WWII Topographic Map Series

The demand for mapping in WWII initiated the largest cartographic undertaking the world had ever seen, resulting in a combined Allied Forces output of close to a billion maps. These maps ranged from the detailed 1:12,500 scale topographic sheets for Operation Overloard, codenamed ‘Benson,’ to the geologic maps used for the siting of temporary airfields, supply depots, and cross-country transportation routes for tanks and heavy vehicles. They also included hydrographic charts and cross-sectional profiles of the D-Day landing beaches, as well as aeronautical lattice charts for the newly invented ‘Gee’ radio-navigation system used on bomber missions. The McMaster University Library Map Collection contains approximately 3,000 examples of these maps, and has partnered with the University of Alberta William C. Wonders Map Collection, the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies, and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum to add roughly 7,000 more maps to our online collection.

For more information on the cartography of WWII, you are welcome to download the PowerPoint lecture, "WWII on Land, Sea & Air Charts: The Challenge and Demand for Cartography (1942-1945)," accessible from The Beck Lectures on Historical Cartography.