Saturday, May 22, 2010

Drawing WWII supply maps

I am very pleased to say that I finished writing my manuscript last week. My editor still needs to proofread the text, but I am now free to work on the book design. I may have mentioned that this is what I do professionally. I design books for university and scholarly presses and a few trade book publishers. The cover is already done (see at right), and I have started designing the maps.

My first map turned out great. The National Archives provided me with copies of three hand-drawn maps: the 1st Engineer Special Brigade's planned supply operations made before D-Day, the situation on D-Day, and the actual supply operations on Utah Beach on D+20 (June 26, 1944). This came with the 1st ESB records. On Thursday I scanned the D+20 map and traced over the contours in Adobe InDesign. The labels are typeset, and I added a few things that appeared on the other two maps. It's going to be a full bleed 6 x 9 map in my book. I'm very excited about this map, because I have never seen one like it published in a book before.

Today I tried making my second map, the Antwerp docks where my grandfather's port battalion worked. I have a very detailed 1945 map scan from a friend in Belgium. My plan is to trace the historic map in InDesign again, label Tampico Flats (where the 519th lived), the Luchtbal Barracks, and the two dock areas where they unloaded and guarded ships. What I really want to add is the spots where German V-1s and V-2s exploded. Tracy Dungan over at has a brilliant map of Antwerp showing where all these v-bombs landed. Unfortunately, this map is so zoomed-out, that it is difficult to use it as a reference for my grandfather's small area. When I overlapped the two maps the dock shapes and roads didn't line-up quite right. The zoomed in area of the v-bomb map just wasn't detailed enough. Maybe I'm being too much of a perfectionist, but I would really like these v-bomb spots to be as precise as possible. Maybe I can find a more detailed map.

After that frustration I thought I would do the "easy" map. This is the map showing the supply train lins coming out of Antwerp. I uploaded a scan from the 1947 book, The Saga of the 708 Railway Grand Division in a previous post. You can see in the image bellow how I was tracing over the original hand-drawn map (in blue). I got pretty far along when I noticed that this drawn map is not to scale. The countries' borders and the distances between the cities aren't accurate. I'm guessing the original map-maker was just eye-balling this stuff rather than tracing over a professionally made map.
Another issue is that he included railways that were used by the Allies after Germany surrendered. I only want to include routes used up to the Battle of the Bulge. What I need to do is find a WWII atlas, scan in a proper map of the area, trace the borders and cities, and then place in the railways to Brussels, Charleroi, Li├Ęge, and Luxembourg City. The 304th and 305th Port Company guard details didn't accompany trains beyond these cities, so I think I will leave them out to unclutter the map.

In addition to book design I regularly create maps for articles in Ancient Warfare magazine. It's fun to take these map-making skills and put them toward my own personal project.

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