In the early part of the war in the South West Pacific area there were many cases of mistaken identity when allied aircraft were fired on by allied forces. 

Japanese aircraft used the Rising Sun roundel on the side of the aircraft. The Americans affectionately referred to it as the "meatball". Australian aircraft used a roundel which had a red circle in the centre of a blue and white circle. At a distance this was sometimes confused for the Japanese meatball. Similarly, the early American marking for USAAC aircraft had a red circle in the centre. This also led to many cases of mistaken identity.

As can be seen by the pictures below, it is quite possible for personnel to mistakenly identify an aircraft as a Japanese aircraft. To overcome this the Americans changed their markings. Similarly the Australians painted out the centre red circle leaving a white and blue circle (see below).

The Unit History Sheet - Detail of Operations, Sheet No. 55  for 13 Squadron RAAF has an entry for 27 March 1942 which read as follows:- 

"Orders issued by the U.S. Air Staff to the effect that the red circle in the American insignia on all United States aircraft was to be immediately painted white to avoid mistakes in recognition, particularly by ground troops."

The Japanese meatball or Rising Sun
on an Aichi E13A "Jake" Floatplane

2 seater Yokosuka E14Y "Glen" reconnaissance floatplane

The early RAAF Roundel
on a Boomerang

The modified RAAF Roundel

B-25 Mitchell with early
USAAC marking

B-25 Mitchell with modified
 early USAAC Marking

B-25 Mitchell with later
USAAF marking


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This page first produced 9 October 2001

This page last updated 15 January 2020