Motor Vehicle Assembly

and Delivery

In the manufacture of motor vehicles American methods of mass production have achieved quantitative results unequaled by any other industrial power. This industrial potential, a valuable asset in mechanized warfare, the United States shared with its Allies through lend-lease. To the Soviet Union through 20 September 1945 went 409,526 lend-lease trucks of United States origin. Some idea of the extent to which the United States shared its output with the USSR may be gained from figures of its production of military trucks during the war years. Total output during the peak year of 1943 was 648,404 military trucks. The trucks sent to Russia were thus the equivalent of seven and a half months of United States output at the highest annual rate achieved during the war years. It has been estimated that the lend-lease trucks received by the USSR from the United States represented two years and seven months of the prewar capacity of the less highly developed Soviet motor industry. American trucks therefore bulked large as an addition to Russian production capacity. Nearly 45 percent of these American trucks reached the USSR via the Persian Corridor. Of these, 88 percent were assembled in the American-operated plants at Andimeshk and Khorramshahr from March 1942 through April 1945.1

Though the Russians were the chief beneficiaries of the motor vehicle assembly program in the Persian Corridor, assemblies were also performed for the British Army, for the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation, for the American Army, and for the Iranian


Government; nor were the American truck assembly plants (TAP's) the only ones in the region. Truck assembly was an important British activity which, by the Middle East Directive of September 1941, the Americans undertook to share.

Certain terms used in this chapter require explanation. After manufacture the vehicles were partly disassembled and crated for overseas shipment according to several patterns. The designation TUP covers several types of packing called two-unit, double-unit, or twin-unit packs, comprising two chassis and one cab or two cabs and one chassis. The so-called Beta Pack, a form designed by the British, included one complete vehicle with or without body packed in one, two, or more cases and required variations in the assembly process after unpacking. Properly this term is applicable only to British-specified vehicles, but the Americans seem to have employed it loosely and interchangeably to designate packed knocked-down vehicles in general, as well as the assembly apparatus used to put them together again after uncrating. The term Beta Pack is even applied sometimes in the records to the lumber used in the crates. The term motor vehicle includes trucks, trailers, jeeps, and weapons carriers. The generic term truck is employed in this text for the output of the TAP's.

In 1938, after Munich, the Overseas Division of General Motors Corporation had foreseen the need for locating emergency vehicle assembly plants at strategic sites. Foreseeing also the likelihood that the closing of the Mediterranean to shipping would heighten the importance of the Persian Gulf, General Motors at that time submitted to the British War Office a recommendation to establish emergency assembly plants at or near Basra. After the invasion of Poland a year later, the company designed an emergency TUP assembly unit with a bolted structural framework on a poured concrete floor, to be housed under canvas or other temporary shelter. Equipped with cranes, tractors, trailers, and battery chargers, this plant would have a capacity of fifty trucks per each eight-hour shift. A single such plant could therefore turn out 1,300 trucks in a month of twenty-six working days on a one-shift basis. The significant saving of shipping space by overseas assembly of cased knocked-down vehicles recommended the assembly plant idea, and in May of 1941 the British Purchasing Commission bought four of these plants for shipment to the Middle East. It was thus through the arrangements made between General Motors and the British, and through the availability of trained General Motors personnel in India, that the company was selected to carry out the truck


assembly operations undertaken by the Americans for the British in the Persian Gulf area.2

Plans and Plants

After some negotiation a letter of intent was issued by the Office of the Quartermaster General on 5 January 1942 under which the company operated while details of a contract were worked out. Later, the unsigned contract with The Quartermaster General was transferred to the Office of the Chief of Ordnance in a general shift of War Department responsibilities. The Ordnance-General Motors contract, signed 29 December 1942, was effective as of the date of the letter of intent, which was modified during the year by twelve supplements, the latest, of 30 December 1942, extending the General Motors contract to 30 June 1943.3

The work which General Motors, as a civilian contractor under the jurisdiction of the Iranian Mission, was to do fell within the authority given General Wheeler in his Letter of Instructions to render aid, through assembly operations, to British, Russian, and other friendly forces in his area. By early 1942 the British were already operating an assembly plant at Rafadiyah for their own military services. The Iranian District engineer furnished some technical advice and assistance at this plant and, when the American construction projects in Iraq were abandoned, this technical aid to truck assembly continued at Rafadiyah. A second British assembly plant, at Bushire, was busied chiefly in assembling American lend-lease vehicles from India assigned to the UKCC to enable it to carry out its motor transport mission.4 Both plants were capable of assembling vehicles for Soviet account as well as their own when need arose; but together they were inadequate


to carry the expanded load of vehicles called for by the First (Moscow) Protocol. In addition to assembly operations, the British moved completed trucks, with and without cargo, in early 1942, over three highway routes to the Soviet delivery point at Tabriz.

When Generals Wavell and Wheeler discussed American aid projects at New Delhi in November 1941, they agreed on establishment of American truck assembly plants at Karachi and at the head of the Persian Gulf, but they did not agree on the allocation of assembled vehicles as between the British and the Russians or upon the routes over which assembled trucks would be delivered. The extent of the American task and the sites of its plants required further exploration. Wheeler submitted two proposals to the War Department: that a small TUP plant be installed somewhere in the Persian Gulf area, and that a plant big enough to serve the entire Middle East be installed at Karachi. It was at this time that large ordnance plans for Karachi were being hatched. The War Department, which had earlier hesitated to accept a British suggestion to create large American installations in India, forthwith made the counterproposal that it would be more efficient to enlarge the existent General Motors plant at Bombay, capable already of delivering 4,000 vehicles a month, and that a Beta Pack assembly plant now en route for Karachi could then be diverted to Basra. General Wheeler, however, adhered to his recommendation of Karachi, because of the advantages of shortened communications, port facilities, elimination of the transshipment Bombay would require, and better climatic conditions. In November Folspen, the American engineer constructor, was directed to erect an assembly plant in the Ahwaz-Andimeshk region.

In the course of three-cornered conversations held in December in Tehran among the Russians, the Tenth Army, and Wheeler, it developed that the Russians were strongly opposed to Karachi as an assembly point for their vehicles. They pointed out the difficulties of delivering trucks overland from there up the east Iranian border to Meshed and thence into the USSR. They preferred that major motor vehicle deliveries be effected not via the Persian Gulf but via the northern Russian ports, more accessible to the battle lines of Europe. Russian needs via the Persian Gulf were therefore estimated at only 2,000 vehicles per month, a figure confirmed to Wheeler by Washington after conferences there among Generals Sidney Spalding and Moore and British Army representatives.5 The Russians therefore were pleased


when Wheeler's decision to locate a Beta Pack assembly plant at Andimeshk was approved on 8 January 1942 by the Commander-in-Chief, India. Also pleased was the British director of transportation for Iran, because of Andimeshk's accessibility to the Iranian State Railway. The selection of Andimeshk was opposed by Kenneth Harker, representative of UKCC, and by a General Motors representative, who wrote of the site:

Never were the factors of climate and human comfort more completely subordinated to military expediency .... The area is infested with malaria, sand fly fever, typhoid, and dysentery. The water supply runs through open ditches, and powdery clouds of dust are a constant plague to men and machines alike.6

In February General Wheeler advised Washington that General Motors should operate two TUP plants at Andimeshk to assemble 2,000 motor vehicles per month for the Russians; an assembly plant at Umm Qasr for 3,000 vehicles monthly for the British in Iran and Iraq; a plant at Karachi to assemble a similar number for delivery to the British; a service and repair station at Andimeshk to handle maintenance of 300 vehicles a month for the British Army and UKCC; a checkup station at Tehran for final check on trucks delivered there to the Russians before Andimeshk assembly was put into operation; a checkup station at Kazvin for final check on trucks delivered there to the Russians after being driven by Russian drivers from the assembly lines at Andimeshk; and body-building and engine-reconditioning plants at Umm Qasr and Karachi.7 It was not long before this extensive program was whittled down, first, by the reduction of Karachi operations stemming from the reduced ordnance program; second, by the virtual American withdrawal from Iraq; and third, by the shift in American priorities from British to Russian aid. The Wheeler recommendation had proposed 6,000 monthly assemblies by American plants for British delivery and 2,000 for Soviet delivery. By the end of April 1942 it was reported that the Andimeshk plant was designed to process 2,000 trucks monthly for the Russians and 1,000 for the British. In actual practice, after work began at Andimeshk, its production was devoted almost entirely to vehicles for the USSR.8

The contract with General Motors provided that the company would be responsible for personnel, engineering and equipment specifications, procurement of equipment and tools, and management and


operation of plants; and that the Army would be responsible for priorities, shipment of plant equipment and truck material, construction of plant buildings, living quarters, and railway sidings, and the delivery of truck material for assembly at the site of the work. Certain of these U.S. Army responsibilities were assumed by the British, especially construction ( housing, roads, utilities) and moving the boxed vehicles from shipside to Andimeshk. The British assumed all costs of installing equipment at the plant and agreed to make certain local arrangements concerned with labor, power, and water, as well as to provide all fuels and lubricants used for assembled trucks destined for the USSR. This last arrangement was interpreted by the Americans as requiring the British to replace oils and greases used at the checkup stations where vehicles were handed over to the Russians if the Russians refused to do so.9 The British commenced construction at Andimeshk in February upon a concrete foundation laid by Folspen. Superstructure was then erected by the British under a subcontract from the American Army. Plans and supervision were furnished by General Motors. Neither of the two Beta Pack plants to be installed in the Andimeshk buildings when completed was as yet available. One was en route from the United States to Karachi; the other, borrowed by General Wheeler from the British base at Port Sudan, was scheduled to reach Andimeshk in late March, thus determining the earliest date at which Andimeshk assembly operations could start. The Americans undertook to furnish 2,000 vehicles per month, to deliver the two plants complete with cranes and tools, and to assemble and hand over the vehicles to Russian drivers at the point of assembly.

The last-named point, the means by which assembled trucks were to be driven from Andimeshk to Soviet receiving points in the north, went against local British policy. The Russians insisted upon driving the trucks north themselves, and the Americans proposed keeping at Andimeshk a rotating group of about 450 Soviet personnel for this purpose. A British report to the War Office in January noted the Russian demand and added, "Shortage of drivers . . . may make this desirable provided political factor permits."10 Just as they had opposed the quartering of Soviet military personnel near the Abadan aircraft assembly plant, so the British regarded the presence of numerous Russians at Andimeshk and at checkup stations and traffic posts along the delivery routes as undesirable infiltration of the British zone of Iran. The prob-


lem was settled at Andimeshk by yielding to the Soviet-American wishes; but it was to arise again elsewhere.11

While construction at Andimeshk proceeded and the TUP plants were being waited for, a January message from Washington that 2,484 trucks for the USSR were at sea heading for the Persian Gulf made it necessary to plan for their assembly elsewhere than at Andimeshk.12 It was decided to take advantage of the UKCC assembly plant at Bushire. The Iranian Mission entered into a contract whereby UKCC technicians and native laborers were to operate under the nominal direction of a single American officer. It was arranged that the assembled trucks were to be driven to Tehran by Iranian native drivers. At Tehran after rigorous inspection at a service and repair station run by a private local concern, also under contract to the Iranian Mission, the vehicles, if acceptable to the Russians, were to be transferred to Soviet control. Still driven by their UKCC-hired native drivers, they were to proceed to Tabriz for physical surrender to the Soviet authorities. The distance from Bushire to Tabriz was 1,179 miles over the worst of roads through hazardous desert and mountain country alive with armed bandits. To the damage inflicted by the execrable driving of the Persian drivers would be added the toil taken by the terrain and losses from pilferage or hostile attack. The Tehran contractor therefore would have his hands full before the Russians took over the trucks.

Problems and Performance

Between 2 February, when the first shipment of cased trucks reached Bushire, and 18 March, when the temporary arrangement with the UKCC ceased, 1,263 trucks destined for the USSR were assembled at Bushire under contract with the Iranian Mission.13 The arrangement was only a stopgap one; but it relieved the pressure of accumulating unassembled trucks for Russia. The cost was high: a bill of $275,000 from UKCC for assembly and delivery overland to Tabriz, plus all costs for repair and servicing at the private contractor's establishment at Tehran. When the bad news reached Washington, an admonition went forth to Colonel Shingler to persuade the British to reimburse UKCC and collect from the Russians. This suggestion failed to observe three


realities: First, UKCC, a wholly state-subsidized entity, enjoyed two personalities--one as an official body, the other as a business enterprise, making it unlikely that the British Government would reimburse UKCC. Second, UKCC was under a contract to the American mission, which, however it may have been entered into, had to be honored. Third, the Russians were even then difficult to collect from. The bill stood at $275,000, and, although this sum was not so bad as the $600,000 erroneously reported as a fact in a later Federal Bureau of Investigation report, it was enough to exhaust the quartermaster's allotment for 1942-43 of a quarter of a million dollars for assembling Soviet trucks. There are no comparable cost figures for later American truck assembly as the figures recorded for the Army-operated plant at Khorramshahr for February 1944 (about $28 per truck) and for February 1945 (about $17) represent chiefly payroll costs exclusive of U.S. military wages. But even if these partial figures were doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, they would still fall far below the UKCC's charge of nearly $218 per truck which, to be sure, allowed for the 1,179-mile drive overland to Tabriz, with Uncle Sam paying for the checkup at Tehran en route. The UKCC bill for Bushire assembly was an introduction to the Middle East for the Iranian Mission.14

While work at Bushire was nearing completion the mission sent to Bombay for two General Motors specialists who were to get assembly operations at Andimeshk started in the open air as soon as the borrowed Beta Pack plant should arrive from Port Sudan and without waiting for completion of the plant buildings being erected by the British from General Motors plans and specifications. One aspect of the employment of General Motors as a contractor was that a minimum number of their American technicians, most of them from their staff in India, could organize assembly operations using a maximum number of locally obtained foremen and laborers. On 14 March the two General Motors men arrived. On 26 March, just after the arrival of the Port Sudan plant, production at Andimeshk was actually under way. The rate, because the native workmen were green and the plant was exposed to sun and sand, was only about 25 vehicles a day. Colonel Shingler reported in early April the completion of 160 trucks and the accumulation


of 850 cased vehicles awaiting assembly. By the end of April, 322 cargo trucks had been assembled.15

So pressing was the Soviet need for trucks that sixty mechanics were brought down from Tehran to speed the work. On 25 April the second TUP plant-which had been shipped to Karachi, later located on the docks at Bombay, and forwarded to Iran-reached Andimeshk and added its production capacity to that of the plant from Port Sudan. Throughout March and April cranes and tools were borrowed from the Army or obtained from India, while construction of the main building, rail sidings, yard paving, living quarters, and utilities continued. On 6 May the still uncompleted main building was occupied, and in that month power-plant equipment borrowed from the Army was installed. By the end of June, after three full months of work, 3,509 assembled cargo trucks had been turned out and sent on their way to the USSR.

When April shipping information indicated arrival at Persian Gulf ports by the end of May of 4,130 cased trucks for the USSR, it was obvious that facilities at Andimeshk, designed for the 2,000 trucks per month stipulated the previous December by the Russians, would be swamped. Once again the UKCC plant at Bushire seemed the solution; but Bushire, the UKCC, the Soviets, and the British had by this time become entangled in a series of mutual objections which might have resulted in a stalemate, war or no war, except for American intervention. Russian objections to the UKCC were founded on the experiences of February and March which encouraged the Russians to suspect the company of profiteering and attempting to obtain a transportation monopoly in Iran and which indicated the inefficiency of overland delivery from Bushire to Tabriz via Tehran. In early February when the Russians announced their intention of sending a party to Bushire to reconnoiter the road, assist in traffic control of the convoys, and study the performance of the vehicles, the British, who did not want to see Russians operating so far south in Iran, objected. The American Minister at Tehran, Louis G. Dreyfus, Jr., treated with both sides and the Russians sent some drivers and armed guards to Bushire. Later, when Shingler proposed turning again to Bushire, the question was reopened and once again was settled through American good offices. To overcome the refusal of the Russian Ambassador at Tehran to accept any more trucks driven by UKCC drivers, the Americans proposed inspection by Iranian Mission officers throughout the process of assembly and


delivery. With some compromising all round, it was arranged to assemble several shiploads of Russian-bound trucks at Bushire. A member of General Greely's mission, then observing from Tehran, reported in April, "There seems to be no difficulty in turning over trucks to the Russians at the point of assembly as it has worked out satisfactorily at Andimeshk."16

But there were difficulties, among them those arising from the necessarily increased American supervision of UKCG operations at Bushire. The single American officer was replaced in August by an officer and a small detachment of an ordnance medium automotive maintenance company. Even after the immediate emergency of AprilMay had passed, Bushire was continued as a supplementary assembly plant, since the rigors of the German submarine campaign had all but closed the north Russian ports and the flow of trucks via the Persian Gulf was expected to increase.

American supervisory personnel remained at Bushire well over a year, introducing several innovations which increased production. In all, 6,628 vehicles were assembled there for the Russians in this Iranian-worked, British-operated, and American-supervised plant.17

At Andimeshk performance from the beginning of operations late in March produced an erratic-looking curve on the chart throughout the rest of 1942. (Table 9 and Chart 4, Appendixes A and B) After slowness natural to the beginning of a new project, June assemblies reached 2,241 units, leaving at the end of the month 566 unassembled vehicles. During that period, while concentrating on Soviet-bound vehicles, the Andimeshk plant assembled 115 Studebaker tank trucks consigned, by Soviet permission, to the British because they were needed to supply gasoline to truck convoys in the area. The early output was achieved with small numbers of personnel and inadequate plant equipment which, as late as the end of 1942, constituted only 35 percent of specifications. By the end of July the staff at Andimeshk numbered 2 officers, 10 enlisted men, 10 General Motors executives, 150 skilled and semiskilled native workmen, and between 350 and 400 unskilled natives. The reduction in assemblies, precipitate after August, reflected a reduced flow of arrivals, not a diminished capacity to handle the work. To the end of June, Andimeshk assemblies of 3,509 units for the USSR contrasted with arrivals at Bushire of 2,268 units of which the


only available information merely indicates that nearly all had been delivered to the Russians.18

Whether because of the contrast between performance at the two plants or because of continuing Soviet hostility to UKCC assembly of Soviet-bound trucks at Bushire, Kenneth Harker of UKCC journeyed to Moscow and presented to General Faymonville a comprehensive and unfavorable estimate of American operations at Andimeshk and a request that he be sent to Washington to reveal the state of affairs at Andimeshk. The correspondence indicates that Harker's views were not shared by Grigori M. Polyansky, assistant commercial representative attached to the USSR Embassy at Tehran. He stated Harker was off by 180 degrees and his ejaculation, "God protect us from Bushire assembly!" was forwarded by Faymonville to Shingler via the American Legation in Tehran. Harker did not go to Washington. Investigation revealed that the Soviets had accepted 95 percent of trucks assembled at Andimeshk and Bushire. The episode closed with a statement by Shingler to Faymonville that the British, Russians, and Americans enjoyed "most cordial" relations, that "in British-Soviet dealings this mission functions as go-between," and that "improvement in mutual understanding will continue." It is not possible to state how far the British and Russians would have gone along with Shingler's statement of the American role or with his optimism. They were not newcomers to Iran.19

Although new arrivals of crated vehicles were to fall off after June, the visit of Molotov to Washington preliminary to the signing of the Second Protocol raised the Persian Gulf quota of trucks for Russia by 50 percent. On 3 June Harry Hopkins authorized General Burns to promise Molotov 3,000 American trucks per month.20 Plans were therefore developed for erection of a second TAP, also to be operated by General Motors. A site was selected at Khorramshahr about two miles from the docks and adjacent to the new railway branch line and the highway being built to Ahwaz. General Motors delivered plant and building blueprints to the U.S. Army on 20 July, and the British started construction early in August. Provision was made for housing 15 General Motors and 7 U.S. Army executives, 48 skilled and 102 semiskilled


 laborers, 30 Soviet officers, 250 Soviet soldier-drivers, and 378 native unskilled workmen. The plant was scheduled for completion by 30 September.21

Such was not to be the case, for construction delays ensued. Although the railway sidings were completed in October and the main building was under roof, employee housing was only just begun. Moreover, only 60 percent of necessary TUP assembly equipment had arrived, from the United States; but this fortunately included two new plants. One of these was sent to Andimeshk to replace the British plant borrowed from Port Sudan. The other was retained for use at Khorramshahr. In December, as the arrival of increased truck shipments from America grew imminent, General Motors expressed its concern over delays in construction at Khorramshahr.22 In consequence the Iranian District engineer supplemented the British construction forces. Work was far enough advanced by 26 January 1943 for assembly to begin. Aided by sufficient arrivals of plant equipment by 30 June to bring plant to 89 percent of full requirements, production at Khorramshahr rose steadily. At Andimeshk, 97 percent of necessary plant equipment reached the site and was installed by the end of March 1943, making it possible to handle the rising flow of incoming vehicles. In June Andimeshk assembled 4,066 vehicles, all for the USSR, while at Khorramshahr 3,116 vehicles, 459 of them for the U.S. Army, the rest for the USSR, rolled off the lines. The total, 7,182 vehicles, contrasts with the 2,241 turned out at Andimeshk alone a year before.23

June marked the final month of TAP operation by the civilian contractor. Effective 1 July 1943 General Motors became the fourth (and last) of the civilian contractors employed on U.S. Army projects in the Persian Corridor to be terminated, as General Connolly's new organization took over the TAP's and thus completed militarization of all projects. In exchanges which preceded the termination of the contract, General Motors had rejected a proposal that it carry on under some such scheme of divided responsibility as had been accepted by the engineer constructor, Folspen. In the company's view it could not separate operation and management responsibilities. It urged assignment of sufficient Army personnel before 30 June to provide time for training. The whole enterprise was growing and could not be handed over to untried management overnight. From the start a few Army personnel


were at both Andimeshk and Khorramshahr, and in the summer of 1942 a handful of military personnel and about 70 contractor employees were at the Tabriz-Tehran checkup stations.24

In August, when construction began on the new assembly plant at Khorramshahr, General Motors requested military personnel, to work at the site. Some 22 soldiers of the 3,474th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company were put on the job and remained after January to work on the assembly lines. In April 1943 the contractor requested soldier assistance to speed unloading of cased vehicles at Khorramshahr. Two officers and 90 men of the 506th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company were assigned. Up to ten days previous to the last day of the contract these were all the military at the two TAP's, when the company expressed to General Connolly its concern that "practically no military personnel" were available to take over the plants.25 On 26 June, four days before termination, the 3,467th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company reached Iran and was immediately assigned to Andimeshk. At about the same time the 3,455th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company went to the TAP at Khorramshahr. The Army carried on from there.26

Mention has already been made of problems connected with delivery of assembled vehicles and of stations established in the north for final checkup before physical surrender to the USSR. The process of delivery of assembled vehicles into Soviet hands began at the end of the assembly lines where both Soviet and American inspectors stood watch. After passing this first inspection, the trucks proceeded to parking areas to await drivers. They were then loaded with cargo and started north in convoys over the long overland highway route, stopping at road camps originally set up by the UKCC which were made available to the convoys by the British. At the end of the journey the trucks again went through checkup, reconditioning, and inspection at northern checkup stations run by the Americans, and were finally turned over to the USSR. At each stage of this process difficulties multiplied.

In the first place, Russian inspection requirements were rigorous. In the words of Colonel Shingler, "Russian insistence upon perfection in each truck may be explained by the fact that the Soviet 'accepting' a truck is personally liable if any defect is found upon arrival in Russia. Endless time has been spent on inconsequential details. If uncorrected, however, the Soviets simply refuse to touch the vehicles in question.


U.S. personnel have, therefore, been instructed to comply with every reasonable Russian demand."27

Next, there was not always sufficient co-ordination of planning to move ,trucks which had passed inspection, a notable instance occurring when, for a period in June 1942, 1,000 trucks stood at Andimeshk awaiting drivers. The Soviet colony there totaled about seventy-five officers in permanent residence as inspectors, guards, and checkers, while as many as 150 soldier-drivers sometimes arrived at once.28 Pilferage and damage to vehicles took place from time to time in the car parks, and a disastrous fire at Khorramshahr on 24 May 1943 destroyed some hundreds of vehicles awaiting assembly.29

The checkup stations were a vital link in the chain of delivery. First planned for was a station at Kazvin, but the Soviets requested its location at Tabriz, inside their zone, and 300 miles nearer the Soviet border. Before the Tabriz station was established, however, provision had to be made for the trucks being driven up from Bushire in early 1942. Accordingly, the Iranian Mission, under advice from USSR representatives at Tehran, contracted for the services of a group of civilians employed by the Soviet Transportation Commission. This station provided 1,000-mile lubrication, tightening, and minor repairs.30

Establishment and operation of a checkup station had been stipulated in .the General Motors contract; but as the two General Motors technicians sent to Tabriz to undertake the task were killed in a plane crash en route the Iranian Mission advertised for a local subcontractor. Colonel Shingler reported in July as follows:

In negotiating informal contracts at Tehran and Tabriz the Soviets refused to permit our acceptance of the low bidder on the plea that the individuals were Nazis. Instead the Russians "required" employment of a particular Czech firm. It now develops the firm is headed by officials of the USSR Transportation Directorate and is a government subsidized concern. Even so, every nut and bolt required in servicing and repair operations is charged against the U.S. Mission.31

He added, "In conference with even the highest local officials of the Soviet Trade Commission, the thought is constantly expressed that the manufacturer must make good all damages, defects, or shortages, and the Soviets will contribute nothing to assist. This is applicable to trucks arriving at Tabriz after a 740-mile trip under a load with Russian drivers."


The first contract was for 400 trucks to be serviced at about 25 U.S. cents each, the mission to supply oil, grease, and parts. At the signing of the second contract, the local firm raised its price to 67 cents. Against this increase the mission was helpless to produce cost figures in favor of the lower rate, for though it had reason to believe the labor cost per truck was about 22 cents, it had never placed a representative on the spot to check the company's costs or records. At the signing of the second contract the mission assigned an officer and four enlisted men to assist in operation. Colonel Shingler's report of this unhappy situation concludes:

In spite of the obstinate Russian demands and the delicate relationships existing between Soviet, British, and Persian interests, the Mission has thus far been able to maintain the most cordial relations. The cost and effort required to effect truck deliveries in spite of all handicaps appears warranted and the time appears inauspicious to carry on heated discussions over "responsibilities."32

At the expiration of the second contract, the Tabriz station was moved in August 1942 to Tehran and was placed under U.S. ordnance mechanics with the aid of locally hired labor. In the following February 1943, upon Soviet request, an American officer and twenty-five enlisted men removed the station to Tabriz, but after eleven days, once again at Soviet request, they returned to Tehran.

Labor problems during the contractor period met with a variety of solutions. Over wage rates and working conditions at the UKCC plant at Bushire, the purely supervisory Americans exercised no control. They could only note the high degree of absenteeism which marked the working force in the early months of 1942 and an underlying spirit of hostility toward the Allied cause. As for wages, they noted that natives earned up to four U.S. cents per day while skilled mechanics on the assembly lines achieved up to a maximum of ten U.S. cents per day. American suggestions of bonus systems, both as incentive pay for increased production and as an amelioration of rates which in American eyes were uneconomic in the long run, proved difficult to bring to adoption. The British administration had with great thoroughness set up tables of wage scales, and American attempts to circumvent them, which were not infrequent, were invariably met by British protests that severe damage to the social structure of Iran would ensue from the payment of exaggerated rates. Such complaints, entirely legitimate from the British point of view, came to a head at a joint Anglo-American meeting in the British labor office on 15 June 1942 at which time the Americans yielded to the British request that they discharge all natives


and artisans and rehire them through the British deputy assistant director of labor. This was what the Americans had undertaken originally to do, and the only point which can be raised in defense of their departure from the book was that increasing wages helped them get on with their urgent war tasks. After this agreement Colonel Shingler reported to Washington that wages were still a disturbing factor in a difficult labor pattern and that in his view they were too low.33

During 1942 the economy of Iran was affected by the stresses set up through the presence of British, Soviet, and American forces and their activities. Prices were inflated. Near-famine conditions obtained, in certain localities exaggerated by Soviet refusal to allow wheat from Azerbaijan to be brought to the south. In attempting under these conditions to attract labor vigorous enough to work, the Americans decided to supplement the fixed wage scales with food. A number of plans which enabled workmen to obtain tea, rice, and sugar succeeded one another, and in this respect American initiative obtained British support, as expressed by Maj. Gen. A. R. Selby in midsummer when he said he "felt the two governments should take a hand in the food situation and feed the workmen on some reasonable basis."34 A similarly helpful flexibility was demonstrated by the British in the case of a number of skilled native mechanics when the American-supervised checkup station was moved from Tabriz to Tehran in August 1942. It was found that the rates paid in Tabriz were higher than those allowed for Tehran; but the British authorities acceded to the American desire to pay the higher wages in order to retain the good workmen. The permission stipulated, however, that employees hired in future must come under the regular scales, thus automatically providing a source of possible friction between groups of mechanics doing the same work on the same job but at different rates.

Of the many adjustments required to keep things going smoothly, one deserves to be recorded, not for its intrinsic importance, but for its value as an illustration. Early in 1942 the Russians officially protested to Colonel Shingler that the UKCC was advertising for sale, at something like one hundred dollars a thousand board feet, lumber derived from assembly operations. The Russians claimed that the lumber was salvaged from the packing cases in which trucks for the USSR were shipped. They further claimed that, since the cost of the trucks included the cost of packing, the lumber belonged to them and they


should at least control its disposition. In an effort to settle the matter it was eventually necessary for Shingler, accompanied by Minister Dreyfus, to call upon Soviet Ambassador Smirnov. The meeting, conducted in German, concluded in an arrangement whereby American agencies were allowed to take whatever materials were necessary to the accomplishment of the American mission, the British were allowed a certain percentage of material for their trouble in handling the salvage, and the Russians would be entitled to carry away such quantities as would not result in displacing available cargo normally carried in the trucks upon leaving the assembly plant. Later in the year-when the American command was hard pressed to meet construction deadlines for installations to accommodate the expected arrival of the first movement of service troops and was forced to every sort of improvisation-it was suggested that the agreement on packing-case lumber be reopened to provide for construction needs. Tentative conversations having shown that the Russians were prepared to refer the matter to their ambassador, Shingler advised that "we rock along under existing arrangements, taking only as much lumber as can be withdrawn amicably." Thus was avoided a renewal of the small tempest which drastic shortages, a trying climate, and the natural rivalries and amourpropre of Allies had brewed.35

The truck assembly program was among the earliest of the tasks undertaken by the American command in the Persian Corridor. Operations began at Andimeshk even before the move from Iraq to Iran was completed. The contractor phase continued some eight months after the arrival of General Connolly in the field. During the period of General Motors operation, 20,081 vehicles were assembled at Andimeshk, 9,670 at Khorramshahr.36 Of the total of 29,751 at the two plants, 29,069 vehicles, or 98 percent, were for the USSR. On 1 July 1943 the Army threw its resources into the task of handling the greatly increased flow of vehicles that was to come during nearly two more years of work.



Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

page created 17 January 2002

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online