Why we love it

In a gripping way, this map of US bombings in the Vietnam War represents more than a million data points and makes the information instantly understandable. It gives us insights into the scale of modern warfare. Each mission is plotted as a simple point to show transportation networks and cities that were targets for US bombs. The map evokes strong emotions by identifying the hardest hit regions in Vietnam—some that endured more than 50,000 bombing missions. We also see significant and sustained bombing in unexpected places, including secretive campaigns across the border in Cambodia.

Why it works

This map meets a number of challenges to detail the bombing missions of a controversial war. It works by using three complementary graphics. The main map shows one dot per mission. The proportional hexbin map aggregates that data into a larger spatial pattern. And, the bar chart shows the variation in bombing intensity over time. The use of a single color on muted greys is as bold as it is effective and serves to place the data front and center. The carefully curated text callouts help contextualize and explain key parts of this complex story.

Important steps


Tips and tricks

illustration of Cooper Thomas, cartographer

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