Maps of the Great War: Army Cartography in World War I

One of the most illuminating groups of records found in the Cartographic Branch at the National Archives is Record Group 120: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I), 1848 – 1942 (seen in our catalog here). These records cover many different aspects of the war. Included are maps from various United States army divisions as well as maps created by cartographers in other allied armies, including France, Britain and Italy. Subjects covered in the records consist of trench layouts, road maps, situation maps, topographic maps and enemy information maps, among others.


RG 120, Entry 61, 11/11/1918. This map, showing the military situation on Armistice Day, is included in a series of situation maps that show daily activity of the French and American forces between September and December 1918 and various days between January and May, 1919.

Depending on what you’re looking for in these records, and especially if you’re just browsing, it’s easy to get lost and explore a number of different threads. There are so many places to look and so many ways to search through the records. You can search by army, division, corps, services and country. The records are organized into entries, which each have a description of what they hold and what types of maps you’ll find there. The record group contains 540 entries, all of which have varying numbers of maps.


RG 120, Entry 225, 1/1/1919. A G-3 situation map showing the locations of units of the 6th, 77th and 81st divisions.

Maps related to transportation are often found throughout the records, including roads and railroads.


RG 120, Entry 164, 1/6/19. This map shows railroads in the area of the 3rd army.

Maps made by foreign allied armies were retained by the United States army and are found in these records. These maps show a different aspect of the types of records used by the allied forces and provide insight into other armies’ cartography.


RG 120, Entry 486, 10/12/1918. This map is part of an entry that includes Italian maps showing enemy information. These maps were produced by the Instituto Geografico Militare (Military Geographical Institute).

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Posted in Cartographic Records, Digitization, Graphic Materials, Maps, Military, Photographs, World War I | 1 Comment

Mapping the Civil War: Antietam and South Mountain

The Cartographic Branch holds many maps relating to Civil War battlefields. Today we’re highlighting some maps relating to the battles of Antietam and South Mountain. The battle of South Mountain took place just east of Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 14, 1862, only days before the larger and better known battle of Antietam. At South Mountain, Northern troops pushed their way through three mountain gaps blocked by Confederates, resulting in a Union victory. However, the fight at South Mountain allowed valuable time for the Confederate Army, which was split into two sections, to reunite and strengthen its position along and near Antietam Creek.


Map of Antietam Battlefield. RG 77, CWMF, G443, vol. 9, pg. 10

The battle of Antietam is remembered as bloodiest single day in American history. By the end of September 17, 1862, after twelve hours of intense fighting, over 23,000 soldiers were dead, wounded, captured, or missing. Both armies remained in position after the fighting subsided. Although most historians view the battle as a draw, Confederate forces retreated from the battlefield on the night of September 18, allowing the Union Army to claim victory. President Abraham Lincoln used this Union victory as an opportunity to issue a preliminary version of his Emancipation Proclamation, a document which altered the purpose of the war from just preserving to Union to also include ending slavery.

Many of the Cartographic Branch’s Civil War maps, including those focusing on Antietam and South Mountain, can be found within various series of Record Group (RG) 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers. Battle maps can be found with the Civil Works Map File (CWMF) series. The maps within the CWMF series are filed according to the agency’s filing scheme. Maryland maps are mainly filed under the letter “F.”  This includes several maps of the Antietam battlefield that were annotated from information obtained from commanding officers to show battle lines, locations of regiments and artillery, and headquarters.


RG 77, CWMF, F73(1). Annotated map of Antietam Battlefield.


RG 77, CWMF, F73(4). Annotated map of Antietam Battlefield.


Reconnaissance map of the ground occupied by General Hooker’s First Corps at Antietam. RG 77, CWMF, F73(5).

Civil War battlefield maps can also be found within the War Department Map Collection (WDMC)  of RG 77. Some of these maps were prepared after the Civil War, often for the preservation and development of Civil War battlefield parks. The map below was created for the Antietam Battlefield Board in the 1890s. It shows important battlefield landmarks like “Bloody Lane” and also shows wartime residents, tree cover, and land use at the time of the battle.


Post-war map of Antietam Battlefield. RG 77, WDMC, 24 -MD

Another map is from a post-Civil War publication and was colored to show Union and Confederate positions and the location of artillery pieces during the battle.


Map showing troop and artillery locations at Antietam. RG 77, WDMC, 33 – MD

Many Civil War maps can also be found in the Colonel W.H. Paine Collection of Civil War Maps. Paine, who served with the Union Army of the Potomac during the C, drafted and annotated many maps, especially for battles in Virginia. He also worked on or collected several maps relating to the battles of Antietam, South Mountain, and Gettysburg. We highlight one map below of the South Mountain Battlefield.


South Mountain Battlefield. Paine Collection, A-7-9.

To view additional maps related to the battles of Antietam, South Mountain, and many others, try searching our catalog to view digitized items or plan a visit in person to the Cartographic Research Room in College Park, Maryland.

For additional information about Civil War Maps at the National Archives, see A Guide to Civil War Maps in the National Archives (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1986).

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Now You See Me, Now You…..Still See Me? Hand-Painted British Dazzle Camouflage Templates from WWI

Record Group 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships contains some of the more colorful ship designs to ever sail in a military fleet. It is in this record group is where you will find the color and design templates for British Dazzle Camouflage.  There are over 300 hand-colored drawings in this series, each of them unique in color scheme and pattern layout.



RG; 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships.  Shown above are the design templates for Type 2, Design A, Port Side (NAID 46740252) and Type 3, Design C, Starboard Side (NAID 46740253).

During WWI, 1914-1918, the Fleet Admiral of the British Navy had a problem.  German U-Boats were sinking British ships at an astonishing rate.  Something had to be done to halt the destruction of the fleet and the loss of life, and that something was what would come to be known as Dazzle Camouflage.  Unlike other types and styles of camouflage, it was not intended to hide the ship, but rather to visually disrupt the outline of the ship to the degree that an observer would have no idea what they were looking at.


RG; 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships.  Shown above are the design templates for Type 8, Design A, Starboard Side (NAID 46740258) and Type 9, Design B, Starboard Side (NAID 46740259).

To torpedo a ship during WWI, a series of three steps had to be followed to successfully hit a ship.  First, the location of the ship had to be ascertained and its course plotted.  Second, the ships heading and speed had to be determined, and finally, the torpedo had to be fired not at the ship, but rather where it was calculated that the ship would be when the torpedo made contact.  The German Navy had a well-deserved reputation for having a very low margin of error when it came to sinking British ships, but it was reported that dazzle camouflage could throw an experienced submariner’s aim off by multiple degrees, meaning a harmless miss rather than a devastating hit.


RG; 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships.  Shown above are the design templates for Type 11, Design C, Starboard Side (NAID 46740261) and Type 14, Design E, Port Side (NAID 46740264).

Dazzle camouflage was pioneered by British naval officer Norman Wilkinson and was based on the theory that, just like stripes on a zebra and spots on a cheetah, stripes and odd patterns on a battleship would make it harder to target by breaking up its outline.  Dazzle camouflage utilized oddly angled lines and very bright colors including green, yellow, pink, purple, blue, and black to make it impossible to determine the size, shape, speed, or heading of a ship.  Also, for added confusion, no two ships were painted alike so that the Germans would have nothing to latch onto as a template for the patterns on the ships.



RG; 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships.  Shown above are the design templates for Type 17, Design B, Port Side (NAID 46740267) and Type 17, Design C, Port Side (NAID 46740267)

This type of camouflage enjoyed great success and was eventually adopted by the United States navy, prompting an unnamed American journalist at the New York Times to write, “You should see our fleet, it’s camouflaged to look like a flock of Easter eggs going out to sea.”

By WWII, this type of camouflage was becoming less and less effective because of inventions like radar and range finders and the fact that torpedoes were no longer hand guided.

All of the images shown above in addition to the over 300 other templates in the National Archives holdings are available for viewing online at, search “British Camouflage Type” and then choose which “type” (1-20) you wish to view.

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60 Years On: The Little Rock Nine

September 2017 marks 60 years since the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, a key event of the American Civil Rights Movement.


NARA Holdings Relating to the Desegregation of Central High School

The Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch at the National Archives has in its holdings several reels of unedited footage shot in Little Rock while the 101st Airborne Division was present.

111 LC 41033 Operation Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkansas

111 LC 41036 Operation Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkansas

We also have, as part of our Universal Newsreel collection, an outtake of President Eisenhower’s address to the nation. In the speech, he explains his decision to deploy the 101st Airborne to Little Rock. A transcript of the speech can be found here.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library has several items relating to the Little Rock school integration crisis and President Eisenhower’s response. Those documents are available here.

History of the Event

As a response to the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which directed that “separate but equal educational facilities for racial minorities is inherently unequal violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the Little Rock School Board adopted a plan for gradual integration of its schools beginning with high schools in September 1957. Applicants for the integration process were vetted by members of the Arkansas NAACP and its president Daisy Gatson Bates. The students selected ranged in age from 14-17 and would come to be known as the Little Rock Nine.

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Through an American Lens: The Russian Civil War

Note: Some images are of a sensitive nature.

In 1919 the United States was entering a decade of prosperity after the success of World War I. The country benefited politically and financially from the experience and while things were by no means perfect, there was reason to hope. However, other countries did not fare as well. Inflation and unemployment rates across Europe, and especially in Germany, climbed. The end of World War I for Russia also had consequences, it sparked another kind of war– a civil war.

Czar Nicholas II returned home in 1916 when the need to deal with food shortages and rebellions became overwhelming. The Russian Empire pulled out of the war soon after in 1917. In addition to these concerns, there was a growing political movement led by the Bolsheviks to overthrow the monarchy, which the Imperial government hoped to subdue. Nicholas failed. He abdicated the throne in 1917 and a year later he, and his wife and children, were executed.

Starting with the February Revolution and the abdication of Nicholas and ending with the October Revolution in 1917, these revolutions caused a civil war to break out in Russia. This put the White Army, who were anti-communist supporters of a monarchy, against the communist Red Army. With no strict geographical boundaries for either side, the war raged for over five years with both soldiers and civilians fighting for their lives.

This brings us to our United States connection. In the summer of 1919 a young Naval Intelligence officer named George F. Zimmer was sent by then head of the United States Food Administration (precursor to the FDA) Herbert Hoover to photographically document the need for food relief.

Zimmer spent time on the front with Army Colonel Stanislav Bulak-Balakhovich who was working as a White Army Administrator of the northern city of Pskov at the time. While there, he photographed the city, people, and Army activities.

The photographs show a state of desperation from the people. The images show the faces of people, starvation, and suspected cannibalism.

The Army engaged in combat during Zimmer’s visit. These battles resulted in deaths, injuries, and prisoners of war.

While some of these images seem almost unbelievable, a letter written by Colonel Stanislav Bulak-Balakhovich is included in the series confirming their accuracy.

Local Identifier: FLAX-GZ-41

This series took almost 100 years to get to the National Archives by way of a donation. Though they are difficult to view, they convey the realities of war and its effect on everyday life. To learn more about the series and see more images (coming soon) please see the National Archives Catalog at this address.

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Planning America’s Best Idea: Master Plans for National Parks

On August 25, 1916, Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Organics Act, creating the National Park Service (NPS), a new federal bureau responsible for protecting the existing 35 national parks and monuments. In 1933, the National Park Service greatly expanded when all parks, monuments, and historical areas overseen by the government were transferred to the National Park Service’s administration. Today, over 400 diverse units make up America’s National Parks, protecting areas of scenic, natural, historical, and cultural significance.

During the 1930s, a series of acts and executives orders expanded the reach of the National Park Service and  planning began to develop many of these national park areas. The NPS’s Branch of Plans and Design began creating master plans that showed proposed developments of areas of the parks. These master plans included both a textual descriptive statement and a set of maps and drawings showing the proposed developments.

The Cartographic Branch holds most of the National Park Service Master Plans within a series called Master Plans of Parks and Monuments, 1931 – 1941 (NAID 591991). They are part of  Record Group (RG) 79, Records of the National Park Service. Plans exist for some of the most popular national parks that had been created by the 1930s, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Great Smokey Mountains, and Shenandoah. Plans also exist for many notable historical parks, including Civil War battlefields like Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Vicksburg, and Antietam, along with other historical sites like Fort McHenry, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, and Colonial National Historical Park. Many smaller and lesser known parks also have plans within this series. Plans also exist for parks that have since changed names or become parts of other national parks.

Master Plan sets typically consist of a decorative cover, an index, and various plans relating to the existing and proposed developments within a park. The covers are often very artistic, featuring drawings and photographs that are often hand colored.

Cover sheet showing Old Faithful at Yellowstone National park

Yellowstone National Park Master Plan cover sheet, 1933.


cover sheet showing Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski National Monument Master Plan cover sheet, 1937.

While the covers are often the visual highlight of the plans, the sets of plans also contain valuable information about the development of our national parks. The plans include both existing developments and proposed roads, trails, and facilities. Most plan sets include maps showing roads and parking areas designed to allow visitors to easily access points of interest by car. The plan sets also typically include maps showing hiking or walking trails, which are common elements in both natural and historical parks.

Plan for the parking area and visitor facilities near Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is depicted in the upper right corner.

Plan for the parking area and visitor facilities near Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is depicted in the upper right corner.

Facilities shown on the plans include things such as museums and visitor contact stations, along with lodging options for visitors such as campgrounds, cabins, hotels. Many also show dormitories or housing used by park employees. The plans also include proposed developments associated with the administration and operation of the parks, such as park headquarters offices, utilities, maintenance buildings, and other support structures.

Plan for the South Rim Village area of Grand Canyon National Park, including an employee housing area and services such as a hospital and post office. Visitor facilities are also shown, including a campground and other lodging choices.

Plan for the South Rim Village area of Grand Canyon National Park, including an employee housing area and services such as a hospital and post office. Visitor facilities are also shown, including a campground and other lodging choices.

Plan for Death Valley National Monument's headquarters buildings and employee housing areas.

Plan for Death Valley National Monument’s headquarters buildings and employee housing areas.

Master plan sets also include items relating to the physical landscape. Plan sets include maps showing land cover and vegetation, reforestation efforts, and fire control plans. Many of the sets also include topographic or landform maps. Plans for cultural or historical parks also often include photos of historic structures or maps showing troop positions and earthworks on battlefields.

Vegetation Map for Colonial National Historical Park showing vegetation types present.

Vegetation Map for Colonial National Historical Park.

Fire Control Map for Yellowstone National Park.

Fire Control Map for Yellowstone National Park.

The plan sets date from 1931 until 1941. Many parks have multiple editions of plans. Some have plans for almost every year, while other parks may only have one edition of plans. Each edition can show changes to the master plan for a park. Sometimes, the covers changed along with the plans for facilities and infrastructure.

Vicksburg National Military Park Master Plan cover sheet, 1936.

Vicksburg National Military Park Master Plan cover sheet, 1936.

Vicksburg National Military Park Master Plan cover sheet, 1939 showing cannon along river

Vicksburg National Military Park Master Plan cover sheet, 1939.

We invite you to take a closer look at RG 79, Records of the National Park Service. Cartographic not only holds the Master Plans, but also many other maps and architectural plans relating to the National Capital Region Parks and other records relating to the development of America’s National Parks. Other special media branches also hold records on the National Park Service. You never know what you might discover!

Dinosaur National Monument Master Plan cover sheet, 1940, showing large dinasaur

Dinosaur National Monument Master Plan cover sheet, 1940. NAID 70991709.



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How to Research: Photographs Relating to World War II Navy Ships

When it comes to research in the Still Picture Branch, our staff would agree that World War II photographs are by far some of our most requested records. Given their popularity, our How to Research posts are intended to be a quick reference guide, with some tips and examples of how to effectively search through our WWII military photographs. In this third post of a four part series, we will be providing an example of the type of search path one would follow when attempting to locate photographs related to WWII Navy ships.

Similar to the Army and Air Force photos, the WWII Navy photographs have been indexed by subject. However, the type of information needed for photographic research slightly differs from branch to branch. The important information to have on hand prior to searching the Navy photographs includes:

  • Ship name and hull number (predecessor hull numbers are also useful)
  • Names of prominent personalities affiliated with the ship
  • Ship locations, including dates
  • Notable characteristics, accomplishments, and facts regarding the ship and/or crew members

To illustrate the search process for Navy photographs, we have chosen to focus on the USS Mason. Before starting our research, we gathered the following information:

  • There have been three Naval ships under the name the USS Mason. The hull number for the WWII USS Mason we are interested in is DE-529. DE stands for “Destroyer Escort.”
  • The USS Mason holds an important place in U.S. history as the first Naval ship to have a predominantly African American crew.
  • The Mason was constructed at the Boston Navy Yard and was commissioned on March 20, 1944.
  • Lt. Cmdr. William “Bill” Blackford was the USS Mason’s captain.

It is crucial to note that the subject headings used to index WWII military photographs were defined by the individual military branches and not by NARA archivists. Furthermore, the military indexed and cross-indexed their own photos, which was not always consistent. Therefore, researchers may need to look under multiple subject headings and must try to think about the terminology or vocabulary that would have been used at the time the photos were indexed. For example, it is pertinent to know if a location you are searching ever changed names and if so, what name was used during WWII. Additionally, it is important to remember that the military remained segregated throughout WWII and the terminology used to index photographs is reflective of the time period (it wasn’t until July 26, 1947, when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, the the Armed Forces was officially desegregated).

The easiest and first place to begin your research is by looking under the ship hull number in Record Group 80, G series (80-G). The Navy index, which is an analog card catalog located in the Still Picture research room, begins with photographs listed alpha-numerically by the hull number.

Stock photos taken at A2 to update "Guidelines for Using Historical Records in the National Archives"

This is the card catalog in the Still Picture research room that researchers use to locate Army and Navy photographs.

Looking under DE-529, we find multiple index cards, which look like this:

DE-529 (2)DE-529

The photographs themselves are arranged numerically by the photo ID number. Once a researcher has their ID numbers written down, they will then use a box list to guide them to the correct box where the photograph is located. When researchers receive the box, they *may* find additional photographs which were not included in the card catalog index. Here are the images that were filed under “DE-529”:

After searching under the hull number, we then searched under the subject headings cross-referenced on the above index cards. We also tried searching under “training” and “searchlights.” We were able to locate the following images:

Beyond the 80-G card index, researchers may also try searching Record Group 80, GX series (80-GX), which is the WWII Navy personality index. Essentially, if a person’s name appears in the caption of an 80-G photograph, then their name should be included the 80-GX personality index. So, in other words, the personality index only includes a person’s name if their name happened to be written within an original caption. It is important to remember that we have many photographs of military personnel who are not identified in the caption, therefore, their names would not appear in the personality index. For the purposes of this blog post, we checked 80-GX for the Captain of the USS Mason, William “Bill” Blackford. We located the following index card (the image numbers are the same as those that we already found by searching 80-G):


In addition to 80-G, photographs of WWII era ships can also be found in Record Group 19, LCM series (19-LCM). When we looked in 19-LCM, which is organized alpha-numerically by hull number, we found approximately 15 photos of the USS Mason. While some of the photographs in 19-LCM were the same as those found in 80-G, there were some additional views of the ship, including photos of the bow and astern:


USS Mason


There are, of course, additional series of records related to the Navy that can be found outside of 19-LCM, 80-G, and 80-GX. The following links will guide users to additional series descriptions of photographic records relating to WWII Navy research:

The Naval History and Heritage Command is also an excellent source to gather information prior to beginning photographic research. For those specifically researching the U.S. Navy during WWII, the following publications posted on their website may be of interest:

Click here to read more about the USS Mason on the National Archives Rediscovering Black History blog!

For information about researching WWII Army photographs and WWII Air Force (Army Air Corps) photographs, please go back and take a look at How to Research part 1  and part 2. The last post in this series will cover WWII Marine photos.



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A Brief Glimpse of the German Empire Through the Lens of a State Seal

A Brief Glimpse of the German Empire Through the Lens of a State Seal

     Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a series of sailing directions found in RG 456, Foreign Sailing Directions. These volumes are mostly smallish, bound books published by individual governments and collected by the Defense Mapping Agency and its predecessors from approximately 1892 to 2005.  Some of the volumes have English translations, though most remain in the native language.  The books provide very detailed information about things such as dangers near the coast and detailed geography for seagoing vessels in specific areas of world. Australia, Spain, France, Canada, and West Germany were just a few of the nations that published these books.1892

     For the most part, the covers of the books featured only the title of the book, which was basically the geographical area that it covered and the date by year.  However, the German publications carried something much more decorative and informative – a state seal or national symbol.

Over the span of years between the first of the West German publications, 1892, and the last of the publications in the archive’s holdings, 1990, we can get a glimpse of the history of Germany based on the change on symbols over time. 1919

The earliest publications between the years 1892 and 1918 all exhibit a seal known as the “Lesser Arms of the German Empire”, which was officially in use from 1871 to 1918.  The German Empire was in existence from the time of the unification of multiple nation states into a single nation in 1871 until 1918, when the nation became a Federal Republic.

From 1919 to 1936, the “Coat of Arms of the Weimar Republic” was used on the book covers and the official name of the state became the “German Reich”.  This was a more stylized black eagle on a yellow background with a red beak and claws.  But, this was a time of transition and sometime during 1936, the coat of arms of the Weimar Republic was denounced, and an eagle atop a swastika became the formal symbol of not only the Nazi party, but the country as well and this was what was featured on the publication covers.

1936 Transition

By 1941, we see the swastika 1941beginning to be marked out by a thick black line or labels being strategically placed over the swastika itself, and in 1941, the symbol began to be eliminated from the book covers and was replaced by the circular image of a compass rose denoting 1944“Deutches Hydrographisches Institut”.  It is this last symbol that remains on all of the German sailing direction publications after 1944 in the archive’s holdings.




Citations: Wikipedia contributors. “Coat of arms of Germany.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Jun. 2017. Web.


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Operation Watchtower: The Guadalcanal Campaign

Co-Authored by Kelsey Noel and Corbin Apkin.


This August marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Watchtower, otherwise known as the Guadalcanal Campaign. Operation Watchtower was a series of engagements between the Allied forces (comprised heavily of U.S. Marines) and the Japanese military. The campaign began on August 7th, 1942 with the first amphibious landings by U.S. Marines on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida islands. By August 8th, the Japanese airfield at Lunga Point was secured.

Other nearby islands including Gavutu and Tanambogo were taken by Allied forces in quick succession over the next several days, but the campaign was not soon over. The Allies and the Japanese continued to engage throughout the region through air strikes and amphibious operations for six months, making Guadalcanal one of the first extended campaigns in the Pacific. Finally, on February 9th, 1943, following a four night long Japanese evacuation, Guadalcanal was declared secured – the Allies had won.

Many consider the Allies’ success at Guadalcanal to be one of the major turning points of WWII. As such, photographic documentation of U.S. activities and experiences at Guadalcanal is particularly insightful. The Still Picture Branch is excited to share many of the Guadalcanal photos that can be found in RG 127-GR here on The Unwritten Record, presented with transcribed original captions. The entire series was recently digitized for online access and will soon be available to researchers through our Catalog.


Maps housed in the Cartographic Branch also help to provide insight into military operations at Guadalcanal. A number of different types of maps were used by Allied forces to plan the campaign, in which some 60,000 Allied troops outnumbered the Japanese defenders by nearly twofold. Interesting examples can be found among the Marine Corps WWII Strategic Maps from RG-127WWII. A wide variety of information was used by the Marine Corps to create these maps, including hydrographic charts, photographic interpretation, sailing directions, and captured Japanese maps.


RG 127: Strategic and Tactical Maps, 1939 – 1944, Guadalcanal, Map 1


RG 127: Strategic and Tactical Maps, 1939 – 1944, Guadalcanal, Map 2

The Allied strategy for the Guadalcanal operation is also seen in maps that accompanied General Douglas MacArthur’s reports. These maps detail various aspects of Operation Watchtower and provide context for the battle, including the location and types of weaponry used and the military units involved. Because they depict the situation during different parts of the battle, these maps provide a more complete picture of the campaign.


RG 496: General MacArthur Report Maps, 1940 – 1947, Vol. II, Plate 37, Map 1


RG 496: General MacArthur Report Maps, 1940 – 1947, Vol. II, Plate 37, Map 2

The Allied forces lost around 7,100 men during the Guadalcanal Campaign; the Japanese lost somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000. Many more were wounded on both sides. While the Japanese suffered greater loss (not only in lives but in ships and aircraft as well), the Guadalcanal Campaign was indeed a costly victory for the Allies. Yet a victory it was, and undoubtedly one of the most significant campaigns of WWII. The islands continued to hold strategic importance for the Allies following their victory there, and Operation Watchtower continues to capture our interest even today.

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Spotlight: Hollywood Goes to War

Just prior to Pearl Harbor, a military lecture series was created to educate new draftees and volunteers. The series covered important topics such as world military history and the principles of democracy. But the lecture series and outdated films that accompanied it failed to capture the audience’s attention. Instead of boosting moral and educating service members, it bored them.

With America’s entry into WWII, it became vital to gain the support of soldiers and civilians, the current educational material would need updated. To do this, General George Marshall, despite resistance, enlisted Hollywood to create exciting short movies meant to justify America’s involvement in the war. Marshall called upon Academy Award winner Frank Capra, a Sicilian-American director, to create the Why We Fight  series.

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