The Japs are Digging In.

The Japs are Digging In.


Robert M. Chapin, Jr.

Published 1943, New York



A fascinating map of the conflict in the Pacific (1941-1945) during  World War II by noteworthy cartographer, R.M. Chapin, Jr., who plied his trade for Time Magazine.
The map, which is an enlarged separate issue version that originally appeared in the issue of Time Magazine of April 26th 1943, portrays the different locations of military bases for the Axis Powers in the Southern Pacific and those of the Allied forces centred near Australia.  Chapin uses an unconventional projection as well as an antagonistic title to convey a sense of imbalance and simplifies the conflict to good versus evil.  As such, it has been argued that Chapin and other contemporary cartographers working for popular print media, used “very simple and evocative pictographic map[s]… that made it very easy for the audience to understand what the cartographer was trying to convey and to comprehend the overall message.”  In this particular case, the notion that the “Japs Are Digging In” conveys that the conflict was going to be protracted against a well armed and fortified aggressor. In Fact, at the time of publishing the Allied Forces were in the process of recapturing South Pacific Islands such as Buna in New Guinea, Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and were victorious in the Battle of Bismark Sea.  Also of importance was the fact that the Japanese Admiral Yamomoto had been killed when flying over Bougainville in the Solomon Islands less than two weeks prior to the maps publishing.  Whereas Chapin’s portrayal might seem to indicate a superiority of forces by the Axis powers in the Pacific in 1942, by the autumn of that year Japanese Emperor Hirohito would declare that the situation was “truly grave”.
Thus Chapin’s map is  a good example of the element of subjectivity that became inherent to cartography in popular media to influence an audience by reducing and polarizing the complexities of a conflict to its core essence.  The objective was thus not so much towards information for its own sake, but to  attempt to influence the viewer to a particular world view or justification for a set of actions.
(Sources: Mazzer, J., Map of the Week: “Europe from Moscow”)