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Subject: Map detail rss

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Confusion Under Fire
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During WW2 how detailed were the maps carried by squad leaders and/or platoon leaders?
I am guessing hills and valleys, rivers and streams and maybe isolated farmhouses but not individual buildings? But I really have no idea.
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Geoffrey Burrell
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Sometimes good sometimes spotty. The Germans switched road signs on the allies during the Ardenne Offensive (Battle of The Bulge) which ended up confusing the them during the siege of Bastogne. The US of cours corrected the errors caused by subterfuge.
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Paul C
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I don't know how far down the chain of command these were generally available, but Michelin maps of France were used by (and printed for) the German and British military. Some of the samples seem to show blocks of buildings in villages and individual farmhouses-

http://cartesmich.free.fr/ww2_a.php
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Bob Zurunkel
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It would have varied, depending on where they were. The Germans, for example, found their maps of Russia to be highly inaccurate.
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Neal Durando
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whatambush wrote:
During WW2 how detailed were the maps carried by squad leaders and/or platoon leaders?
I am guessing hills and valleys, rivers and streams and maybe isolated farmhouses but not individual buildings? But I really have no idea.


Can't speak for another nationalities, but for the US this depended on map availability. And just because a map was available to battalion commanders doesn't mean it got down to company commanders. In Normandy, under good conditions, company commanders often had a 1:25k map. Sometimes only 1:50k was available. Sometimes nothing! It was very common in Normandy as well that some very useful cartography remained classified and did not get pushed down to the tactical level.

While 1:25k gives you a good indication of individual buildings, what really is important is visual landmarks for artillery spotting, such as church steeples. In short maps weren't (aren't) sufficient to obviate constant tactical reconnaissance.

This June I spent a good deal of time trying to make my way up a lane, marked as such on a 1944 sheet, but it was by far worse than any jungle I've been in. I asked the farmer whose house we were renting about it and he explained that lanes like that are kept overgrown so that the boars and deer have somewhere to live. Every now and then they are cleared. There are many, many false lanes marked on the 44 sheets. And a good number that weren't marked at all. (A notable exception was the back exit across the Merderet from Timmes' Orchard.)

Also, you might enjoy my blog (defling.com/blog).
And here's a 1:25k map you can play with: http://defling.com/3D_Views/GRB_25k_POIs/GRB_Omega.html
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Eric Brosius
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Someone once said that all battles are fought at the spot where four maps meet.
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Mark Russo
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1:25,000 or 1:50,00 maps from WW2, especially those used by the US/UK and Germans, are just as detailed as a modern map of same scale.
Not saying they are "accurate" but the level of detail is the same, for example individual buildings are on 1:25,000 maps.

You can find them online, just takes a bit of searching.
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I legally own hundreds of polyhedral assault dice!
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Indiana University had a collection of WW2-era maps of Eastern Europe that belonged to the German Army. They were very rudimentary and largely hand drawn. For the most part, they showed only the most salient features: roads, towns, rivers, bridges, forests, standing bodies of water, hills with coarse changes of elevation. They seemed more like accurate approximations than detailed studies. My guess is that the original art for a lot of them were quickly drawn from aerial reconnaissance photos that were blown up and cast on a sheet of paper pinned to the wall. Or they may have been compiled from a variety of previously published and captured material.
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Kris Van Beurden
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Westie wrote:
It would have varied, depending on where they were. The Germans, for example, found their maps of Russia to be highly inaccurate.


I read that part of the issue there was that the "same symbols" were used for different things on German & Russian maps - the one I half-remember reading about was that the German symbol for highway (or railway, I forgot) was the Russian for "bird migration" routes...
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Andy Daglish
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French map-making tended to locate placenames such that the first letter of the name was closest to the map location. Anglo-Saxon maps tended to use the last letter. This caused confusion.
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Neal Durando
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aforandy wrote:
French map-making tended to locate placenames such that the first letter of the name was closest to the map location. Anglo-Saxon maps tended to use the last letter. This caused confusion.


I had never noticed this before! Excellent. This may explain why the battle of Beau Coudray was misnamed.
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Neal Durando
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ardennes4412 wrote:
1:25,000 or 1:50,00 maps from WW2, especially those used by the US/UK and Germans, are just as detailed as a modern map of same scale.
Not saying they are "accurate" but the level of detail is the same, for example individual buildings are on 1:25,000 maps.

You can find them online, just takes a bit of searching.


British Library:
http://www.oldmapsonline.org/map/britishlibrary/14620750_31_...

McMaster University:
http://library.mcmaster.ca/maps/ww2/ww2_topos_home
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Neal Durando
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Oh, and to answer the original post. I don't think US platoon or squad leaders had maps very often. US command and control worked transmitting paper overlays back and forth. (This is great for historians.) The best they might have done was to make a quick tracing from the company or battalion CP. A bit like we do today with leaders' tactical smart books, but with less fancy colors.

At Le Bourg St. Leonard, maps were so scarce that the battalion commander ripped up his sheet and distributed the AOs to company commanders.

Almost every successful US action I've studied in the Norman bocage featured significant patrolling and good situational awareness of terrain. They couldn't have been carried off just by planning via maps.
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Carl Fung
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Defense Linguistics wrote:
Oh, and to answer the original post. I don't think US platoon or squad leaders had maps very often. US command and control worked transmitting paper overlays back and forth. (This is great for historians.) The best they might have done was to make a quick tracing from the company or battalion CP. A bit like we do today with leaders' tactical smart books, but with less fancy colors.

At Le Bourg St. Leonard, maps were so scarce that the battalion commander ripped up his sheet and distributed the AOs to company commanders.

Almost every successful US action I've studied in the Norman bocage featured significant patrolling and good situational awareness of terrain. They couldn't have been carried off just by planning via maps.


Yep, I agree. Company and Platoon Leaders would be given maps if there are enough maps available. WWII wasn't the era of Xerox or scanning for east reproduction. Squad Leaders would not be given maps (unless they were, say, operating independently in patrol or on an outpost or something). In a division, there's 81 Rifle Squads (not including weapons teams). That's a lot of maps to obtain and distribute. I suspect squad leaders (and platoon leaders) would have to hand draw the maps or use the ubiquitous sand table or "rock is the objective house, this twig is us."

In Charles MacDonald's iconic work, Company Commander, in his first action to defend in the Eifel, he states, "I was handed five maps, one for myself and one for each of my platoon leaders." But this was in a defensive stance so enough maps were probably reproduced.
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Eddy Sterckx
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The German divisional orbat included a "map printing" section - and I'm pretty sure I once saw a war movie where the same functionality was shown / existed in the US army.
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Confusion Under Fire
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Thanks for all the replies and info. The links were great.


calvinboy24 wrote:
I suspect squad leaders (and platoon leaders) would have to hand draw the maps or use the ubiquitous sand table or "rock is the objective house, this twig is us."



This is how I imagined it would work along with proper forward patrols. The problem with most games is that you have the gods eye view of all terrain and know its position, entry costs, defence values etc. I am currently working on an Ambush style game where the position of enemy units are unknown until you find them but you play on a map where you can see all the terrain. I was debating using a system where terrain is generated as it appears in your Field of Vision. This may be too fiddly but might be worth experimenting with.
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David Janik-Jones
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Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
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whatambush wrote:
I was debating using a system where terrain is generated as it appears in your Field of Vision. This may be too fiddly but might be worth experimenting with.

You might consider making the terrain "known" until it's actually encountered by the player moving. Then make it so that it's most likely to be what the player expected (i.e., was briefed on at whatever level HQ they report up to), but with the possibility that it may not be precisely what it's supposed to be. For example, that empty field borders by woods may, in fact, have a small stone farmhouse and outbuildings in it on the edge of the woods that turns out to be a good place for defenders to be dug in at.
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Jim P.
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whatambush wrote:
During WW2 how detailed were the maps carried by squad leaders and/or platoon leaders?
I am guessing hills and valleys, rivers and streams and maybe isolated farmhouses but not individual buildings? But I really have no idea.


I saw this book in the military bookshelf thread and thought of this thread that you started with a question. Maybe you haven't explored this book yet...and maybe it has the answer?

https://boardgamegeek.com/article/23330819#23330819
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Eddy Sterckx
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One of the first systematic topographical charting for military purposes/maps was done by the Austrians in the 18th century. The result is magnificent. Consult the maps for the Austrian Netherlands (present day Belgium) here :

http://www.kbr.be/collections/cart_plan/ferraris/ferraris_en...

Then pick map 78 for a look at the Waterloo battlefield and roads.

As the Ferraris maps were well known at the time, they surely were part of Napoleon's big library of books he carried around when on campaign.

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Jim F
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Looks like they were drawn by Rick Barber
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John McD
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DaveyJJ wrote:
whatambush wrote:
I was debating using a system where terrain is generated as it appears in your Field of Vision. This may be too fiddly but might be worth experimenting with.

You might consider making the terrain "known" until it's actually encountered by the player moving. Then make it so that it's most likely to be what the player expected (i.e., was briefed on at whatever level HQ they report up to), but with the possibility that it may not be precisely what it's supposed to be. For example, that empty field borders by woods may, in fact, have a small stone farmhouse and outbuildings in it on the edge of the woods that turns out to be a good place for defenders to be dug in at.


This is an idea I've been kicking around. The difference between likely/ expected terrain and actual. Especially for things like 'the river is fordable' turning into 'the river is not fordable'.
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Eddy Sterckx
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Ashiefan wrote:

Looks like they were drawn by Rick Barber


I wouldn't mind that kind of map for an operational level Napoleonic game - it oozes period feel and is reasonably uncluttered - and not to mention accurate up to individual farm level.
 
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Eddy Sterckx
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BlackSpy wrote:

This is an idea I've been kicking around. The difference between likely/ expected terrain and actual. Especially for things like 'the river is fordable' turning into 'the river is not fordable'.


Forward to Richmond! had "possible fordable" locations of the river. You had to get a unit to the location and "test" it to see if the intel was correct or not. Could really screw-up your plan, but since you knew the intel wasn't reliable you didn't put all your eggs in the same basket - which is kinda correct.
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Eddy Sterckx
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whatambush wrote:
I was debating using a system where terrain is generated as it appears in your Field of Vision. This may be too fiddly but might be worth experimenting with.


Pretty sure I once read about an ASL (or possibly SL) scenario with the Germans attacking and the Russian player rolling for which modular board would appear once a German unit reached the edge of the starting map.

We once did something similar in a 28mm ACW cavalry action using Hexagon/Kallistra terrain - physically shifting the terrain on the table, adding and dropping off hex-boards.The defender knew what terrain was "behind" him, but the attacker didn't. Made for some interesting tactical choices with regard to withdrawals and lines of advance.
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Kris Van Beurden
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Sounds a bit like the gameplay of Descent or Doom (typical ADVvsDungeonMaster dungeon crawlers) but then with a historical theme. I approve!
 
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