Eye-popping pictorial map of the South Pacific campaigns of WWII

Educational Services Section Bureau of Naval Personnel Navy Dept. / U.S. Government Printing Office, Nav War Map No. 5 / SOUTHWEST PACIFIC. Washington: Navy Dept., 1944.
Offset lithograph printed in color, printed area 38”h x 5y”w plus margins.

A mammoth and colorful propaganda poster of the South Pacific issued by the U.S. Navy Department near the end of World War II.  

This impressive, separately-published pictorial map highlights events across the South Pacific, beginning with the Japanese strikes of late 1941 and early 1942, identified by sweeping orange arrows. American counteroffensives are shown by light blue arrows, beginning with the 1942 landings on Guadalcanal, with the limits of American control as of the end of April 1944 indicated by a dashed white line. Further west of this line are additional arrows indicating American raids on Truk, the Marianas and elsewhere. A small inset at lower left explains the staggering distances involved and explains the strategic rationale for the long and bloody campaign to retake the Pacific islands held by Japan: “Without the thousands of pin-point islands in the immense Southwest Pacific, air traffic would be difficult, if not impossible. Approximately five United States could be contained in this area.”

A slightly jarring feature of the map is a primer on “Peoples of the Pacific” at lower right. It features portraits and capsule ethnographic descriptions of Filipinos (“graceful in movement”), Australian Aborigines (“primitive”), Melanesians (“flat noses, frizzy hair”), Micronesians (“fishing is the chief activity”) and Polynesians (“tall, well-built, handsome”).

This poster was one of six Nav War Maps published by the Navy in 1944, the first five highlighting different theatre of the Second World War and the last providing a global overview. To see four of the five other posters, click here for Map No. 1, Map No. 3, Map No. 4, and Map No. 6.

Maps such as this help make an excellent case that should Second World War material deserves a respected niche in the antiquarian map market. The magnitude, horror and importance of the events shown; the skill with which they are here depicted; and the somewhat propagandistic tone make render this a piece worthy of both display and further study.

OCLC 8919957 and 9209216 list this particular map of the South Pacific, while 53073135 lists ten institutions holding the full set of 6 Nav War Maps.


Folds as issued with breaks at a few intersections, one small fold separation in upper margin. Very good overall.