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Object Timeline

1945

  • Work on this object began.

1992

  • We acquired this object.

2013

2014

2019

  • You found it!

Escape Map, C-52 Japan and South China Seas and C-53 East China Sea

This is a Escape map. It was manufactured by Army Air Forces. We acquired it in 1992. Its medium is acetate rayon and its technique is printed on plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

During World War II, airmen were provided with cloth "Escape and Evasion" maps for use if shot down behind enemy lines. In the Pacific theater, crews flying over vast bodies of open water carried ocean current and prevailing wind "drift" maps if isolated on a life raft. Here, green lines represent the direction of currents from May through September; red lines, from November through March. Initially made of hard-to-obtain silk, the American military turned to DuPont’s synthetic-fiber fabric, rayon. Rayon maps were easily hidden, could endure harsh weather and combat conditions, would not disintegrate in water, and could be used quietly. However, applying traditional paper-printing techniques to cloth posed problems. Thus, the Army turned to the board-game industry for assistance, who typically printed game boards on linen, a process highly transferable to military needs. By the end of the war, more than 3.5 million maps were printed.

This object was featured in our Object of the Day series in a post titled Measure: Behind Enemy Lines.

This object was donated by Mr. Richard N. Fried.

  • Sextant And Case (England), ca. 1865
  • sextant: brass, silver, glass; case: mahogany, brass, felt.
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1980.0318.03.
  • 14.2012.23

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Cite this object as

Escape Map, C-52 Japan and South China Seas and C-53 East China Sea; Manufactured by Army Air Forces ; USA; acetate rayon; 1992-140-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18639109/ |title=Escape Map, C-52 Japan and South China Seas and C-53 East China Sea |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=18 September 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>