Geography as environment and terrain, as well as spatial distance, is not some neutral plane on which war unfolds but enters into its bones and sinews, directing its form and content, determining whether it occurs at all. Knowledge of geography and concomitant expertise in the use of spatial technologies are therefore vital to the performance of war.

Dr. Trevor J. Barnes

World War II map production by the Office of Strategic Services

The Office of Strategic Services was formed in June 1942 in response to the entry of the United States into World War II. This was a time of codification of efforts around the collection of intelligence information in order to more effectively understand and respond to the events of the day. This effort brought together a number of experts, many from academia including a large number of cartographers. These cartographers created maps on demand that either stood alone or were part of reports. The maps were eventually distributed through the Federal Depository Library Program to libraries throughout the United States. The best estimate is that 5,753 unique maps were produced of which Stanford Libraries holds over 800.

Note that the large majority of maps in this online exhibit are from the Office of Strategic Services. We have included other division maps as they are so closely related to the OSS maps in terms of date, visual similarity, and time frame. These divisions include: Department of State. Interim Research and Intelligence Service, Research and Analysis Branch; Department of State. Office of the Geographer; Department of State. Division of Map Intelligence and Cartography; Department of State. Division of Geography and Cartography; and Office of Coordinator of Information, Geographic Division.