1942 U.S. Army ” Maps Are Weapons ” poster

W[illiam] S. Stanley, WORLD COVERAGE [:] MAPS ARE WEAPONS [:] National Security demands ACCURATE MAPS. NP: Map-Chart Division Headquarters Army Air Services, 1942.
Lithograph printed in black, blue and red, 20”h x 15”w at sheet edge.

A punchy ” Maps Are Weapons ” poster touting the importance of the work of the U.S. Army’s  Map-Chart Division during the Second World War.

Attractively printed in black, blue and red, the poster features a central outline map of the Western Hemisphere. Superimposed on the map are American planes flying East-West along the Equator and the phrase “MAPS ARE WEAPONS” (In a nice touch, both the planes and the text cast faint shadows on the map, giving the image a certain amount of depth.) Running around its perimeter of the map is “GOOD MAPS MAKE GOOD PLANS [:] NO MAPS NO PLANS.” It is not clear where the phrase ” Maps Are Weapons ” originated, though it was the title of a 1941 article on the use of propaganda maps by the Nazi government. (Hans W. Weigert, “ Maps Are Weapons, ” Survey Graphic no. 30 (October 1941), pp. 528-530.)

Though thinly staffed, the Map-Chart Division of the Army Air Forces played a vital role during the Second World War:

“The Map-Chart Division was charged with the preparation, procurement, compilation, reproduction, maintenance and general distribution of aeronautical charts.  It was obvious that the small, newly organized division could not recruit a sufficient staff or acquire adequate facilities to meet the needs of the Air Forces; nor was it believed necessary, because several other existing governmental agencies were capable of meeting much of the Air Forces requirements.  Therefore, the Map-Chart Division was organized primarily as a control agency within the Air Forces to manage work performed by other agencies operating under contracts with the Air Forces.


“Every available government mapping agency was contracted, and arrangements were made to integrate their resources.  Thus … making available to the Air Force the services of approximately 5,000 cartographers and lithographers for the accomplishment of one of the most extensive charting programs up to that time. (“History of the Aeronautical Chart Service”)

Over just four years the Division coordinated the production of a staggering 6000 different charts in six series, each for a different purpose and at a corresponding scale: 1) World Planning, 1:5,000,000 scale; (2) World Weather Charts, 1:5,000,000; (3) World Long Range Navigation, 1:3,000,000; (4) World Aeronautical Pilotage Charts, 1:1,000,000 and 1:500,000; (5) Approach Charts of Strategic Areas, 1:250,000; and (6) large-scale Target Charts of large scale. It also produced special-purpose items such as escape-and-evasion maps for downed pilots.

I have found almost nothing on artist William S. Stanley. The Library of Congress holds “6 drawings : watercolor on board” by him, somehow related to the work of the Map-Chart Division, but their content is not clear. A search in OCLC for the years 1940-1950 yields no publications under his name.

Not in OCLC, and a Google search yields no other examples.


Minor soiling else excellent.