Inter-American Highway

Last updated
Scheme of the Inter-American Highway from 1933. Inter-American Highway map October 1933.jpg
Scheme of the Inter-American Highway from 1933.

The Inter-American Highway (IAH) is the Central American section of the Pan-American Highway and spans 5,470 kilometers (3,400 mi) between Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Panama City, Panama.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America, including Mexico is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.

Pan-American Highway network of roads

The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads stretching across the American continents and measuring about 30,000 kilometres (19,000 mi) in total length. Except for a rainforest break of approximately 160 km (100 mi), called the Darién Gap, the roads link almost all of the Pacific coastal countries of the Americas in a connected highway system. According to Guinness World Records, the Pan-American Highway is the world's longest "motorable road". However, because of the Darién Gap, it is not possible to cross between South America and Central America with conventional highway vehicles. Without an all-terrain vehicle, it is necessary to circumnavigate this terrestrial stretch by sea.

Nuevo Laredo Place in Tamaulipas, Mexico

Nuevo Laredo is a city in the Municipality of Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The city lies on the banks of the Rio Grande, across from the U.S. city of Laredo, Texas. The 2010 census population of the city was 373,725. Nuevo Laredo is part of the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo Metropolitan Area with a population of 636,516. The municipality has an area of 1,334.02 km2 (515.07 sq mi). Both the city and the municipality rank as the third largest in the state.

Contents

History

The idea of a road being built across all of Central America became a tangible goal in 1923 as the United States began conducting aerial surveys using the United States Army new photo reconnaissance and photographic aerial mapping technology. However, the aerial mapping effort was not directly tied to the upcoming Inter-American Highway project and was conducted with the cooperation of several of the Central American republics.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

Aerial photography Taking images of the ground from the air

Aerial photography is the taking of photographs from an aircraft or other flying object. Platforms for aerial photography include fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, balloons, blimps and dirigibles, rockets, pigeons, kites, parachutes, stand-alone telescoping and vehicle-mounted poles. Mounted cameras may be triggered remotely or automatically; hand-held photographs may be taken by a photographer.

By 1940, the United States had a strong presence in Central America, especially in Panama. The American-owned and operated both the Panama Canal and the Panama Railroad, but with the looming war in Europe, the United States felt it necessary to establish a more direct connection with Panama. Therefore, the American and Panamanian governments agreed to begin the construction of a trans-isthmian highway located outside of the Canal Zone. Thus, the construction of the actual Inter-American Highway was instigated by the United States as a safety precaution at the beginning of World War II.

Panama Republic in Central America

Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half the country's 4 million people.

Panama Canal Large artificial waterway in the Republic of Panama, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

The Panama Canal is an artificial 82 km (51 mi) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade. Canal locks are at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26 m above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end. The original locks are 34 m wide. A third, wider lane of locks was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016. The expanded canal began commercial operation on June 26, 2016. The new locks allow transit of larger, post-Panamax ships, capable of handling more cargo.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

As with the Panama Canal project, the principal engineers and administrators of the highway construction were supplied by the United States. Working and living conditions varied depending on the location and season, but they were described by the North American crew as "primitive" and they recall their experiences as both "hilarious and tragic."[ citation needed ] For those stationed in larger cities, their families were allowed to come and stay with them as an incentive to keep them from returning to the United States.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Many pieces of what is now the Inter-American Highway were constructed independently by individual countries prior to 1940. However, these roads only existed between large cities and were not in very good condition. Unlike in the United States, transportation in Central America had progressed rapidly from ox-cart paths to air transport creating numerous gaps in the ground transportation network. One of the greatest challenges faced by the workers was bridging these gaps.

Progress on the IAH was painstakingly slow due to the isolation of the building sites and frequent natural obstacles such as mountains and rivers. Nonetheless, construction on the IAH was hastened as the threat of the German U-boats in the Atlantic and Caribbean increased. As part of the American war effort, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began the construction of a "Military Road" in conjunction with the IAH. This group of engineers was allowed access to all the Central American nations involved in the original highway project due to the war emergency status of the Military Road.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Atlantic Ocean Ocean between Europe, Africa and the Americas

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers. It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

The construction of both the IAH and the auxiliary military road progressed at a breakneck speed, and construction supplies quickly ran out. The scarcity of construction material only served to augment local unease concerning the project since local merchants had no precedence over imported materials from the United States or shipping rights, and therefore made little profit from the whole affair. Although construction did not directly benefit local business, it did provide employment of many of the local people. However, this positive impact only lasted as long as the construction team was in an area. For example, after the German submarine threat subsided - due to the presence of the United States Navy - the Corps of Engineers ceased construction on the Military Road project, suddenly leaving many people unemployed and upset.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force.

After the American engineers left Central America, IAH construction started back up at full steam, having inherited a significant amount of supplies and equipment from the abandoned military project. By 1946, the IAH was ready for inspection by American diplomats and engineers, but was far from being finished. Most of the road was only passable by Jeep, but the basic road outline had been carved out of the surrounding jungle and mountains. The road was finally finished in 1967 and existed as a continuous strip of gravel, dirt, or asphalt between Panama and Mexico. The only section of the IAH that was constructed without any form of American aid was the 1,600 mile strip between Nuevo Laredo and Malacatán, on the Mexico-Guatemala border.

See also

Related Research Articles

Laredo, Texas City in Texas, United States

Laredo is a city in and the county seat of Webb County, Texas, United States, on the north bank of the Rio Grande in South Texas, across from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. According to the 2010 census, the city population was 236,091, making it the tenth-most populous city in the state of Texas and third-most populated on the Mexico–United States border, after San Diego, California, and El Paso, Texas. Its metropolitan area is the 178th-largest in the U.S. and includes all of Webb County, with a population of 250,304. Laredo is also part of the cross-border Laredo-Nuevo Laredo Metropolitan Area with an estimated population of 636,516.

George Washington Goethals United States Army officer and civil engineer

George Washington Goethals was a United States Army General and civil engineer, best known for his administration and supervision of the construction and the opening of the Panama Canal. He was the State Engineer of New Jersey and the Acting Quartermaster General of the United States Army.

Pan-American Highway (North America)

The Pan-American Highway route in North America is the portion of a network of roads nearly 48,000 km in length which travels through the mainland nations of the Americas. No definitive length of the Pan American Highway exists because the Canadian government has never officially defined any specific route as being part of the Pan-American Highway, while in the U.S., the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has designated the entire Interstate Highway System part of the Pan-American Highway System, although this has not yet been reinforced by any official highway signage. Mexico officially has many branches connecting to various interstate highways at the U.S. border.

Panama Canal Zone Former unincorporated territory of the United States surrounded by the Republic of Panama

The Panama Canal Zone was an unincorporated territory of the United States from 1903 to 1979, centered on the Panama Canal and surrounded by the Republic of Panama. The zone consisted of the canal and an area generally extending five miles (8.0 km) on each side of the centerline, excluding Panama City and Colón, which otherwise would have been partly within the limits of the Zone. Its border spanned three of Panama's provinces. When reservoirs were created to assure a steady supply of water for the locks, those lakes were included within the Zone.

Boeing XB-15 prototype bomber aircraft by Boeing

The Boeing XB-15 was a United States bomber aircraft designed in 1934 as a test for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) to see if it would be possible to build a heavy bomber with a 5,000 mi (8,000 km) range. For a year beginning in mid-1935 it was designated the XBLR-1. When it first flew in 1937, it was the most massive and voluminous aircraft ever built in the US. It set a number of load-to-altitude records for land-based aircraft, including carrying a 31,205 lb (14,154 kg) payload to 8,200 ft (2,500 m) on 30 July 1939.

Raymond Albert Wheeler was a Lieutenant General in the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

United States Southern Command Unified combatant command of the United States Armed Forces responsible for the South American region

The United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), located in Doral, Florida in Greater Miami, is one of ten Unified Combatant Commands (CCMDs) in the United States Department of Defense. It is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation for Central and South America, the Caribbean, their territorial waters, and for the force protection of U.S. military resources at these locations. USSOUTHCOM is also responsible for ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal and the canal area. As explained below, USSOUTHCOM has been under scrutiny due to several human rights and rule of law controversies in which it has been embroiled for nearly a decade.

Bridge of the Americas road bridge in Panama which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal

The Bridge of the Americas is a road bridge in Panama, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Designed by Sverdrup & Parcel, it was completed in 1962 at a cost of US$20 million, connecting the north and south American land masses. Two other bridges cross the canal: the Atlantic Bridge at the Gatun locks (expected to open early 2019) and the Centennial Bridge.

Federal Highway 85 connects Mexico City with the Mexico–United States border at Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Highway 85 runs through Monterrey, Nuevo León; Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas; Ciudad Valles, San Luis Potosí; and Pachuca, Hidalgo. It ends at the intersection of Highway 95 in the San Pedro area of Mexico City. Highway 85 is the original route of the Pan-American Highway from the border to the capital as well as the Inter-American Highway.

History of the Panama Canal

The idea of the Panama canal dates back to 1513, when Vasco Núñez de Balboa first crossed the isthmus. The narrow land bridge between North and South America houses the Panama Canal, a water passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The earliest European colonists recognized this potential, and several proposals for a canal were made.

Joseph Cowles Mehaffey American military official

Joseph Cowles Mehaffey was a Major General in the United States Army. As a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, he was the consulting engineer on the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.; helped renovate the White House; and served as a supervising engineer for the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. He was assigned in 1941 as an engineer on the Panama Canal, and was Governor of the Panama Canal Zone from 1944 to 1948.

Banana Wars actions involving the United States in Central America and the Caribbean

The Banana Wars were occupations, police actions, and interventions on the part of the United States in Central America and the Caribbean between the end of the Spanish–American War in 1898 and the inception of the Good Neighbor Policy in 1934. These military interventions were most often carried out by the United States Marine Corps, which developed a manual, The Strategy and Tactics of Small Wars (1921) based on its experiences. On occasion, the Navy provided gunfire support and Army troops were also used.

United States Air Forces Southern Command 1940-1976 United States Air Force major command

The United States Air Forces Southern Command is an inactive Major Command of the United States Air Force. It was headquartered at Albrook Air Force Base, Canal Zone, being inactivated on 1 January 1976.

Laredo–Colombia Solidarity International Bridge

Laredo-Colombia Solidarity International Bridge is one of four vehicular international bridges located on the U.S.-Mexico border in the city of Laredo, Texas; it connects Laredo over the Rio Grande with Colombia in Anáhuac, Nuevo León. It is owned and operated by the City of Laredo and the Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes.

Laredo–Nuevo Laredo Place

The Laredo–Nuevo Laredo Metropolitan Area is one of six bi-national metropolitan areas along the U.S.-Mexican border. The city of Laredo is situated in the U.S. state of Texas on the northern bank of the Rio Grande and Nuevo Laredo is located in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas in the southern bank of the river. This metropolitan area is also known as the Two Laredos or the Laredo Borderplex. The metropolitan area is made up of one county: Webb County in Texas and three municipalities: Nuevo Laredo Municipality in Tamaulipas, Hidalgo Municipality in Coahuila, Anáhuac Municipality in Nuevo León in Mexico. Two urban areas: the Laredo Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Zona Metropolitana Nuevo Laredo three cities and 12 towns make the Laredo–Nuevo Laredo Metropolitan area which has a total of 636,516 inhabitants according to the INEGI Census of 2010 and the United States Census estimate of 2010. The Laredo–Nuevo Laredo is connected by four International Bridges and an International Railway Bridge. According to World Gazetteer this metropolitan area ranked 157th largest in North and South America in 2010 with an estimated population of 775,481. This area ranks 66th in the United States and 23rd in Mexico.

Army Map Service US, later National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

The Army Map Service (AMS) was the military cartographic agency of the United States Department of Defense from 1941 to 1968, subordinated to the United States Army Corps of Engineers. On September 1, 1968, the AMS was redesignated the U.S. Army Topographic Command (USATC) and continued as an independent organization until January 1, 1972, when it was merged into the new Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) and redesignated as the DMA Topographic Center (DMATC). On October 1, 1996, DMA was folded into the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), which was redesignated as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) on 2003.

Panama during World War II

The history of Panama during World War II begins in 1939. Due to the American-controlled Panama Canal cutting across the center of the country, Panama was of major strategic importance to the Allied war effort, as well as the most important strategic location in Latin America during World War II. It provided an invaluable link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that was vital to both commerce and the defense of the Western Hemisphere. Therefore, the defense of the Canal Zone was the United States' chief concern in the American Theater. Panama never received Lend-Lease assistance, but in return for the rights to build military infrastructure within Panamanian territory, the United States undertook large-scale public works projects, which did much to modernize the country and boost the economy.

Latin America during World War II

The history of Latin America during World War II is important because of the significant economic, political, and military changes that occurred throughout much of the region as a result of the war. The war caused a lot of panic in Latin America over economics, because they depended on the European investment capital which was shut down. Latin America tried to stay neutral but the warring countries were endangering their neutrality. Most countries used propaganda to turn the neutral countries to their side, while Berlin wanted Latin America neutral. In order to better protect the Panama Canal, combat Axis influence, and optimize the production of goods for the war effort, the United States through Lend-Lease and similar programs greatly expanded its interests in Latin America, resulting in large-scale modernization and a major economic boost for the countries that participated.

References