Nothing like a little fearmongering to drag the citizenry into war

Life Magazine indulged in a little propaganda in 1916 to persuade the citizenry that we ought to be involved in World War I. If we weren’t, why, the Germans would invade from the east and the Japanese from the west, and we good Americans would be confined to a …reservation in the desert, a prospect offered without irony.

Curiously, Canada is labeled as a land of barbarians. Canada joined the war effort in 1914, though, before the US did. I’m not sure what they’re implying.

Meineapolis/St Karl are nice touches, as is Nagaseattle.


  1. says

    As I recall, if we didn’t arm the Nicaraguan Contras, they would invade Harlingen, Texas. That was according to St. Ronald Reagan.

  2. starfleetdude says

    The irony of the mapping of an “American Reservation” is duly noted.

  3. starfleetdude says

    Actually, Japan did fight on the Allied side in WWI and did attack and defeat some German garrisons in China and Micronesia.

  4. robertharvey says

    It’s worth noting that this is not the same magazine as Henry Luce’s Life Magazine. It just happens to have the same name.

  5. ridana says

    I’m really deficient in WWI history. Is Mackensan (or -sen, it’s hard to read) a significant name? I notice there is both the Mackensan River (Rio Grande) and a city in the Mexican Province called Mackensanillo.
    I also enjoyed the names Ach Looey (St. Louis), Gottdammerungham (Birmingham), Omahoch/Kaiser Bluffs (Omaha/Council Bluffs), Yokohanjulee (Los Angeles) and San Sisko (San Francisco). Naturally, Bismarck retains its name. :)

  6. stroppy says

    Barbarians… I hear they have a lot of unruly gaels and picts up there– not to mention McGill U. Better to do like Hadrian.

  7. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Canada automatically declared war when Britain did. We were not a fully independent country at the time. The fallout from that war encouraged Canada to seek further independence from the crown.

  8. jack lecou says

    So many weird gems. It’s not just Germany and Japan. Notice that the Ottomans got Florida. And did the Austro-Hungarians get lost on their way to the front? Baja California seems like a fairly low priority invasion target. If the Bulgarians have a piece, I don’t see it.*

    I like that they left “Bismarck” just sittin’ out there unaltered. A glimmer of self awareness? Who knows.

    Also… Lake Pilsner? I can’t make out the others.

    * There does appear to be some serious confusion about who participated. The inclusion of Japan on the map is deeply weird. Imperial Japan was allied with Britain at the time, and declared war on Germany in August 1914. Is it possible this map is a later fake, with the author getting their Is and IIs mixed up?

  9. christoph says

    @Chigau, # 9: I don’t think they had goose stepping until the 1930’s. (If I’m wrong about that, it wouldn’t be the first time.)

  10. says

    Correct, Japan was not a threat in 1916…but do not underestimate the amount of anti-Asian bigotry on the west coast. Read some David Neiwert if you don’t believe me.

  11. bjornar says

    Apparently the Austrians get Baja California, and Mexico becomes a province of where exactly?

  12. DrewN says

    Canadians are, historically speaking, the best barbarian hoard to be invaded by. They tend to be very polite & come armed with coffee, doughnuts & health care.

  13. Rob Grigjanis says

    DrewN @20: In WWI, not so much:

    By war’s end, the Canadian Corps’ reputation as an army of “no mercy” was known all across Northern France and was helped along by Canadian bar boasts to that effect. “You will very seldom now hear of the Canadians taking prisoners, they take them to some quiet spot and then it is a case of the dead may march,” officer C.V. Williams wrote in a letter to his father.

  14. colinday says

    The Mississippi just stops somewhere in Louisiana. Or did they reverse the flow into Lake Superior?

  15. kingoftown says

    French colonists probably would have approved of renaming the Mississippi New Rhine.

  16. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    #8 ridana
    August von Mackensen. My favorite part was the “Gulf of Hate”.
    #9 chigau

    Is the city in the American Reservation called Goosestep?

    Yep. Though it should have been Stechschrittsville.
    #18 christoph

    I don’t think they had goose stepping until the 1930’s. (If I’m wrong about that, it wouldn’t be the first time.)

    Oh no. It was a Prussian march long before then. Don’t know exactly when it started, 18th century perhaps. Though the confusion might be due to the fact that pierce stepping wasn’t commonly called goosestepping until the early 20th century. Not sure who started calling it goosestepping first. I suspect it was the Brits, who have an endearing knack for absurdity.

    I couldn’t make out the finer writing on that map, as long as I’ve already looked up a better version. For the visually impaired HERE is a blowup, in color.

    Don’t recall Phil Dick ever mentioning this as a source of inspiration for The Man In The High Castle. Certainly possible.

  17. says

    A POSSIBLY relevant point: the Life Magazine of the period was a humor magazine. The magazine we Boomers remember didn’t come into existence until 1936. I think this map was meant as satire. I mean, look at the place names.

  18. seleukos says

    Jamaica is “New Roumania”. Romania was also fighting on the Entente side (as was Japan), but I’m guessing they got it confused wit Bulgaria. This is clearly humorous, and without too much thought having gone into who America’s actual wartime enemies would be.

  19. robro says

    Frankly, Bagdad Corners, Turconia sounds better than Jacksonville, Florida. I think I’ll have my birth certificate changed immediately, thank you.

  20. starskeptic says

    Ditto the others who have already looked at this, you fell for the 1916 version of The Onion

  21. chigau (違う) says

    starskeptic #32
    It’s just awesome that you didn’t fall for it.

  22. starskeptic says

    chigau #33
    Language much?
    Who says I didn’t fall for it?
    props to previous commenters who had already figured this out….

  23. KG says

    Imperial Japan was allied with Britain at the time, and declared war on Germany in August 1914. – jack lecou@14

    This is true. But there were ideas in Germany of getting Japan to change sides, as well as persuading Mexico to invade the USA if the latter joined the war. The “Zimmermann telegram” of January 1917, sent by the German foreign minister to the German minister in Mexico City, Heinrich von Eckhardt, authorised him to offer Mexico an alliance in the event of the USA entering the war, and also to try to persuade Mexico to invite Japan to change sides. Bizarrely, the telegram was sent via Washington, by three different routes, two of which also went via Britain! The British intercepted all three, decoded the message, and passed it to the Americans. (Even before this, the British had manufactured false claims that Germany and Mexico were plotting an invasion.) The Zimmermann telegram played a part in persuading Woodrow Wilson to join the war, although less important than the German resort to unrestricted submarine warfare. If the USA had not joined, the Central Powers would probably have won – the USA entered too late to have a significant part in defeating Germany’s 1918 offensive militarily, but its logistic and financial support, and the morale-boosting effect, were crucial. If the offensive had succeeded, France would have had to sue for peace, and British troops would have left the continent. Of course, it’s difficult to see how the results of a Central Powers win could have been worse than the rise of the Nazis and WWII, but these were not inevitable results of the Allied victory.

  24. Ed Seedhouse says

    Also, Vancouver Island seems to have turned into Vancouver Peninsula!

  25. Mobius says

    But, but, but — Japan was an ally of England during World War I. They were against the Germans.

  26. jack lecou says

    But there were ideas in Germany of getting Japan to change sides.

    I knew about the Zimmerman telegram, but do we have any specifics on a parallel effort like that in Japan? I’d be interested to know how realistic such hopes would have been. That Japanese declaration against Germany wasn’t just a bloodless threat, after all – a few months later, there were tens of thousands of Japanese infantry and seaman duking it out with the Germans in Tsingtao. Hundreds of Japanese soldiers were killed. There were several other skirmishes as well.

    I mean, I’m not mistaking the expansionist military junta running Japan at the time for the good guys or anything. It seems likely that they saw the war mostly as a great opportunity to try to grab what they could while the other world powers were preoccupied (which was pretty much how everyone else saw it too, I suppose). Those ambitions would have been a plausible enough reason on their own for Americans to fuss about Japan (with an element of xenophobia, no doubt, but also a certain leavening of prescience in this case – stopped clocks, etc).

    It’s the jumping into bed with the Central Powers implied by the map that seems like a bridge too far. Whatever the German diplomatic hopes might have been, in retrospect at least, it doesn’t look like the Japanese regime was in any particular hurry to turn its back on prior commitments (i.e., the British). Not as long as those relationships continued to serve its needs, anyway. Germany and Austria didn’t really have much to offer it, not in the Asian sphere anyway. So I’d be curious to know how much the prospect of Japan going turncoat was an actual factor in the thinking of the time.

    (I suppose there’s an interpretation where, had the allies faltered in Europe, Japan would presumably have been left on its own with a more or less free hand in the eastern hemisphere, which might have eventually brought it to US West coast. Not as an ally of Germany, per se, but nevertheless with an end result something like this map, Man in the High Castle-style. That’s some pretty complicated predictive geopolitics to work into what is essentially a cartoon, though.)

  27. KG says

    jack lecou@40,

    No, there was no chance of Japan changing sides! Nor of Mexico getting into a war with the USA. But the Zimmermann telegram did suggest Mexico might persuade Japan to swap sides, as I note @37. The whole thing was a piece of stupidity on the part of Zimmermann, who was a new foreign minister, (and maybe others in the German ruling elite, I don’t know). If the Germans had not reverted to unrestricted submarine warfare in January 1917, which was the crucial move that brought the USA in, Germany would probably have won. Russia would have collapsed in 1917 anyway, and with no direct American involvement in the war, it’s very doubtful France and Britain could have withstood the 1918 German offensive.

  28. KG says

    Now the map has been revealed as a spoof, it reminds me of P.G. Wodehouse’s 1909 story The Swoop, which spoofed British pre-WW1 invasion scares (nine independent forces simultaneously invade England). Far from Wodehouse’s best work, but an amusing conceit. Apparently he also wrote a similar story about the invasion of the USA by Germany and Japan, which I haven’t read.