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The War in the Pacific

It seems that there is a disagreement among historians regarding the implications and consequences of the war in the pacific. Mary Boyd and Stewart Firth, for instance, argue that there were no significant changes as a result of the war, the shift being only nominal – from one colonial power to another. Hermann Hiery, on the other hand, maintains that the “neglected war”, as he describes it, was a turning point in the history of the Pacific islanders.Our intent with the exhibition is much narrower – through original maps and maps from our collection we aim to illustrate the Pacific campaign stopping with the end of World War I and the resulting mandates.

Like the other “secondary” theaters, the history of the war in the Pacific has been bypassed by most. According to Drexel University history professor Eric Dorn Brose it was considered to be a “kind of sideshow, not a particularly important aspect of the war.” He argues that it was more important to the outcome of the war than has been realized. For evidence, he points to the story of Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee, commander of Imperial Germany’s East Asiatic Squadron. One of our original maps displayed below, follows the route of Spee and the two major battles he fought. The other shows the path of SMS Emden and the invasion of the German colonies in the Pacific. Finally a map from the Olin Library map collection presents the League of Nations Pacific mandates.