the pioneering photographs of the us army

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The WWII left many lessons. One of them, learned by fire during operations such as the Normandy Landings, confirms a maxim that good strategists have known for centuries: there is nothing better than a good cartography.

Knowing the terrain is key. It was in the middle of the XX. AND, as demonstrated in Ukraine, it is today. With the deployment of Google Earth at the click of a button, it may seem irrelevant to us; but more than eight decades ago, having up-to-date and detailed images of the territory was not so easy.

With that clear premise in the mid-40s, once the war was on track and the bombings that had provided service were released, the US and the UK launched “Project Casey Jones“, an operation that aspired to define an extensive area of ​​approximately five million square kilometers that was divided between Western Europe and North Africa.

The program was promoted by USAAFthe Army Corps of Engineers and the Royal Air Forceamong other organizations, and with the purpose of shaping it, both countries divided up the territory.

A Google Earth from 70 years ago

The first planes of Army Map Service they began to fly over Spain shortly after, at the beginning of 1945, following authorized routes between Gibraltar and Istre, in France.

His work bore little resemblance to what orthophotographers can do today. Not only because of the technique and the resources at your fingertips. The operations of what is now known as Series A were carried out between 45 and 46, when the waters were falling in turmoil in Europe, and flying over Spain, in the middle of the war and governed by a fascist dictator, it was little like a weekend outing.

Part Of The Coast Of Vigo Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Part of the coast of Vigo captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of The Ria De Bilbao Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Part of the coast of Bilbao captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of Barcelona Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Surroundings of the Barcelona coast captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of Almeria Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Almeria coast captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of The Coast Of A Coruna Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Part of the coast of A Coruña captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of The Port Of Ibiza And Talamanca Beach Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Environment of the coast of Ibiza captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Despite the back-and-forth and tensions with Madrid, the USAAF was able to carry out a job that even today, almost eighty years later, continues to draw attention for its meticulousness and level of detail.

It was not the only time that US planes flew over the country to take photos. Years later, in the second half of the 1950s, an agreement between the Francoist government and the United States allowed the Army Map Service to once again contemplate the peninsula from a bird’s eye view. The winds were different at that time and the Cold War and the role of Spain facilitated the American mission.

In the First and Second World Wars, color (and not colored) photos were already taken: this was the arduous process to make them

Between 1956 and 1957 the Spaniards once again felt the drone of US ships overhead, a display that was then baptized as american flight. Today, well into the 20th century, the orthophotos taken by Army Map Service technicians are not only notable for their historical value; they are also a legacy that allows us to appreciate how much the country has changed during the last seven decades. Something like looking at an old Google Earth.

Part Of Valencia Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Part of Valencia captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of The Bay Of Santander Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Bay of Santander, seen by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

El Prat Airport Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

El Prat Airport captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of Malaga Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Part of Malaga captured by the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of The Coast Of Palma Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Costa de Palma pictured during the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

Part Of Seville Captured By The American Flight Series B 1956 1957

Urban center of Seville in the images of the American Flight Series B 1956 1957.

The material can be found at the Digital Photo Library of the National Geographic Institute such as Americano Serie A and Americano Serie B. In the same archive, available online, there are also images and material taken in other operations from the 60s —there is an Americano Serie C from 1967 and 1968—, 70s, 80s, 90s and good part of the 21st century. If you want to go back a little further in time, you also have the images taken in the late 1920s and early 1930s during the photogrammatic flight made by Julio Ruiz deAlda in the Segura Basin.

Not all operations cover the whole of the country, but their material is equally interesting. Beyond its value for nostalgics, the material helps to see, for example, how urban centers have expanded, the development of communication routes, airports, industrial centers… And, very especially, the transformation of the coastwith landfills, ports and urbanizations.

Pictures | Digital Photo Library (National Geographic Institute)

The WWII left many lessons. One of them, learned by fire during operations such as the Normandy Landings, confirms a…

The WWII left many lessons. One of them, learned by fire during operations such as the Normandy Landings, confirms a…

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