National Geographic : 1941 Sep
New Map of the Atlantic Ocean Foremost Sea of Commerce Becomes World's Battleground and Its Peaceful Islands Rise to Strategic Importance BY LEO A. BORAH AND WELLMAN CHAMBERLIN N 1939 the National Geographic Society's Map of the Atlantic portrayed the world's foremost highway of commerce. Now a new Map of the Atlantic shows the world's most fateful battleground.* No longer does a "broad Atlantic" separate the tense but thus far peaceful Western Hemisphere from war-torn Europe. Airplanes have reduced the time of crossing from days to hours and turned what was once a tremen dous water hazard into a "puddle jump." Were hostile forces in command of Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, the Canaries, and the Cape Verde Islands, every coastal city from Newfoundland to Argentina would be within possible striking distance of air raiders. Only the United States Navy and its newly ac quired defense bases would serve as an outer guard for the eastern United States. In 1939 the Atlantic Squadron of the United States Navy was based on the mainland coast from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Charles ton, with a right arm extending 1,100 miles off Florida, through Guantanamo, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. This arm only partly guarded the vital Panama Canal. Now an Atlantic Fleet of secret strength is operating off our shores. A string of new air and naval bases carries our front line of defense some seven hundred miles eastward. American Might Guards Greenland In April, 1941, the United States assumed protection of Greenland as essential to the security of the Western Hemisphere and an nounced that it would construct military bases there (pages 393 to 406). From north to south this island is 1,655 miles long and approximately 700 miles wide; it contains 840,000 square miles. About six sevenths of its area is covered by perpetual ice and snow fields. In the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for July, 1940, the veteran Arctic explorer Cap tain Robert A. Bartlett wrote of the possibili ties of Greenland as a base of war operations: "When Germany entered Denmark, the question arose whether this 'protectorate' ex tends to Denmark's island of Greenland, and, if it does, what the effect will be on North Americans. "The answer is found in geography. If military forces come to Greenland, they will find a diverse island, beautiful, amazing, diffi cult, icebound; yet a place which might well serve as a year-round base for air operations and in summer for maneuvers by sea and land. "The distance from the west coast of Green land to Cape Dyer, Canada, is less than 200 miles, and northern Greenland is only 12 to 14 miles from Ellesmere Island. It is only 200 miles as the sea bird flies from Greenland to Iceland, and from there 500 miles to the British Isles, 625 to Norway. "Thus, while Greenland belongs to North America, it is actually a convenient stepping stone for airplanes flying to this continent from Europe." Godthaab, Greenland, where an American consulate has been established, lies 1,150 air miles from St. John's, Newfoundland. Cape Farewell, Greenland, is 900 air miles from St. John's. Godthaab is 500 miles from northern Labrador. Significant distances from Cape Farewell are: to Boston 1,670 miles; to Ber muda 2,130 miles; to Reykjavik, Iceland, 760 miles; to Scapa Flow, Scotland, 1,420 miles; to Fayal, Azores, 1,610 miles. From Godthaab the new defense lines run southward to St. John's, Newfoundland, 1,150 miles, Bermuda 1,230 miles, Antigua 1,065 miles, St. Lucia 220 miles, Trinidad 235 miles, Georgetown 350 miles, making a total of 4,250 statute miles. This line encloses more than 4,200,000 square miles of the Atlantic (over 5,000,000 with Iceland occupied), including the Carib bean and Gulf of Mexico within the outer line of defense of this country. From it United States forces are patrolling an area of about 7,700,000 square miles, two and one half times the area of the United States, nearly that of the North American Continent. Five of the six locations to which the United States obtained rights from the British in last September's destroyer trade lie along the Caribbean; British Guiana, though not on the Caribbean, is nevertheless linked with the de * Members wishing additional copies of the map, "Atlantic Ocean," may obtain them by writing the National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C. Prices, in United States and Possessions, 500 on paper (unfolded) ; 75¢ mounted on linen. Outside of United States and Possessions, 75¢ on paper; $1 on linen. Postage prepaid.