General Douglas MacArthur served as the commander of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East during World War II. During the war, MacArthur led the campaign in the Pacific theater for the Army. In 1966, the Department of the Army published two volumes of reports of MacArthur’s involvement in the war. These reports describe and illustrate numerous battles in Japan and the Philippines that MacArthur helped plan. Alongside the reports, maps and charts were also included, adding a visual dimension to the battles fought in the Pacific. Many of these maps can be found in the Cartographic Branch here at the National Archives.
We have most of the completed and published maps that appear in the volumes, but the majority of what we have are other compilation materials. Included are illustrations and designs that show different aspects and sections of what would become the final map. Some of these items are hand-drawn designs while others include painted portions. Some also include plastic sheets that highlight particular parts of the map, such as troop movements and army locations, which would be overlaid on the base map in the published version. By looking through the folders, one can get a sense of how the pieces fit together and how they were used to highlight aspects of each map. Comparing the compilation materials with the published maps gives a greater sense of how they were created to show the whole story.
The MacArthur report maps highlight some of the most significant battles of the war. They give insight into how MacArthur approached situations in the Pacific and how he planned for action. Included are strategic maps for the Battle of Manila, the Leyte Assault, the re-taking of Bataan and allied landings in Japan. Many maps show the disposition of enemy forces and their movements. By providing information about how these battles were planned, the maps present a very detailed and informative look at how MacArthur and the allied forces approached the war.
Even for researchers who have a strong understanding of this campaign, these maps highlight aspects and details of the Army’s planning that many will find useful. In total, there are approximately 2,400 items included in the series covering a significant portion of the war. Keeping in mind that the maps originate with MacArthur himself, they represent an important part of the story of World War II and they help to paint a complete picture of the war. You can learn more about this series in the National Archives catalog here.