As we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day, McElfresh Map Company honors the Engineer Model Making Detachment. All of these mapmakers knew where the D-Day landings would come, more than a year before June 6, 1944. They were working class and middle class, British and American, men and women. They came from unlikely civilian backgrounds to be providing indispensable military services. They were painters, sculptors, scene designers, ornamental plasterers, architects, draftsmen, cabinet makers, carpenters, geographers, teachers, metal workers – there were even toy designers.
The American members were officially in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The women were the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (W.A.A.F) and the other men were part of what was known as V-Section, the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.).
We also honor the pilots that took part in the intensive aerial photographic missions. Their high altitude photographs were pieced together as mosaics, creating de-facto maps. Innumerable flights were flown over occupied Europe by aircraft equipped with twelve inch Fairchild cameras, K17 six inch cameras for multiplex mapping and K18 twenty-four inch cameras for large scale coverage. Spitfires, P-38 Lightnings and Mosquitos flew the missions. At times, they swooped down low to capture oblique photographs, and the planes returned to England with foliage caught in the fuselage.
These were ordinary people in extraordinary times doing amazing things in a war the world absolutely needed to be won.