During World War II, the United States and Great
Britain produced in excess of 3.5 million silk maps and
cloth maps for Allied military personnel to use as escape
maps. In 1940, the British military intelligence unit,
known as MI 9, started issuing silk maps for use by British
aircrews shot down over enemy occupied territory in Europe.
The silk maps were intended to assist airman in evading
capture. MI 9 also smuggled silk and tissue paper
escape maps into POW camps in Germany along with other
escape aids to encourage POWs to attempt escape.
After the US's entry into WWII, US military intelligence
officers learned of the activities of MI 9 and established a
similar intelligence unit referred to as MIS-X, which began
mass producing cloth maps and tissue paper escape maps for
US military personnel. The first US cloth maps were
printed on balloon cloth, but soon thereafter a more
suitable material, acetate rayon, was found and used for all
subsequent cloth maps.
This website recounts the histories of British silk maps and
US cloth maps prepared for the Army Air Forces and Navy, as
well as the two US organizations that prepared the escape
maps, the Army Map Service and the Aeronautical Chart
Service. Also, included is the history of the
oil cloth charts used by the US Navy on life rafts for
survival purposes. The site contains many photos of
these silk and cloth maps, along with some escape maps
produced during WWII by the Survey of India and the RAAF.
A few photos of tissue paper escape maps are also included.
All information contained on this website is for educational
purposes only. It is dedicated to the Allied men and
women who saved the world from tyranny.