowlings immediately. This order was direct from Goering but unpopular with commanders. It was for identification purposes because Goering claimed that the skies would be full of Luftwaffe. Hope that helps.


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