Mussolini’s Propaganda Map of the Pacific Ocean.

Grande Carta del Pacifico.


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Date: ca. 1942
Place: Milan / Rome
Dimensions: 120 x 79.5 cm (47 x 31 in)
Condition Rating: VG


On the wrong side of History: A cartographic celebration of the axis powers following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This evocative map invites viewers to immerse themselves in one of the most defining and momentous periods of the 20th century. It provides a depiction of most of the world, though not all, and centers on the vast maritime space of the Pacific. The driving force behind the creation of this map, and indeed behind its focus on the Pacific Ocean, was the unprovoked and catastrophic Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. This pivotal event, which triggered the United States’ full engagement in World War II, was one of the decisive events that spelled the end of the so-called Axis powers.

The map is an Italian production created under the auspices of the Società Geografica Italiana and driven forth by Benito Mussolini’s fascist party. Indeed, it aligns perfectly with the fascist glorification of violence and death. No secret is made of its elite patronage, as the map is adorned with an inset message from Benito Mussolini himself in the lower left corner. This message encourages full Italian support of the Axis powers and is unapologetically dated to the 11th of December 1941 – only four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In this way, the map was not just a way of familiarizing Italians with the Pacific theatre of war, but it also served as a potent propaganda tool designed to rally popular support.

In this short essay, we unravel the significance of this cartographic visualization and discuss how it provides a unique glimpse not only into the confrontation between Allied and Axis forces in the Pacific Rim but into the very mentality of the era. By appreciating the power of visual imagery, we come to understand how propagandistic maps such as this played an important role in shaping the narrative of this global conflict.


Tracing the aftermath of Pearl Harbor

The true nature of this map, and indeed of the forces that created it – emerges most clearly when one considers that it was put into production less than a week after Japan’s devastating and deadly attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Despite the horrific outcome, this unparalleled event marked a turning point in history, as it compelled the United States to actively join the war effort against the Axis powers of nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperial Japan. As we all know and appreciate, this engagement changed the course of World War II and ultimately prevented Europe from falling into the blood-stained clutches of fascist autocracies.

This meticulously crafted map captures the tense global scenario at a time when that outcome was still far from certain. It showcases the territories and alliances of the Axis powers in vivid detail and stresses the opening of a new Pacific front by the Japanese. Strangely, Europe is so peripheral on the map that parts of it are not even depicted. This was both about drawing attention away from a war-torn home front, but it also speaks to the global ambitions entertained by these war criminals.

The motivation behind this map is made explicit in Mussolini’s emotive message in the corner, in which he rallies the Italians to embrace the tripartite axis alliance and face the challenges ahead with unwavering determination. The text – like so many of his sermonic, rage-fuelled speeches – is littered with calculated references to ‘despotic democracies’ and endless provocations meant to fuel the Italian resolve to stand united during this critical hour. Roughly translated, it reads:


This is another day of solemn decisions in the history of Italy and memorable events destined to give a new course in the history of the continents.

The Powers of the Pastto d’Acciaio, Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany, more and more closely united, descend today to the side of heroic Japan against the United States of America.

The Tripartite becomes a military alliance that deploys 250 million men around its flags, determined to do anything to win.

Neither the Axis nor Japan wanted the extension of the conflict. A man, a single man, an authentic and democratic despot, through an endless series of provocations, deceiving with a supreme fraud the populations of his country, wanted the war and prepared it day by day with diabolical pertinacity.

The formidable blows that have already been inflicted on the American forces in the immense expanses of the Pacific show what kind of temper the soldiers of the Rising Sun are.

I say, and you will appreciate, that it is a privilege to fight alongside them.

Today, the Tripartite alliance, in its moral and material superiority, is a powerful instrument for war and the sure guarantor of victory. Tomorrow, it will be the architect and organizer of a just peace among peoples.

Italian men and women! Stand up once again! Be worthy of this great hour. We will win.

Musselini – Rome 11-12-1941


Propagandistic Geography: The Art of Cartographic Persuasion

Studying the ‘Mussolini-map of the Pacific’ is like stepping into the realm of fascist propaganda. It provides us with a sense of the profound impact that propaganda had on shaping public opinion during the Second World War. This remarkable chart, so skillfully designed by Mussolini’s creative propagandists, exemplifies the potency of fusing visual cartography with nationalist rhetoric. It is far from the first time that maps have been used for this purpose.

We have already noted Mussolini’s call to support the Axis powers, but the map also sports other, more subtle means of conveying this antagonistic ideology. We see it, for example, in the menacing presence of Communist Russia and the British Empire, both of which loom large in the territorial divisions of the map. An even more vivid and atmospheric feature is the pictorial band at the bottom of the map showing the impressive Japanese navy en route to their Hawaiian encounter with destiny. Setting forth in the yellowing light of dawn, the image is not just meant to stress the Empire of the Sun’s maritime prowess but also serves to remind viewers of the Japanese’s most frightening military extension: the bombers and kamikaze aircraft responsible for the destruction of the Pacific Fleet.

As we study the strategic messaging embedded in this compilation and the carefully crafted imagery that supports it, we are also witnessing the art of persuasion at play: the map actively seeks to galvanize popular support for the consistent aggression of Axis powers.


Concluding Remarks

In addition to capturing one of the most dramatic and pivotal events in World War II, this evocative map exposes us to the fiery rhetoric of Benito Mussolini. As he extols his message of unity and strength in the alliance with Germany and Japan, the Italian leader also demonstrates his defiance of the Allies and proclaims an unwavering determination to secure victory at any cost.

Looking at this map today, one cannot but acknowledge the power of visual imagery – and cartography in particular – in influencing public sentiment during times of war. While this particular map is, first and foremost, a striking relic from the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, it also serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices borne by an entire generation in their determination to safeguard democracy and freedom in the face of fascism.


Ente Geografico Italiano

Ente Geografico Italiano was the publication for the Società Geografica Italiana, which was formed in 1867 in Florence. In 1872, the geographic society moved to Rome, and as of 1924, it operated from headquarters in Villa Mattei in the Celiorione of Rome. The society began publishing a journal in 1868 and also sponsored scientific expeditions, such as one to Ethiopia in 1876, led by Orazio Antinori. During WW2, the society was directed by Corrado Soli, an Italian writer, diplomat, and explorer born in Palermo, who functioned as the colonial governor of Italian Eritrea from 1928 to 1930.

Condition Description

Folding map. Minor loss along fold lines repaired on verso.