Japanese Flown Foreign Aerial Photography (JX) in Record Group 373: Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency

The National Archives Cartographic Branch holds a collection of approximately 37,000 aerial photographs taken by the Japanese military between about 1933 and 1945. The photography covers of parts of China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Soviet Union. These photographs are commonly referred to as JX photographs. They are part of the series Aerial Photographs, 1935 - 1970, from Record Group 373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Similar to other foreign photography, JX photographs can be located using the Overlay Indexes for Aerial Photography. These overlay indexes are filed by degree square. To see if your degree square is available, you can enter it directly into the main search bar in our catalog as shown in the following examples. The latitude must be two digits and the longitude must be three digits. (Ex: 48N002E56N003W)

RG 373 JX Catalog Search 1


When you click the search button with the degree square in the search bar, the file unit for the overlays will appear in the results. 

RG 373 JX Catalog Search 2


After clicking on the title of the degree square file unit you can see the individual overlay indexes.

RG 373 JX Catalog Search 3

You can hover the mouse over the scan and click the "Click to interact" button or the plus button in the upper left hand side to zoom in on the image. You can download the scans by clicking the download button to the left under the image.


To search for coverage using these index overlays, locate your area of interest on the map and place the overlays to line up the 30 minute line and corners to match the map. It can be helpful to place a sticky note on your computer screen on the area of interest on the map so that as you search through the overlays you can match up the area with available coverage.

Please note that while you can zoom in on the map to find a location, you must be zoomed out to the default scale (seen above) to have the map line up with the overlays. Since the overlays correspond directly with the locations on the map, you can line up the bottom of the item box, where the "Previous" and "Next" buttons are, with the bottom of your internet browser screen. That way you can ensure that the overlays are properly lined up with the map.

RG 373 JX Catalog Search 5

When navigating through the overlay images, if you zoom in or out on an image, you can reset the placement of the overlay by clicking either the "Previous" or "Next" button below the image and navigate back to it. This will reset the image to the default placement.


After identifying your area of interest on the map, you can search through the overlays by scrolling through the thumbnails on the right of the screen or clicking on the "Next" and "Previous" buttons below the image.


Each overlay represents a flight or part of a flight. The scale, date, mission number and spot number are almost always included at the top of the overlays. Spot numbers will consist of a letter and number combination usually in parentheses or (Ex: “A-1913”). The spot numbers are used to locate the photographic prints or reel of film that the images are on. 

RG 373 JX Catalog Search 7


The numbered boxes on the overlays represent available photographs for the area. The lines connecting the boxes also represent coverage. You would need to estimate the exposure number based on the location between numbered boxes. The overlays often also include an identifier for the exposures in the “Total Exp.” field and with the exposures. In this case the identifier is VV. 

RG 373 JX Catalog Search 8


To locate the photographs, you need a citation with the spot number and exposure number. Using this overlay as an example, a citation would look like the following:

Spot Number H-6374

The spot numbers will lead to film cans using the RG 373 can locator, available digitally by request at  and in the Cartographic Research Room.

refer to caption

RG 373 Aerial Photographs, Can Locator

In this case, Spot Number H6374 leads to film can ON024198, Barcode 10189476.

Cans with an “ON” identifier are original negatives which are stored at the Lenexa Federal Records Center. These cans can be ordered in the Cartographic Research Room and arrive within three business days. If you already have a researcher card, you can order ON cans ahead of your visit to our site. Some ON cans for this record group are onsite and these are noted in the can locator. Cans with a “DN” identifier can be ordered and viewed on-site.

Once you order the cans at our facility, you can view and copy them in the Cartographic Research Room. We have light tables which allow you to view the film and take photographs on a personal camera. We also have aerial film scanners available. If you have a USB capable laptop, you can bring it to our research room and scan the photographs to your computer. You can learn more about aerial film reproductions here.

If you have any questions about these photographs, you can contact the Cartographic Branch at