Rare WWII map published in India, showing the theater of conflict in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
This fascinating map was issued in British India at the height of World War II, likely at the instigation of the colonial government as part of a series of maps to inform the public about the ongoing conflict and the threat posed by Japan.
The map embraces the entire Malay Peninsula (then under British suzerainty) and much of the Indonesian Archipelago (the Dutch East Indies), including Sumatra, Java, Borneo (shared by the British and Dutch), the Celebes and numerous smaller islands such as Bali. Notably, the Netherlands had since May 1940 been occupied by the Nazis, although their colonial government in Indonesia remained in place, bolstered by her British, American and Australian allies.
The Japanese, who had invaded China in 1937, declared war on the Western Allies on December 8, 1941 - the day after they had attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The Japanese forces moved with ruthless efficiency, taking British Malaya by storm. The key British base of Singapore had fallen by February 8, 1942. The Allies had simply underestimated the Japanese, whose military efficiency and preparedness was remarkable.
In early February, the Japanese invaded Indonesia, which was not only seen as a stepping stone to Australia, but was rich in oil (the oil wells in Sumatra, Java and Borneo are labeled on the map), and other natural resources, which the Japanese desperately needed for their military. The Dutch and their Allies were no match for the invaders and Batavia (Jakarta) soon surrendered.
These events in Southeast Asia had profound ramifications for British India. In 1942, the Japanese attacked British Burma, where they overran the British and their Chinese allies, seizing control of most of the southern two-thirds of Burma, leaving Bengal, the most populous Indian state, vulnerable to invasion.
In the spring of 1944, the Japanese army surged into northern Burma and entered the eastern extremity of what is now India proper, and attempted to conquer Imphal, Manipur and Kohima, Nagaland (both shown on the map). The British and their allies successfully drove back the invaders. The Japanese were finally defeated and all regions were liberated from their oppressive occupation in August 1945.
The present map is very rare. It was printed in small quantities by a press in India (perhaps Calcutta) and issued to British officers, officials and interested native Indians. As it was viewed as an ephemeral piece for temporary use, almost all examples would have been discarded, making this example a rare survivor.