General Question

TexasDude's avatar

What kind of map is this?

Asked by TexasDude (25244points) March 16th, 2010

I bought this cool vintage military map at my local antiquarian book store today. Does anyone know what kind of map it could be, or what it might have been used for?

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34 Answers

lilikoi's avatar

Looks like a topography map. It is used by hikers for navigation, it is used by civil engineers for designing drainage systems and many other things, it is used by hydrologists when modeling groundwater systems, and many other things….they are quite useful! Could easily have been used by military to design a combat plan. You can tell what the elevation gain is over any distance by looking at the map – it basically maps out terrain.

Kayak8's avatar

It is a topographical or topo map. The lines (called contour lines) indicate the relative heights of things—if you look their should be a key that tells you the relative spacing of the contour lines (e.g., 10 foot lines means that a line is ten feet in elevation above the line to one side and 10 feet lower than the line on the other side). Knowing if the ground goes up or down takes a little practice and there are features that will give you some clues. For example, if you see concentric circles, it is either a hill or a hole.

We use them all the time in search and rescue.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@lilikoi and @Kayak8 are right. More specifically, it looks like a 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic map. This might help you out with some of the symbols on the map.

TexasDude's avatar

Thanks guys. I know that it’s a topographical map, I’m just curious as to the actual purpose of it. It is clearly a military map, and the name “Special Map A” is quite curious.

I’m wondering if it was used for training, or artillery exercises, search and rescue, or what? I guess it would be hard to tell.

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities, awesome, thanks for the link.

lilikoi's avatar

I don’t think you’d be able to tell what it was used for just by looking at it. It’s possible it was used for all those things.

Kayak8's avatar

Your pic number 4 shows the declination of the map. That is how you would need to set the back of your compass to be able to use it with the map. It looks like about 5 degrees from the picture (which would be normal for the eastern US).

Your pic number 5 actually has some good information to help you read the map. There is something marked as Smyth Hill. If you follow the line of type that says Smyth Hill in black off to the right, you will see writing in brown that says 350. It means that the bold brown line it intersects marks a spot that is 350 feet above sea level. You can follow that line (or walk it in real life) and all the land under that line would be that height.

The age of the map is curious and it might be interesting to see how many of the features noted are still there and how many are long gone . . .

TexasDude's avatar

Thank you, @Kayak8, that’s some interesting information. I have studied vintage ephemera and military history for some time, and I’d probably date this map from between the late 30’s and late 40’s based on the fonts and art designs. I posted this same question on an army web forum to see if any of those guys from Fort Benning may know anything about the actual landscape.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Wild guess it is a topo for military training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Check google maps for Fort Benning and see if there are overlapping road and names.

TexasDude's avatar

Didn’t think to do that. Thanks @Tropical_Willie

Kayak8's avatar

One of the maps says it is for use with ROTC training manuals, so there is probably a manual around someplace that has a bunch of activities that relate back to the map (e.g., find a “saddle” on this map or find a “mine” on the map). Likely it was for training folks how to use a map like this with a compass.

The folks who would have been trained on how to use the map (along with the protractors etc) would not have had to be AT Fort Benning to learn how to use the tools (intellectually). From my desk here in Ohio, I could calculate the distance between two points, make decisions about how to flank another group of soldiers, etc.

Kayak8's avatar

@Tropical_Willie Great suggestion! You can also go to and start building a map of Fort Benning (you can see “your” map on the screen or you could buy it to compare to your antique map).

TexasDude's avatar

@Kayak8 and @Tropical_Willie, I just looked up some of the road names on the map on Google maps, and they line up perfectly and are within a half mile of Fort Benning. Not much has changed, but there is now a mall in what would be the bottom left corner of my map. This is pretty cool!

Kayak8's avatar

Amazon currently lists the ROTC manuals from both 1938 and 1949 available on their website.

TexasDude's avatar

That’s awesome. I’m gonna go check them out. Thanks for the help!

SeventhSense's avatar

ROTC Military Training Map
Don’t retire just yet. :)

TexasDude's avatar

@SeventhSense, :-D That’s just like mine, only a different locale! only I got mine for 5 bucks Awesome! Thank you!

SeventhSense's avatar

Hold onto it and it’ll be worth 15.00 in another 25 years. :)~

wundayatta's avatar

It’s a map. It can be used for anything someone wants to use it for. It can be used for geocaching, or training a soldier, or navigating through the wilds, or getting to Fort Benning or for tinder for a fire, or toilet paper.

Maps have multiple purposes. This one was made by the USGS and then adapted for the military by adding a little bit of text. No big whoop.

Zaku's avatar

If there is a graveyard shown where the new mall is, then the map could be used as a premise for a horror movie. ;-)

SeventhSense's avatar

Here’s a rare and valuable map. America 1602

anartist's avatar

Is it made of silk? it might be a WWII, Korea, or Cold War pilots map/escape map.

anartist's avatar

#5 and #3 tell it all. It’s a R.O.T.C. training topo map for use with military training operations in Fort Benning GA.

SeventhSense's avatar

^ Late to the party

anartist's avatar

Ayyup. So it goes. Now if you’re a computer techhie, maybe you can answer my question . . .

TexasDude's avatar

It’s paper.

@wundayatta, why the hostility?

Bugabear's avatar

It’s for the R.O.T.C.So probably has something to do with training recruits. And it’s a simplified topographical map.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Do these maps have the nine-digit location codes on them? Just curious, as I don’t remember whether those we pre- or post WW2. You would find your location or the targets location and call in the nine digits to report position or call in an air or artillery strike.

TexasDude's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land, I was hoping you’d show up in this thread.

There aren’t any 9-digit codes on the map. Every hill is labeled with a name, and all of the wooded areas are named after a particular infantry unit (i.e. 125th Infantry Woods, 148th Infantry Woods). There are little circles that are labeled B.M. 430 and stuff like that (B.M. followed by a number).

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Probably pre-WW2 then. If you know your position exactly, you have a “nine-digit fix” in Army-speak.

TexasDude's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land, Cool! I have a feeling this thing is probably from the late 30’s based on the font and the graphic design. It’s really cool.

EdMayhew's avatar

Treasure! Arrrr…


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