Monday, July 23, 2012

The Origin of the D-Day Stripes

D-Day Stripes on an RAF Supermarine Spitfire (Photo courtesy: Jim Hooper)

During the 1943 invasion of Sicily on July 10 the allies experienced the worst incident of friendly fire in the entire war.  The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of Matthew Ridgway's 82nd Airborne "was decimated by friendly fire.  As the troop-carrying C-47's flew over the invasion fleet on their way to the drop zone, trigger-happy antiaircraft gunners opened fire.  Of the 144 planes that took off from Tunisia, 23 were shot down and 37 were badly damaged.  Fourteen hundred of the 5,300 paratrooper in the regiment were killed or missing--one of the worst friendly fire episodes in modern warfare."  Source: Eisenhower in War and Peace, Jean Edward Smith, 2012, page 280.  http:/

Please note that this one incident, on one day in World War II, claimed about half the American casualties of the entire 9/11 catastrophe or, alternatively, more than 1,000 X worse than the recent tragedy in Aurora CO.  But have you ever even heard of it before reading this? Has anybody ever asked you to remember 7/10/43?

When the time came to launch the D-Day invasion in 1944 a new approach was taken.  Every single aircraft in the vast Allied air armada was painted with D-Day stripes.  If you see a plane with D-day stripes today at an air museum (Duxford, Smtihsonian, etc.) that has black and white zebra stripes on the undercarriage you know that it was a D-Day veteran.

The allies learned from their mistakes and friendly fire on allied aircraft was largely averted on D-Day due to these preventive measures.

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Ray Merriam said...

The photo is of a Supermarine Spitfire, not a Hawker Hurricane.

Commander Kelly said...

Thanks Ray for the correction. I have amended.

Thanks for reading closely.