wartime mapping

WWII Road Map Censorship in the United States

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by Angie Cope

The LegendI enjoyed reading David Smollar’s article on road map censorship during World War II in the latest issue of “The Legend,” the newsletter of the Road Map Collectors Association.  Map makers H.M. Gousha, General Drafting Company and Rand McNally worked with the U.S. Government to eliminate features of strategic importance from their maps.

Called “wartime masking,” the removal of features such as airports, military and war-related industrial targets occurred on maps from 1942 and 1943.

Whenever I read articles that point out interesting features of maps, I’m always curious to see them for myself. It seems the American Geographical Society Library doesn’t have many road maps by these three publishers for the years 1942 or 1943. I did find a Los Angeles map by Gousha and was able to compare the 1940 with the 1942.

H.M. Gousha map of Los Angeles. 1940 on the left and 1942 at the right showing wartime masking.
H.M. Gousha map of Los Angeles. 1940 on the left and 1942 at the right showing wartime masking

Airports were shown in purple on the 1940 map and masked on the 1942 map. Long Beach Municipal Airport (Daugherty Field) is shown in the top pink circles and Ardis Airport is shown in the pink circles at the bottom on the 1940 map (at the left). Even the map key is edited or masked, removing the purple symbol for the airport on the 1942 map.

Soller’s article is a very interesting read citing extensive research at the Newberry Library, the National Archives and the Library of Congress. I highly recommend reading the Summer 2015 issue of “The Legend.” Information about the Road Map Collectors Association can be found here: http://roadmaps.org/