Ten striking propaganda Newsmaps published by the U.S. War Department during the Second World War, covering roughly the period between the surrenders of Nazi Germany and Japan. Unusual in being accompanied by their original War Department mailing envelope.
This run of Newsmaps is not continuous, but all were issued between May 7 and August 13, 1945… thus covering the period from one day before V-E Day to two days before V-J Day. The focus is almost entirely on the Pacific Theatre and the need to redouble efforts there after the defeat of Germany.
Each poster includes one or more maps, some regional in nature, others focusing on individual countries, islands, battles or cities. The message walks a very fine line, in an effort to convey that while the war in the Pacific is going well much hard fighting remains ahead: On the one hand, a persistent theme is the series of military setbacks suffered by Japan and the devastating damage inflicted by the American strategic bombing campaign. At the same time, much attention is paid to the Japan’s military tradition, the determination and toughness of its soldiers, and the continued strength of its military-industrial complex.
A small inset on the poster for August 13—the last in this run–announces the advent of the Atomic Age at Hiroshima on August 6: “The atomic bomb dropped by U. S. Fliers on Hiroshima unleashed the most dreadful force ever felt on the face of the earth, possessing more power than 20,000 tons of TNG, a destructive force equal to the load of 2000 B-29s.” There is no mention of the bombing of Nagasaki on the 9th and no inkling that Japan would announce its surrender within just a few days.
The posters are accompanied by their tattered War Department Bureau of Public Relations mailing envelope, addressed to the Labor Management Committee of Sibley Machine & Foundry Corp., South Bend, Indiana.
Background on Newsmaps
The War Department published hundreds of weekly Newsmaps during the Second World War and into 1946, for distribution to military installations, domestic industry and political leaders.
The Newsmaps were remarkable productions. Most issues issue featured a map or maps, using vivid colors and one more unusual projections to depict activity in important theatres of war over the previous week. A single Newsmap might for example feature a world map; a “bird’s-eye view” of East Asia; or multiple maps of actions as far afield as Western Europe, the Russian Front, and South Georgia Island in the Pacific. The maps were usually accompanied by substantial explanatory text providing more detail on the areas and actions depicted.
NewsMaps were issued in at least two editions. The “Overseas Edition” was relatively small, some 17” by 23”, presumably to reduce the cost of rapid shipping by plane. The “Industrial Edition,” ten examples of which are offered here, was very large (35” by 47”) and intended for domestic distribution, usually folded for mailing in an envelope. Physically fragile and ephemeral in nature, the vast majority of all the posters must have perished at an early date. As a result, while they are frequently encountered on the market, individual issues should be considered scarce and possibly rare.
Some Newsmaps, though not those offered here, were printed double-sided. The verso would at times feature additional maps and text depicting current events, but many printed educational material of use to soldiers, such as how to recognize enemy planes or protect oneself against a gas attack. Of these, my very favorite is the verso of the November 8, 1943 Newsmap, which features This is Ann…She Drinks Blood, drawn by Theodore Geisel and urging soldiers to protect themselves against malaria. Yet others printed propagandistic exhortations of a more general nature, for example encouraging viewers on the home front to avoid wasting material that could aid the war effort, or buy war bonds. As with the maps, these educational and propagandistic pieces used bold colors, eye-catching graphic design, and catchy language, and are both fascinating period pieces and eminently displayable.
Maps with folds as issued and some minor wear, but generally very good or better. Envelope tattered.