Situation and borders. – With an area of 7,839,063 sq km. (including inland waters, but excluding the portion of the Great Lakes politically belonging to the Federation, which amounts to about 157,850 sq km), the compact mass of the United States occupies the entire space between Canada and Mexico and therefore a central position in the North America, portraying its main characteristic from the situation in the temperate zone between the two greatest oceans of the world, but with a vast outlet also on the Gulf of Mexico, which is already a subtropical inland sea. The United States (apart from Alaska) lack the polar and subpolar landscapes of Canada and the tropical ones of Mexico; but the basic morphological features of North America are found as features of the physiognomy of the United States.
At N. the United States does not cross the 49th parallel; in S. they touch 24 ° 31 ‘in Key West in SW. of Florida. The extreme western point is Cape Flattery at the S. entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca (125 ° 5 ‘), the easternmost is at the mouth of the St Croix River (66 ° 58’). The extension from N. to S. reaches almost 3000 km., That from E. to W. 4500.
The border with Canada begins on the Atlantic, in the Bay of Fundy, at the estuary of the St Croix River, which the border line goes back for a good stretch, then following the meridian 67 ° 45 ‘; then it turns somewhat to SW. and is mostly indicated by trunks of rivers up to 45 ° lat. Along this parallel the S. Lorenzo rises, then cuts through the Canadian lakes, which form a natural border, and between Lake Superior and the Lake of the Woods still follows a series of rivers and canals until, reaching the 49th parallel, it accompanies it. for almost 1800 km. up to the Pacific, where the entire Vancouver Island is excluded.
In S. the border with Mexico is marked by the Rio Grande del Norte from the mouth to El Paso, then it is indicated by arcs of parallels or meridians up to Nogales, and by a straight line that from Nogales reaches Colorado at about 100 km. from the mouth; the Colorado marks the border for a short stretch upstream, right up to the confluence with the Rio Gila; from here the line heads to the Pacific which reaches approximately 32 ° N., leaving the entire San Diego Bay to the United States. To S. of Florida the boundary is established in the central part of the Florida Channel.
Communications. – The losses suffered by the merchant shipping during the war and the necessities imposed by the war operations carried out simultaneously on several sectors made a grandiose naval construction plan necessary. As of April 1, 1947, the US merchant navy numbered 5,580 ships (of which 994 motor ships), as well as 321 sailing ships, for a total tonnage of 32.9 million tons. This figure represents about 40% of the world total. The consequences on foreign trade appear from the following table:
Between 1931-36 (average) and 1945 the US merchant fleet doubled its share of domestic foreign trade. On the other hand, the increased volume of trafficking by water has not diminished, but rather has stimulated inland navigation even more.
The overall mileage of the railways (steam traction) continued its progressive contraction, decreasing from 395,410 to 364,408 km. between 1933 and 1946, with a corresponding reduction in rolling stock (45,511 locomotives; 38,697 passenger carriages and 1,758,400 freight wagons as of 31 December 1946). On the other hand, the state roads, which measured 515,000 km. by 1930, they had grown by the end of 1946 to over 930,000 km., of which more than 200,000 of motorways. Civil aviation has also undergone a great development in recent years. The regular internal services involved in 1947 a network of about 100,000 km., With a traffic of 8.1 million passengers and flights for a total of 334,000,000 km. As of December 1, 1947, there were 5431 airports in the territory of the Union, of which 2633 commercial and 1732 municipal.
Foreign trade. – The following table allows us to easily grasp the perturbations induced as a result of the Second World War – compared to the trend of the pre-war period – in the qualitative and quantitative composition of US foreign trade. The exceptional balance sheet for the five-year period 1941-45 tends to make way for a more balanced rhythm of exchanges, as the figures for the last two years already seem to indicate. The examination of the distribution of foreign trade by countries, summarized in the following table, leads to the same conclusion. The most striking fact is the contraction (in relative figures) of trade with Europe, as well as in exports from the USA, as well as in imports.
Dependencies. – The Philippine Islands (see in this App.) Formed an independent republic on July 4, 1946, joined to the US by a mutual protection agreement, which recognizes the right of the US to dispose of naval bases for a period of 99 years.
The 625 islands of the western Pacific, which formed a Japanese mandate between the two great wars, were entrusted by the UN Security Council on April 2, 1947 to the US in trust with the right to fortify them, if necessary, for their safety. The islands include the Mariana groups (excluding Guam, which is a US colonial dependency), the Carolines, the Marshalls, and the Palau (including Yap). In total, it covers an area of 2149 sq km. on which lived, before the last conflict, 131,000 residents, reduced to about 80,000 currently, after the exodus of the Japanese.
As a result of the last war, the US secured from Great Britain, with the treaty of 8 September 1940, the right to hold naval and air bases for 99 years in a number of locations in the two Americas: in Newfoundland (Avalon peninsula), in Bermuda (I. Tucker, Morgan, Long Bird and St. David), in the Bahama (Abraham Bay), in Jamaica (Portland Bay, with I. Goat, Maypen and Pt. Royal), in I.. Antigua, in that of S. Lucia (Great Islet Bay), in Trinidad (west coast) and in British Guyana (near Demerara).