For each of our books, we carefully go through our various collections and pick out the best images for publication. For one reason or another, some of them simply don’t fit our criteria, but we want to share them because they’re still very interesting to look at. Recently, we ran across one such image, a map of the Japanese-occupied Salamaua area dated December 1, 1942. We believe the map’s data came from prewar sources as well as scouting commando units, as it appears to have prewar housing and military posts marked. At the time, the majority of the attention was on the brutal fighting in the Buna-Gona area, located south of Salamaua.
One of the indirect consequences of World War II was the rapid expansion of Australian infrastructure. American, British and Australian war plans all assumed that the defensive line would be held at Singapore and the Dutch East Indies, and that the bulk of the fighting would occur in the Central and North Pacific regions. When the line was broken, thousands of troops and millions of pounds of war material had to be rerouted through Australia, which did not have the capacity to handle the sudden growth. Construction was soon underway and formerly quiet Australian cities expanded to accommodate Allied soldiers training for war. This undated map shows the extent of the projects.
Today, we thought we’d take a step back from specific mission stories for a bigger picture of the Southwest Pacific region. Specifically, a map of the region as it was in the thick of the air war in February 1943. Many of the places involved have changed names, shifted locations or been abandoned entirely (especially emergency airfields), so a contemporary war map can be a more valuable resource than even the full extent of today’s technological mapping tools. This map shows the distance in a straight-line flight between the more important locations in the region, which was essential information for fuel conservation. Combat aircraft always had a reserve buffer of fuel, but that could be eaten away by flying through storms, flying in combat, damage to a fuel tank or engine or a broken component—so an aircrew needed to know all their options for landing short of their home base. In order for you to fully explore this map, we uploaded the full size on Flickr. Click on the map to see the larger version.