The Pacific Theater of War: World War II

May 28, 2015
Julie Sweetkind-Singer

Maps of war take many forms from those showing battlefronts to the layout of trenches, from details of terrain to focusing on the forts that protect a harbor.  One category of war map is designed to inform the people at home or soldiers as to what is or has happened during a campaign.  This week we feature three maps from the Branner Library collection that focus on World War II and the battles in the Pacific.  This exhibit is part of the Branner 100th Anniversary celebration and will be on display May 28 - June 4, 2015 at the Branner Earth Sciences Library and Map Collections.

Between 1942 and 1946 the U.S. Army Information Branch issued weekly broadsheets called Newsmap that were targeted specifically for American military personnel to keep up on the progress of the war.  The broadsheets are large, measuring 3 feet by 4 feet and are printed on both sides.  They include maps, photographs, news, and the progress on each front.  224 Newsmaps were printed and Branner Library holds about 50 of them.  You may read more about these maps in a blog post written by Mike DiCianna, a student at Oregon State University.  The University of North Texas has scanned 212 of the maps and you may view them here.  The map on display is from October 13, 1943 and includes a map of Europe for context and the world colored according to military alliances.  At the bottom left three pictures show a time lapse of the bombing of a few flats in a river. 

 

The Army Orientation Course issued a number of striking maps depicting battles and theaters of war.  These maps, including the one shown here entitled "The North Pacific Area," are dramatic works of art strongly asserting the American point of view.  The landmasses are lit from below giving the map an ominous foreboding feeling.  Planes crisscross the map as the battles rage on.  A list of "Japanese aggression" is included with the dates of events in flames.  The bombing of Pearl Harbor is graphically shown with the whole island of Oahu up in flames. 

 

The final map in the display was issued in 1946 and displays Hiroshima showing the destruction wrought by the dropping of the atomic bomb, Little Boy, on August 6, 1945.  The map shows areas completely destroyed and partially destroyed.  The information is overlaid on a 1:12,500 scale topographic map made before the bombing.  It includes the buildings that stood in the area of complete devastation including the Daini Middle School, the Temma Grade School, numerous factories (knitting mill, cotton mill, license plate factory, and canning factory), and the military compound (transport battalion buildings, the imperial headquarters, the commanders' quarters, and the infantry regiments.  It is a sobering reminder of the end of the war.  The map has been digitized by the University of Texas, Austin's Perry-Castenada Library.

This exhibit is part of the anniversary celebration commemorating the 100th year since since the founding of the Branner Earth Sciences Library & Map Collections (June 14, 1915 - June 15, 2015). 

Counting down to the anniversary on June 14, each week we will be exhibiting items from our collection and archive.  This exhibition is part of an ongoing series of anniversary events that culminate with a public celebration, speakers, and a tour of the library on Thursday, June 11, 2015 from 4-6:30pm.  Please be sure to join us!