My colleague Susan Schulten has a great article in the New Republic on how mapping was revolutionized during World War II.
Drawing primarily from the classic work of Richard Edes Harrison, whose globe-spanning maps were published in Fortune magazine, she tells the story of how Harrison came to work for Fortune and produce his legacy.
As she says, his “not quite maps” were highly striking and innovative:
The most powerful of these images anticipated the perspective of Google Earth. Here Harrison reintroduced a spherical dimension to the map, focusing on the theaters of war in a way that—for instance—rendered the central place of the Mediterranean and the topographical obstacles facing any invasion of southern Europe.
In fact, Harrison was more deeply involved in the war effort than is generally known. During the war, Arthur Robinson was head of the Map Division of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the fore-runner of the CIA). Due to a lack of cartographically trained personnel, at one point he had the idea of sending a small team to New York City to pick up techniques on airbrush shading from Harrison, who was living on West 48th Street. The OSS team also visited Robert M. Chapin, the Chief Cartographer at Time magazine.
Furthermore, the Department of State contracted with the American Geographical Society (AGS) to produce a series of “hemisphere maps” in 1945, who further contracted out Harrison (at the rate of $3 an hour!). Erwin Raisz, the accomplished cartographer, was also involved in this work.**
Susan has written about Harrison previously:
Schulten, S. 1998. Richard Edes Harrison and the Challenge to American Cartography. Imago Mundi 50:174-188.
My review in Antipode of her latest book is here.
**These two paragraphs are based on my ongoing and incomplete research into the map work of the OSS.