TO MANY Americans, probably, the name Newfoundland has long stood for little except large black dogs and codfish. To strategists, however, the island's position at the crossroads of shipping in the North Atlantic has always given it special importance. And now the war, with the establishment of American bases on Newfoundland territory and the dramatic meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill in Newfoundland waters, has brought it prominently into the consciousness of the wider public.
Newfoundland is a large island, roughly triangular in shape; each side is about 300 miles long and the total area is about 42,000 square miles. Its geology is Appalachian: long, parallel ridges run from southwest to northeast, with broken and irregular valleys between them. It is much more rugged, however, than the characteristic Appalachian region of the mainland and its valleys are not fertile. The surface of the island is strewn with glacial débris, and much of it is covered with peat. In fact, peat bogs or barrens are almost the commonest type of terrain. Twenty feet of peat had to be removed before a good bottom could be found for the runways of some of the new American airbases. Pools and lakes are scattered everywhere among the peat and gravel.
The shoreline is rough and barren, bordered in places by flats, in others by high cliffs. Innumerable reefs and islands dot the coast, and there are many inlets as well as a number of large bays, such as Placentia and Trinity; but these are too exposed to serve as harbors. There are, in fact, few good harbors for large ships in Newfoundland. Mortier Bay, on the west side of Placentia Bay, is one of the best, but it has no connections by road or rail with the rest of the island. Argentia, the site of the principal American base, on the east side of Placentia Bay, is a good harbor. But its dangers were emphasized by the loss of the United States destroyer Truxtun
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