During World War II, battalions communicated with their parent regiments via Morning Reports from their constituent companies and map overlays, again often made up from map overlays received from the companies ; regiments compiled the received information with their own intelligence into “After Action Reports” and “Unit Journals” to send up to Division. The Morning reports don’t concern us immediately here, though I will be pulling in data from them and the After Action Reports and Unit Journals, eventually. Here I am starting by making the map overlays into useful primary sources again by “overlaying” them digitally back on the maps they were drawn on.
This is necessary because by the very purpose of map overlays they have become separated from their map base in the archival process. They were created and used exactly not to be physically tied to an actual map, but to be laid over any copy of the same map by whoever would be receiving and using them. Now, however, without their base maps they are essentially worthless. So, I hope to put the overlays and the base maps back together. I am starting with some materials I obtained from the 83rd Infantry Division Association because there is a very nice collection of documents about the 83rd Infantry Division, and because I could purchase scans of the base maps from the Battlefield Historian website, a site I recommend highly.
At the 83rd Infantry Division documents site there is a collection of these overlays that I did in 2011. But the base maps were from the wrong map series, that is, they were not the from the actual map series being used by the troops on the ground, and while this didn’t prevent them from serving the purpose, I now have the maps from the correct series and feel it is better to use these. Also, in 2011 I hadn’t figured out very well how to geo-reference the overlays. They are traced with the obligatory identification of two grid junctions so whoever is receiving them can quickly lay them over their own map using those two reference points. But two points is not enough to geo-reference a map and this work found at the 83rd ID document site was more a trial first run that came pretty close, but one I was never satisfied with. Only this year when I started having more time to restart this project did it occur to me that the knowing two points on a known grid was just enough for me to triangulate all the reference points I could need. The first results have proven very satisfactory, and that is the reason for this site.
I have material for a few dozen maps. I’m putting them up as I do them, hence the blog format. After that I’m hoping I’ll gain access to more overlays as people realize what can be done; or that with any luck and a bit of funds I can go to the National Archives myself and start digging for them myself.