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Mem-O-Map of the Philippine Islands

  • Author: DRURY, John G
  • Publisher: Mem-O-Map Co, USA
  • Date: [1945]1946
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 26.5 x 35 cms


US Army veteran John G Drury’s pictorial “Mem-O-Map of the Philippine Islands” [1945/6], a memento for demobbed servicemen

About this piece:

Mem-O-Map of the Philippine Islands – A Group of over 7000 Islands

Printed colour on thick card-like paper. Three short tears in left side margin, one just touching line border; further nicks in bottom blank margin at sheet edges, all closed & reinforced on verso. Sheet edges a little bumped & creased. Upper right corner slightly dog-eared. With all an attractive, well-preserved example.

John G Drury’s attractive pictorial map of the Philippine Islands, designed to provide a potentially personalized record of the service activities of returning US veterans who had seen active service in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

John Gottlieb Drury [1907-1988] had conceived of the Mem-O-Map designs as a result of his own two year wartime service as a 4th Grade Technician with the 214th Ordnance Battalion in the Pacific Theatre, where he had been posted to the island of Okinawa during the final months of the war, following its capture by Allied forces at the end of June 1945. It was as a result of map sketches produced both on Okinawa for many of his GI buddies & later on the troop ship home that he first conceived the idea of this niche post-war map publishing business which he initially ran from his home of North Hollywood, California in the immediate post-war years.

The series of Mem-O-Maps that Drury designed in late 1945 and copyrighted in early 1946 comprised individual maps of Okinawa; Japan and Korea; The Philippine Islands; Oahu (Hawaii); and one additional map focusing on the European Theatre. All were printed in deliberately bright and colourful primary colours and were each embellished with amusing historical, artistic, cultural & gastronomic vignettes that did much to belie the terrible destructive impact of the war upon the regions shown.

The numerous pictorial scenes & vignettes focus upon the native lifestyle, artefacts and natural beauty & wildlife of the Philippine Islands, with depictions of palm & fir trees, tobacco, corn, sugar cane, rice fields, insects, tarsier monkeys & tropical fish. A blowing wind head (“Terrible Tillie Typhoon”) in the upper left references the regular danger of tropical cyclones & typhoons in the Philippine region, the most infamous of which in recent memory had been Typhoon Cobra, which had devastated the US Pacific Fleet just east of the Philippines in December 1944.

The impact of the war is visible primarily in the depiction of the 60 mile route of the infamous Bataan Death March of April 1942, when some 60,000 Filippino & 12,000 US prisoners of war were marched in brutal & appalling conditions with little food or water by their Japanese captors to inland POW Camps, following the final collapse of US resistance to the invaders in the Bataan peninsula & Corregidor Island west of Manila. One wonders perhaps if this was an experience that many former American POWs & demobbed GIs who had maybe borne witness to these events would wish to have been reminded of, in the immediate aftermath of the war, and when the self-evident awfulness of those events sits in such contrast to the bright primary colours & overriding sense of the natural beauty of the Philippines that characterize so much of this map.

Each Mem-O-Map had the potential to be customized by its owner to provide a unique personalized geography and memorial of their wartime service. This could be done by completing the dates of arrival and departure to/from the USA and by adding the individual’s name & organization/unit and the locations, dates & movements of themselves individually & or their unit collectively through the regions depicted.

To read more about John Gottlieb Drury and his unusual Mem-O-Maps see to our recent Blog post

Refs: cf Katherine Harmon: You Are Here Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, p.119