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The Amphibious Landing Maps of William Bostick

The following guest post is by Ryan Moore, a cartographic specialist in the Geography and Map Division.

William A. Bostick was an artist whose talents were utilized in the Second World War to help create chart-maps for the invasions of Sicily and Normandy. After the war, Bostick had a successful career as an artist and administrator of an arts school in Detroit. His works were nationally and internationally recognized. He died in 2007, at the age of 94.

Bostick donated a collection of three chart-maps to the Geography and Map Division in 2002, creating the William A. Bostick World War II Charts and Maps Collection. This collection consists of facsimiles of cartographic illustrations prepared for the 1945 book The Amphibious Sketch: Its Function in Amphibious Training and Operations. The chart-maps illustrate Utah and Omaha beaches, where American forces landed during the Normandy invasion in 1944. On verso are sunlight and moonlight tables, beach gradient graphs, and current and tidal data. Transparency overlay was used to determine water depth and safe passage to the beach for various landing craft.

The chart-maps were based on G.S.G.S. (Geographical Section, General Staff) maps scaled at 1:12,500, aerial photography and intelligence studies. The studies were made by Allied reconnaissance teams who either flew over or made secretive expeditions to Normandy to survey the invasion area, according to The Amphibious Sketch. In order to land at Normandy, Allied planners designated five beaches as landing zones: Gold, Sword, Juno, Omaha, and Utah. The Americans were responsible for seizing Omaha and Utah; the other beaches were the responsibility of the British and Canadian forces. Omaha and Utah beaches were divided by the Carentan estuary. Since Utah Beach was wider than Omaha, mapmakers selected different scales in order to present the data. Utah was scaled at 1:10,000 and Omaha at 1:7,920. The large scales allowed for detailed information to be depicted. Here we have an example that shows Utah Beach, La Madelaine.

Chart map of Utah Beach, Normandy, France.

Utah Beach, La Madelaine. In William A. Bostick World War II Charts and Maps Collection. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

The creative process involved mapmakers tracing aerial photographs in pencil on transparent tracing paper. This draft would be compared with subsequent photo reconnaissance to be certain that information on demolished buildings and other landmarks were up to date. An accurate representation of the sea was equally as important. Mapmakers included detailed sounding information on these chart-maps. Depths were indicated in feet and not fathoms, as the former measurement was relevant to small landing craft operators. Also indicated was data about the speed and direction of currents. The transparency titled “Landing Craft Profiles” was intended as simplify this information.

Diagram of landing craft profiles

Landing Craft Profiles. In William A. Bostick World War II Charts and Maps Collection. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed in France in what became the largest amphibious attack in history. The Battle of Normandy was a hotly contested, bloody affair that lasted until August 1944 and ultimately led to the Allied liberation of most of France from Nazi Germany.

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