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Okinawa Mem-O-Map Part of the Ryuku Islands

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


US veteran John G Drury’s pictorial “Mem-O-Map” of Okinawa [1945/6], scene of one of the fiercest wartime battles of 1945

About this piece:

Okinawa Mem-O-Map

Printed colour on thick card-type paper. One or two marginal nicks & tears at sheet edges and light barely visible soft paper creasing to left blank margin and upper left of image. Overall an attractive & well-preserved example.

John G Drury’s attractive pictorial Mem-O-Map of the island of Okinawa, west of Japan, 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 himself been posted to 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 native huts & tombs and natural beauty & scenery of Okinawa, though little of that was to be left after the American assault & heavy bombardment, which left almost 90% of the island’s buildings completely destroyed. Okinawa was a vital stepping stone for the final Allied assault on mainland Japan, being only 340 miles to the south west and a key to future offensive air operations and a gathering point for the anticipated final invasion of mainland Honshu. Okinawa proved to be one of the fiercest & bloodiest campaigns of the war, notable not only for the ferocity of the fighting & the intensity of Japanese kamikaze attacks but equally for the vast array of Allied naval, aerial and military hardware deployed in the assault.

That impact can be seen in the numerous airfields and military cemeteries which Drury shows dotting the landscape in the southern part of the Island between the capital Naha and Bolo Point. The cemeteries were set aside for the casualties of ASCOM (Army Support Command), the 96th & 77th Divisions, the 7th Division & the 1st Marines. The Headquarters of ASCOM and the 10th Army are also marked.

Off the north west coast can be seen the Island of Ie Shima, where the American soldiers of the 77th Division first landed on April 16th to capture an airfield. Here Drury highlights the 77th Division memorial, which is inscribed with the name of one of its most famous adopted sons, the immensely popular Pullitzer prize-winning journalist & war correspondent, Ernie Pyle [1900-1945], the “GI’s journalist”, the “soldier’s best friend”, always alongside US servicemen on the march or at the battle front, getting the real down-to-earth stories of the war that were syndicated for the columns of some 300 newspapers back home. Pyle was killed here by a Japanese machine gun bullet on April 18th 1945. He was initially buried in the 77th Division Cemetery on Ie Shima under a crude marker, which was later replaced by the white concrete pillar Drury depicts here, and which was engraved with the simple inscription: “At this spot the 77th Division lost a buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18th April 1945”. Despite Pyle’s body being removed to a military cemetery first in Okinawa & later in Hawaii, the memorial still remains a place of annual pilgrimage and commemoration to this day.

The Americans lost over 12,500 men in the taking of Okinawa, the Japanese defenders over 77,000 men, whilst the impact on the native Okinawans was perhaps even more devastating, with estimates of between 40,000 & 150,000 committing suicide or being killed or wounded during the course of the campaign. The island’s pre-war population had been some 300,000.

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 island or region 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