Nav War Maps of the Mediterranean and South China Sea

Prepared by The Educational Services Section Bureau of Naval Personnel / U.S. Government Printing Office, Nav War Map No. 1[:] THE MEDITERRANEAN. [with:] Nav War Map NO. 2[:] THE SOUTH CHINA SEA AREA. Washington: Navy Department, 1944.
Offset lithographs printed in color recto and verso, printed areas 38”h x 57”w plus imprint and margins.
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Two spectacular propaganda maps of the Mediterranean and South China Sea, printed front and back on a single sheet and issued in 1944 by the U.S. Navy Department.

The recto features Nav War Map No. 1, which highlights the strategic importance of the Mediterranean, which “offers many approaches to Fortress Europe.” It also emphasizes Allied successes there during the Second World War, giving particular attention to the role played by massive Allied fleets in supporting the invasions of North Africa (1942) and Sicily (1943).

The map is printed in somber tones of black, brown and blue-gray, with symbols indicating cities of various sizes, naval bases and airfields. Various naval fleets and air squadrons are shown in tiny bird’s-eye view, their movements indicated by bold arrows, with tiny vignettes depicting the British raid on Taranto (1940), the scuttling of the French navy at Toulon (1942), the North Africa and Sicily landings, and other major events. Dashed red and yellow lines indicate areas of North Africa and Italy occupied by American and British armies, reflecting the status quo as of early 1944. The lower half of the map provides a variety of statistical information, a timeline of American naval activities in the region reaching back to 1801, and an inset map showing the value of Allied air bases in Sardinia, southern Italy and Turkey. The overall impression is one of complete Allied dominance in and around the Mediterranean, though at the time most of Southern Europe remained firmly under Axis control.

The reverse features Nav War Map No. 2, a thematic map of the South China Sea and surrounding region, with coverage extending westward as far as India and east to New Guinea. It emphasizes the region’s strategic importance as a source of raw materials, including “almost all of the world’s quinine; nine-tenths of the world’s rubber; one-half of the world’s tin and tungsten; and surpluses of oil, rice, cotton, tea, spices, hemp and tropical hardwoods.” Yellow arrows indicate the routes of Japanese invasion in 1941-42, while large white arrows indicate the routes of vital raw materials shipped from the conquered territories back to Japan (Many of these routes terminate in vignettes of Japanese freighters and tankers in flames.) The map also features a timeline of “historic highlights in America’s relations with Southeast Asia,” five vignettes at lower left of low-tech production of raw materials, and an inset map showing the “vast” distances required to traverse the region.

This pair of maps were part of a six-map set produced by the Navy Department in 1944 (Maps No. 3 and 4 may be viewed here; No. 5 here, and No. 6 here.)  All use the tools of “persuasive mapmaking”–such as bright colors, selective inclusion/exclusion of information, and exaggeration of scale–to make the general point that the Allies were winning a hard-fought war against the Axis.

Maps such as this help make an excellent case that Second World War material deserves an honored 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 propagandistic tone render this a piece worthy of both display and study.

Condition

Just a bit of soiling in margins and a few tiny breaks at intersections, but generally excellent.