Star Wars: The Clone Wars introduced television fans to a pair of pink astromech droids, R2-KT and QT-KT. The curious viewer might wonder what a pink droid is doing on a secret mission in the middle of a war; wouldn’t camouflaged droids be better equipped as secret weapons? But looking back to World War II, we find that pink is actually well-suited for any number of secret missions.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode “Secret Weapons” follows the story of R2-D2 and his fellow astromech droids as they embark on a dangerous mission against the separatists in the middle of the Clone Wars. One of the droids joining R2 for the adventure is a new pink droid, QT-KT. “QT” is actually the second pink robot to be seen in The Clone Wars and was inspired by the first, R2-KT.
R2-KT, the special droid built by the R2 Builders club for Albin Johnson’s daughter Katie, has been a force to reckon with in the Star Wars community since young Katie’s passing in 2005. Not only has the real-life droid made appearances around the country – the pink astromech has been turned into a Hasbro action figure, is featured in Star Wars books, and even episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
World War II is filled with wild stories and seemingly crazy ideas. But when the world is at war and times get tough, even a seemingly crazy solution is worth a shot. That was the case for the pink fighter planes seen flying through the skies of Europe. Pink was discovered to be a very effective camouflage during dusk or dawn, especially for reconnaissance planes under cloud cover. Against the red and pink clouds, these reconnaissance planes were difficult to spot from below allowing them to hide while they photographed enemy positions below.
The idea for pink camouflage during World War II was first pioneered in the Royal Navy by Lord Mountbatten, who noticed early in the war that one civilian ship in his convoy, still painted a grayish pink color, did not stick out like all the rest. The simple science is that pink can be less noticeable against low-light conditions at dawn and dusk. This greyish pink color, later known as Mountbatten Pink, proved so effective that he ordered all the ships under his command to follow his newly-developed paint scheme. This insight was used throughout World War II and even into the Gulf War, where some modern British fighters and tankers employed the light pink paint scheme.
Cole Horton is an R2 builder, historian, and creator of From World War to Star Wars, an ongoing series of lectures at Star Wars Celebrations. He has also worked as World War II historian for Marvel Comics Augmented Reality app. You can find him on Twitter @ColeHorton.