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Cold War Mapping Mission

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Cold War Mapping Mission: The 329th Geodetic Detachment and The 64th Engineer Topographic Battalion 1956-1970
  • Merriam Press Military History Series
    • First Edition 2014
    • 118 8.5x11-inch pages
    • B&W/color photos
This project is prepared by the History Team of veterans from the 64th Battalion. The book covers the operations of the 64th Engineer Battalion in the 1960s plus the detachment it absorbed that worked in Libya in the late 1950s.

     This is a unit history of the 64th Topographic Engineer Battalion during the 1960s as it undertook its last mission before being deactivated at the beginning of the next decade. This may have been the last major traditional mapping mission undertaken by the U.S. Army and the Army Map Service in the 20th Century as advanced satellites became available and could do much of the work with more efficiency than the traditional survey battalion.  

     Most of the work done was surveying to provide the data for the map makers back in the U.S. Before this could be done, the U.S. Air Force sent its special squadron to fly missions to create the aerial photograph needed to produce the maps and to aid the surveyors in their job. The soldier surveyors often moved into the field using old and inaccurate maps based on data from as far back as the time of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia.

     Initially the battalion took over operations that had begun in Libya and it was here that some of the troops encountered minefields left over from World War II. From Libya elements of the battalion were sent to work in Iran with the Iranian Army. A reinforced company was sent to begin operations in Ethiopia early in the 1960s while another detachment worked in Liberia. Field parties, often supported by aircraft, crossed deserts, mountains, and jungles operating in areas that included everything from deadly snakes to lions, and an array of diseases. In some cases the survey teams had to operate in active war zones. In one case, a team was briefly taken prisoner. Many times these troops were far from their bases and in an emergency help was anywhere from hours to days away.     

     This history only presents a very basic description of the type of survey activities carried out by the battalion to provide a background. Most of the text is devoted to a history of the unit and the experiences of veterans of this battalion including civilian members of the Army Map Service.


This is a wonderful book showing the operations of a forgotten unit of the U.S. Army in Africa and the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s. This colorful book can be purchased at a substantial discount (almost 50%) from the Army Historical Foundation. The Army Historical Foundation is constructing the National Museum of the Army at Fort Belvoir which was the home of the Topographic Engineers until 1970.

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