Experiment in Co-operation

The story of United States Army activity in the Persian Corridor during World War II has a central theme, supply. Its major development, lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union, grows out of its minor, lend-lease aid to Great Britain in supplying Russia and in preparing against threatened Axis invasion of the area. The fighting war, the war of guns, is but a muted obbligato to the central theme. The strategic unity of the Middle East and its vital importance to the final victory, the bloody struggle to fend off Axis drives toward Suez and the oil fields of Iraq and Iran, of Saudi Arabia and the Caucasus-these are high themes, but not the subject of this book.

This is not the story of guns and fighting. Here, men do not kill, though .they are sometimes killed. The story of supply tells of another kind of fight, not without its own brand of courage, its own price of endurance.

Supply is the theme, the fighting war all but an echo. There will be dissonance; for in this story the United States finds itself upon a stage long trodden in rivalry by Britain and Russia. From the mingled motifs arise overtones, troubled echoes of the past, jarring notes of the present, and unfinished phrases awaiting the future.

Supplying the Soviet War Machine

Military supply is a means, not an end. Mechanized warfare has made it a prime factor in planning and in operations. Skill, spirit, supply-these are essentials to victory; but without the third, the first


two cannot prevail in a struggle of industrialized antagonists. The pooling of supply, the American idea which culminated in the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, produced one of the most potent weapons of World War II. Conceived as a defensive measure, on the principle that defense of Axis enemies was defense of the United States, the Lend-Lease Act was in effect a declaration of economic belligerency in a war that intertwined industrial with military power. It was lend-lease which, long before Pearl Harbor brought military belligerency to the United States, furnished the means by which American economic strength could be shared with Great Britain in 1941 in the Middle East. In that crucial area Britain waged a David and Goliath struggle against Italian and German armies in North and East Africa, in Greece and Crete, and against pro-Nazi elements in Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Defeat would have entailed the loss of an area necessary to the victor in a global war. Defeat would have cut off Britain from her best source of essential petroleum. American aid in the form of war materials and logistic services, brought to Africa in 1941 and 1942, weighed fully in the reckoning which took place at El Alamein in October 1942. There, spirit, skill, and superior supply overcame spirit, skill, and vanishing supply, and the Axis threat from the west against the Middle East was eliminated. (Map 1-inside back cover)

It was lend-lease which, in September 1941 after the German attack on the Soviet Union, made the United States an auxiliary of Great Britain in the task of delivering supplies to the USSR through the Persian Corridor. This route, joining Soviet territory to warm water across the mountains and deserts of Iran, was one of five by which 171 /2 million long tons of lend-lease supplies were carried from Western Hemisphere ports to Soviet destinations. It is difficult to visualize 171/2 million long tons in .the abstract; but 2,803 ships crossed the seas to carry them, a fleet more than nine times as numerous as that which mounted the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa in November 1942. The total tonnage figure nearly matches the 22 million long tons landed on the Continent of Europe for the American forces between January 1942 and May 1945. Russia's share of the common pool was therefore considerable, befitting her share in the common conflict. In committing munitions and equipment to the titanic defense of Stalingrad, the USSR knew that material losses could be mitigated in ever mounting quantities by future lend-lease receipts.1The expul-


sion of the last Nazis from Stalingrad, completed by 2 February 1943, removed the enemy threat to the Middle East from the north as El Alamein had done from the west. Supply tipped the scales in both battles that saved the Middle East. Afterward, as the German armies withdrew from the passes of the Caucasus and receded westward round the Black Sea, the task of supplying Russia through the Persian Corridor increased in intensity. The change in .the American role in late 1942, from auxiliary to full partner of the British in the supply effort, raised the Corridor's tonnage to second place among the five routes to the USSR, and brought to the Persian Gulf ports nearly one fourth of the total lend-lease tonnage shipped to the Soviet Union from the Western Hemisphere.2

How important for the Russians Anglo-American reinforcement through the Persian Corridor might prove was accurately anticipated as early as the spring of 1942 by a German study prepared for Hitler. It reads, in part, as follows:

In their endeavor to support Soviet Russia, Great Britain and the United States will make every effort during the coming weeks and months to increase shipment of equipment, materiel, and troops to Russia as much as possible. In particular the supplies reaching Russia on the Basra-Iran route will go to the Russian Caucasus and southern fronts. All British or American war materiel which reaches Russia by way of the Near East and the Caucasus is extremely disadvantageous to our land offensive. Every ton of supplies which the enemy manages to get through to the Near East means a continuous reinforcement of the enemy war potential, makes our own operations in the Caucasus more difficult, and strengthens the British position in the Near East and Egypt.3

Written before El Alamein and Stalingrad extinguished the German drive for the Middle East, the document stands as eloquent tribute to the effectiveness of the logistical partnership of Great Britain and the United States in the Persian Corridor. A few figures will indicate the reality Hitler feared.

A total of 4,159,117 long tons of Russian-aid cargo was shipped from the Western Hemisphere to all Persian Gulf ports between November 1941 and May 1945; but this was only a fraction of the traffic


handled by British and American agencies in the area during that period. Supplies and equipment destined for the Soviets came also from Great Britain, Africa, and India; aircraft were flown in for delivery to the Russians; and over half a million long tons of petroleum products originating in Iran were carried north to Soviet receiving points. In addition to all this were the supplies to maintain the British and American forces in the area, and to support large numbers of Polish refugees, British and American civilian agencies, and the Iranian and Iraqi civilian economies. All told, about 7,900,000 long. tons of imports were discharged at Persian Gulf ports between 1941 and 1945. Of this amount 3,900,815 long tons, 90 percent of it destined for the USSR, were discharged at ports operated by the U.S. Army. British and American agencies together, between 1942 and 1945, delivered to the Soviets 5,149,376 long tons of which the Americans accounted for 4,417,243 long tons. The figures show that, although the British and Americans handled approximately equal tonnages, the bulk of Russian-aid tonnage was delivered by the Americans. It has been estimated that American deliveries through the Persian Corridor to the USSR were sufficient, by U.S. Army standards, to maintain sixty combat divisions in the line.4

But while statistics furnish an accurate measure of achievement, they ignore the factor which made it possible and which was itself of equal significance. The Persian Corridor operation was an experiment in international co-operation with no exact parallel or historical precedent. Here was Iran, forcibly occupied by Great Britain and the USSR, two long-standing rivals for its control, serving as a highway over which one of the rivals, calling upon the assistance of a fourth nation, the United States, delivered supplies to the other rival, now, by the fortunes of war, an ally. As an American officer put the case during the first months of confusion, one nation was attempting to deliver supplies to a second nation with the occasional interference of a third through the country of a fourth in which none of the first three, save


for the war, had any business to be. But the strange combination worked.

Even with war needs acting as a spur, the experiment in cooperation was from the start both delicate and difficult. This would have been true had the United States not been a newcomer to an area recognized internationally as within the sphere of British influence. The United States, though long represented in the Middle East by educational and philanthropic undertakings, had entered substantially into Middle Eastern commerce by way of oil only after the first world war. The second war found the United States unprovided with a long-range policy. None had been needed up to 1939 save general friendliness, since the United States had neither political nor military interests in the area. Americans were so unfamiliar with the area that, in the feverish planning of 1941, War Department intelligence had to turn for information on highways and transport routes in Iran to the Consultant in Islamic Archaeology at the Library of Congress. When the accident of history brought the United States to Iran, problems of supply called for immediate solution. Nobody asked what implications the future held. Action first, questions later. There would be time enough to learn whether America had come to the madhouse of Middle Eastern politics as visitor, doctor, or inmate.

The British and the Americans

Building docks and highways, assembling trucks and planes, running trains and unloading ships-these were compassable, concrete jobs. But the exigent, active present was haunted by the long, slothful past, and the past is nowhere so long as in the parched valley where Eden once was green and fruitful. It was to be a new experience for Americans, this dealing with the past as they learned to adjust themselves to three main stresses in the urgent present. First, there were certain British rights and obligations in Iraq and Iran which were applicable to Britain's new American collaborator. Second, there were unforeseen difficulties inherent in lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union. And finally, there were the conditions accepted by Iran under the Anglo-Soviet occupation.

When the first Americans reached the Persian Gulf late in 1941, forerunners of some 30,000 U.S. Army service troops to come, the British position east of Suez reflected three campaigns fought earlier that year. The first was in Iraq, oil-rich geographical core of the Middle East. Iraq had been mandated to the British after World War I at the carving up of the old Ottoman Empire. In 1932 the mandate had


been terminated and Iraq became an independent state and member of the League of Nations. Independence had been buttressed by a treaty of alliance with Great Britain, signed in 1930, whereby Iraq was guaranteed "against external aggression." In return the treaty (revised in 1936 ) had granted Britain air bases at Habbaniya near Baghdad and Shu'aiba near Basra, to be occupied during the life of the treaty. The treaty further provided, in its fourth article, as follows:

Should . . .either of the High Contracting Parties become engaged in war, the other High Contracting Party will . . . immediately come to his aid in the capacity of an ally. In the event of an imminent menace of War the High Contracting Parties will immediately concert together the necessary measures of defence. The aid of His Majesty the King of Iraq in the event of war or the imminent menace of war will consist in furnishing to His Britannic Majesty on Iraq territory all facilities and assistance in his power including the use of railways, rivers, ports, aerodromes and means of communication.

The Iraqi part of the railway, connecting the Persian Gulf via Baghdad with the Mediterranean at Tripoli and the Bosporus at Istanbul, was British controlled. So was the pipeline network from the Kirkuk oil fields to Tripoli and Haifa. The treaty thus recognized British interest in the defense of an essential part of British economy. The fifth article of the treaty stated

It is understood between the High Contracting Parties that responsibility for the maintenance of internal order in Iraq and . . . for the defense of Iraq from external aggression rests with His Majesty the King of Iraq. Nevertheless His Majesty the King of Iraq recognizes that the permanent maintenance and protection in all circumstances of the essential communications of His Britannic Majesty is in the common interest of the High Contracting Parties. For this purpose and in order to facilitate the discharge of the obligations to His Britannic Majesty under Article 4 above [air bases were granted as previously stated].5

In April 1941, as a corollary of the swift German triumphs in Greece and Crete, a coup d'etat in Iraq deposed the pro-British Regent, Prince Abdul Illah, whose escape to Habbaniya and thence by air to Basra on 2 April was assisted by the American Legation at Baghdad.6 At Basra the regent was smuggled aboard H.M.S. Falmouth to await a more propitious time to show himself. An anti-British government took over. The transformation was aided by the covert and well-organized encouragement of German agents. The hospitality which


Vichy airfields in Syria offered to German war planes may have seemed to Iraqi Anglophobe elements a more concrete assurance of support than the protection afforded Iraq under the treaty with Great Britain. British prestige fell.

Nevertheless, the British moved as provided by treaty to protect their vital interests. By an operation planned and executed by the British India theater under Gen. Sir Claude J. E. Auchinleck, British forces, predominantly Indian, landed at Basra on 18 April and moved north toward the oil fields and Habbaniya. Reinforcements from India followed on 29 April and Gen. Sir Archibald P. Wavell, as Middle East theater commander, moved troops into Iraq from Palestine. Contact was made on 6 May south of Habbaniya between British forces and two infantry brigades of the Iraqi Army which suffered severe casualties. There was also air contact with German aircraft. What amounted to a siege of the British Embassy at Baghdad was lifted and the Iraqi forces sued on 31 May for an armistice. Members of the British community who had withdrawn .to the hospitality of the American Legation came back into circulation, and on 1 June the regent returned to his capital from a short vacation. The crisis was surmounted in Iraq.

Surmounted, but highly dangerous in view of the insistent pressure of the Axis west of Suez which only the month before had driven the British inside the Egyptian border at Halfaya Pass. Firm control of Iraq would save the Mosul-Kirkuk oil fields if the threat from the west were contained. There was as yet no threat from the north. Hitler had not yet invaded Russia.

But there were other dangers nearer than Suez. The lurking menace of German intrigue and German aircraft having been subdued in Iraq, the British moved forthwith to root these elements out of Syria. The ensuing campaign, under command of Gen. Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, involved forces sent from Palestine by General Wavell as well as assistance from the Indian divisions which had occupied strategic points along the Iraqi line of communication between Basra and Baghdad. Begun on 8 June, it was concluded by the capitulation of the Vichy French signed on the anniversary of Bastille Day, 14 July. With Syria and Iraq now free of Axis influence, the way was cleared for the events which were to take place in Iran the following month.

The Fertile Crescent, linking the Nile Delta with the head of the Persian Gulf, would now have been secure and the Suez Isthmus defended from the east had it not been for the wholly new danger to the Middle East posed by Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. His rapid and apparently inexorable sweep eastward was to bring him by the year's end past Odessa to Rostov at the head of the


Sea of Azov. It was all too apparent, even in midsummer, that he was driving for the Caucasus, nor did the changing fortunes of battle that winter reduce Allied concern lest he succeed. Success in penetrating that barrier and winning the Soviet oil lands lying between the Black and Caspian Seas would expose not only Iraq but Iran also, with its British oil fields in the south and vital corridor linking the USSR with the Persian Gulf.

To cope with any such calamitous sequel to German penetration beyond the Caucasus, the Soviet Union and Great Britain, now allied in the common struggle, determined upon a joint invasion of Iran. With no illusions that they could stop the Germans in Iran if the Russians could not contain them north of the mountains, the British sought merely to delay the invader and to destroy anything useful to him. Moreover, Iran's despotic ruler, Reza Shah Pahlevi, was openly partial to the Axis cause, and the presence of some two thousand German subjects in Iran created a powerful counterweight to Allied interests there. Joint Anglo-Soviet military action began on 25 August, when 40,000 Soviet troops entered Iran from the north and headed for Tehran. On the same day about 19,000 British troops, mostly in Indian brigades, entered from various directions; half of them moved straight for the oil fields in the neighborhood of Ahwaz, and some airborne units went to Abadan to protect British subjects there and the great refinery of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, then the largest in the world. There was some slight resistance on the part of Iranian troops and some blood was shed. No force Iran could have brought to bear could have withstood the power of the occupying armies of Britain and Russia, and, thanks to the recent British actions in Syria and Iraq, German help by air was now as far away as Crete. On 30 August identical notes were submitted by the invading powers to the Iranian Government which accepted their terms on 9 September. On 16 September the Shah abdicated in favor of his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, and left the country, to die in exile in South Africa. The next day Tehran was jointly occupied by the British and Russians, but without show of military force, the troops having bypassed the city en route to barracks on the outskirts. Local civilian authority continued uninterruptedly.7

The terms imposed in September 1941 by the occupying powers


were designed to secure the control by them of an area vital to their survival in the war against Germany. They disavowed any designs against the territorial integrity or independence of Iran and promised withdrawal when the military situation permitted; and they provided for the co-operation of Iran in what had perforce become the common cause. Iran agreed to remain neutral in the war and to refrain from any act contrary to British or Soviet interests. These and other provisions were incorporated into a Tri-Partite Treaty of alliance which was signed on 29 January 1942 by Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and Iran. The treaty provided for withdrawal from Iranian territory of British and Russian troops six months after the cessation of hostilities against Germany and its associates. It stipulated that Iran's contribution to security was to be restricted to internal security only; and it provided by Article 9 that on the date fixed for withdrawal of the forces of the Allied Powers, the treaty would cease to be binding on any of its signatories.8

Two clauses of the treaty proved of especial significance, in the light of subsequent events which were to make the Persian Corridor a principal line of communication linking the American source of vital war materials with the Soviet battlefields. By Article 3 ii (b), Iran granted Britain and Russia "the unrestricted right to use, maintain, guard and, in case of military necessity, control in any way that they may require, all means of communications throughout Iran, including railways, roads, rivers, aerodromes, ports, pipelines, and telephone, telegraph and wireless installations . . . ." By paragraph ( d ) of the same clause, Iran agreed "to establish and maintain, in collaboration with the Allied Powers, such measures of censorship control as they may require for all the means of communication referred to in paragraph ( b ) ." Thus by September 1941 Britain in the south and Russia in the north found themselves firmly in control of Iranian communications.

There were other consequences of the Anglo-Russian occupation. For a time following it, a considerable pro-German sentiment flourished among a population which resented the invaders and longed for "liberation" by Germany. Until El Alamein and Stalingrad their longings seemed all too near realization. A second consequence, likewise undesirable, was the division of Iran into areas of control allotted to the occupying powers-Russia north of Tehran, Britain south; both at the capital. The numerous authorities resulting did not always work together efficiently. But these disadvantages were far outweighed by the


value of the Corridor as a line of supply into the Soviet Union. The occupation, although conceived and carried out to deny the area to the Axis, provided a supply route to the USSR just when the north Russia route to Murmansk and Archangel was beginning to prove unduly hazardous to Allied convoys.

So here, in September 1941, were the British and the Russians once again in Iran, whose occupation by their forces was the price it innocently incurred for its strategic location. It was also the price of the sins of Reza Shah. It was not the first time armed forces of Britain and Russia had invaded Iranian soil.9 For a hundred years Russia had pressed upon the northern borders. Three times in the twentieth century Russian troops had crossed them against the Iranian people's will. Opposed steadily by British counterpressures, these Russian incursions had twice been matched in the twentieth century by the presence of British troops. After Napoleon, the southward. sweep of Russia in Asia was met by Britain's strengthening her position in the North West Frontier Province of India, Baluchistan, and the area of the Persian Gulf. With only Iran, Afghanistan, and Tibet as buffers, Russia penetrated culturally and economically into northern Iran and dominated Tehran.

In due course Germany's drive to the east forced Russia and England into each other's arms. The Convention of 1907, while affirming the integrity and independence of Iran, virtually partitioned it into English and Russian spheres with a neutral zone between. So complete was the disregard of Iran's independence that her declared neutrality in the war of 1914 was ignored, while Russia, Britain, and Turkey made her territory their battlefield. In that period Britain used 22,000 troops to quell a German-encouraged revolt of Iranian tribes.

From 1907 to the Russian Revolution, Britain and Russia cooperated in Iran. With the revolution and Russian preoccupation with internal affairs, Britain seized .the chance to outwit her Asiatic rival and negotiated with Iran the abortive Anglo-Persian treaty of 1919 whereby Iran was to become a virtual protectorate. Even so, Bolshevist troops occupied the Caspian province of Gilan and did not withdraw until the British, realizing the Iranian Majlis would not ratify the proposed treaty, removed their own troops in 1921. These maneuvers, as Chapter IX will show, were played to off-stage gesticulations by a United States unhappily divided between Wilsonian advocates of inter-


national responsibility and those who wished to escape backward into "normalcy." In a world which did not at Versailles wholly abandon the old diplomacy for the new, a United States with no vital material interest in Iran could do little but gesture at a situation it protested. But Lansing and Wilson, if they were not heeded, were observed; and the American voice, though but a stage aside in support of Iranian sovereignty, was heard in Britain, in the USSR, and in Iran.

That year-1921-the Soviets countered the British agreement with a Soviet-Iranian treaty of friendship containing an important concession which allowed the USSR to advance troops into Iranian territory if any third power should threaten Iran or the Soviet Union from Iranian territory. The treaty was signed in February just after a coup d'etat put Reza Khan into the government for the first time. After serving as Minister of War and Prime Minister he became Shah in 1926. There followed a period of iron rule during which, by borrowing American and German technical skills for the improvement of the country's economy, and by playing off Britain and Russia against one another, Reza Shah made Iran relatively strong and independent. All this came to an end when the situation in 1941 brought about the new Anglo-Soviet occupation and the tripartite alliance of January 1942 with its guarantee of Iranian integrity and of withdrawal of foreign troops after the cessation of hostilities. Uneasy as the alliance was in the area of ancient rivalry, it was no combination, as in 1907, of two strong powers to exploit a weaker. The spirit of 1941 was one of co-operation in common defense. When Britain called upon the United States to aid her, the spirit was significantly fortified. American aid in the Corridor proved important not only in the supply task but also politically as a kind of counterweight in the intricate clockwork of a troubled area.10

Events which preceded the American arrival in 1941 had strained British resources in both regional areas of the Middle East. The suppression of the pro-German revolt in Iraq, completed in May 1941, left the British forces in control of the line of communications running between their treaty bases near Basra and near Baghdad; but in that same month the Germans were occupying Crete and were driving British forces back in the North African fighting inside the border of Egypt. The newly passed Lend-Lease Act having provided a procedural framework for American aid, conversations were going forward in London between the British Joint Planning Staff and members


of an American Special Observer Group under Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney. The object of the conversations was to determine where and how American aid could be effectively applied in that dark spring. Prominently under study was the Middle East; but because it was less in need than the area west of Suez, the Persian Gulf area of the Middle East was scarcely mentioned.11

Previous to the German invasion of the USSR, the commander of British forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Sir E. P. Quinan, arriving at Basra early in May, had been directed by GHQ,, India, to secure the line of communications, and to provide for the maintenance of "such forces as may be required to operate in the Middle East, including Egypt, Turkey, Iraq . . . ." 12 Hitler's sweep across Russia in the summer led to the enlargement of General Quinan's responsibilities. He was not only to maintain the Basra-Baghdad line of communications, with such port development as that entailed, but was to provide for maintenance of ten divisions, increased from the three of his original directive; and he was to prepare against invasion of Iraq via either Anatolia or the Caucasus. The events in Syria in June and July and the occupation of Iran in August measurably expanded the British task. When in September General Wilson took over command of the newly designated Persia and Iraq Force (PAI Force), his Tenth Army included 3 corps headquarters, 7 infantry divisions, 1 armored division, 1 independent armored brigade, 1 independent motor brigade, and some antiaircraft artillery. With more area to defend, more troops had to be maintained. Not until early 1943, after El Alamein and Stalingrad, was it possible to reduce British defensive strength or base installations in Iran.

The new German threat from the north to the British position in Iraq in midsummer 1941 brought that country into Anglo-American discussions of aid to Britain in the Middle East. In July President Franklin D. Roosevelt dispatched W. Averell Harriman, who visited the British bases in Iraq and informed himself on the defense of the oil fields. At that time British responsibilities were confined to security and communications, and American aid was being considered on the basis of those British responsibilities. The Anglo-Soviet occupation of Iran in August and the feasibility of opening there a new supply route


to Russia further extended British responsibilities and, as a corollary, the scope of American aid. Without waiting for the acceptance by the Iranian Government of the terms submitted to it in the identical notes of 30 August, the British Government promptly charged the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation with procurement of commodities for the USSR and their delivery through the Persian Corridor. The British task now embraced not only security and communications but supply to the Soviet Union. It was immediately recognized that in this new undertaking the Iranian State Railway (ISR) would play a vital role. After informally ascertaining from President Roosevelt American willingness to help in equipping the railway, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, through a cable from Lord Beaverbrook to the Messrs. Harry Hopkins and Harriman, on 6 September expressed the hope that the United States would send certain quantities of locomotives and freight cars inasmuch as the best available route into the Soviet Union during the winter months was that via the ISR.13

At the same time the London War Office instructed the British Supply Council in North America in details of similar requests to be made direct to the fountainhead of lend-lease in Washington, emphasizing the needs for the ISR as the most pressing transportation requirement in the entire Middle East. The ensuing memorandum, presented by E. P. Taylor, Chairman of the British Supply Council, to the Division of Defense Aid Reports in Washington,14 while dealing mainly with requirements for the hard-pressed Red Sea area and Egypt, embodied in its final paragraph the British intention of raising the capacity of the ISR from 200 tons to 2,000 tons per day, and of the Iranian highways to 12,000 tons per month. The expanded highway program was needed to supplement rail haulage in a country whose aridity set limitations on the use of the steam locomotives then planned for and on order. On 10 September Brig. Gen. George R. Spalding


requested that the ISR be made an approved lend-lease project under aid to Britain.15

Meanwhile, the conversations held in London the previous May regarding lend-lease aid to the British in the Middle East had been evolving machinery for rendering that aid. On 11 September the War Department notified General Chancy that, "to comply with the desires of the British Government," it contemplated setting up supply and maintenance depots in the Middle East.16 Two days later, a presidential directive to the Secretary of War to render lend-lease aid to Great Britain in the Middle East embodied the principles of the message to Chancy and set in motion the plans which had been brewing since spring. Though the plans were the product of many minds, the Middle East Directive of 13 September 1941 bears the stamp of the President's peculiar skill in sensing public opinion. Where the draft presented to him had borne the words "expressed wishes" of the British Government, the President's pen had substituted .the words "expressed needs." This slight but significant change recognized both the undoubted need of aid and the equally ponderable sensibilities of a part of the American public.17

Two salient features of the Middle East Directive need underscoring at this point: first, the method by which it was proposed to furnish the aid; and second, the strictly auxiliary status of American aid. Under the first point, the directive made plain that the aid was to be furnished not by an expeditionary force, but through the Defense Aid Division of the War Department.18 This consideration, made expedient by the fact of continued American military neutrality, confined the war aid to be furnished Britain to the economic sphere and determined that, though under Army supervision, it was to be furnished by private contract and civilian personnel. Second, the status of American aid was determined by the method, whereby the British were to requisition the War Department for aid through the Defense Aid


director in accordance with normal lend-lease procedure. "The British authorities should be consulted," the directive stated, "on all details as to location, size, and character of depots and transport facilities. Their needs should govern." The auxiliary status of the Americans was thus clearly established.

Some indication of the scale of the September planning for the Persian Corridor, even in this early and tentative stage, appears in a memorandum prepared for Harry Hopkins:

The entrance of Russia into the war has given the Iranian theater urgent priority. The demands of the new theater are tremendous-250,000 ship tons of railroad material in one project, more than the total shipments to the Middle East to date, requiring from 50 to 75 ships, with the distance so great that only three trips a year can be made. A big automotive project is superimposed on the railroad project. Diversions of material hitherto destined for Egypt are being made to the new theater.19

If there had been any thought in the War Department that the Persian Corridor aid could be administered under the Middle East Directive through General Chaney's mission in London, or even through a War Department mission for the entire Middle East, a War Plans Division paper disposed of it. It was urged that, in view of the "rapidly changing Russian situation with the threat of a German offensive south through Turkey," the need of extensive supply facilities, not only for the British in the Persian Gulf area now commanded by General Wavell from India, but also for the support of the Soviet Union, called for the establishment of a separate American military mission. It was therefore recommended that an independent Iranian mission be formed under "an officer of broad engineering experience," and on 27 September Col. Raymond A. Wheeler, Acting Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4, who had served as Engineer of Maintenance of the Panama Canal and as Acting Governor of the Canal Zone, and who was a specialist in rail and highway matters, was appointed Chief, United States Military Iranian Mission. At the same time a parallel mission, the United States Military North African Mission, Brig. Gen. Russell L. Maxwell, Chief, with headquarters at Cairo, was set up to aid the British forces under General Auchinleck. These two missions were designed to carry out the responsibilities for implementing lend-lease aid to Britain in the Middle East which President Roosevelt had laid upon the Secretary of War in his directive of 13 September.20


That directive, however, had specifically confined itself to aid to the British, and it was under its provisions that the Iranian Mission was established on 27 September to support the British forces in the Persian Corridor. But in this area, aid to Britain meant participation, on the supply side, in two different British responsibilities, namely, security of the line of communications (a vital part of a third British responsibility, defense against invasion) and supply to the Soviet Union. This indirect responsibility for Russian aid differentiated the two missions, the Iranian and the North African, which were established under the Middle East Directive.

Almost simultaneously, instructions were handed to British and American commanders in the field which recognized the Russian task in so many words. After a conference at Baghdad in September between General Wavell for India and General Auchinleck for Middle East, General Quinan's directive was widened to include taking "steps to develop such road, rail, and river communications as are necessary to ensure . . . the maximum possible delivery of supplies to Russia."21

And on 21 October the Secretary of War instructed Wheeler, now a brigadier general, "to assure the timely establishment and operation of supply, maintenance and training facilities as required by present and contemplated British, Russian and other friendly operations within or based upon" his area.

In the years that followed, it was to be the destiny of the Iranian Mission and its successors to be primarily concerned with the Russian-supply aspects of British aid, rather than with the strengthening of British communications for area defense. But at the beginning, although lumped with British and other friendly operations, the Russian-aid aspect of this mission was not stressed. Indeed, in describing the two Middle East missions to the Secretary of State in a letter of 30 October, the Secretary of War referred only to "contemplated British operations." Russia was unnamed. Such an omission suggests either a politic underemphasis or imperfect information. Neither explanation suffices. The plain fact is that aid to Russia was necessarily being set up as a part of aid to Britain. Why was this so?22


The Russians and the Americans

The main reason was that Britain, enjoying treaty rights in Iraq and Iran, had requested neutral American aid in the field of supply. Furthermore, not only was the United States neutral, but the Soviet Union had not yet been declared eligible for lend-lease aid. Yet in the face of clear and urgent need to utilize the Persian Corridor supply route to the USSR, and in view of the British machinery at hand, the means adopted under the presidential directive for Middle East aid to Britain were the most practicable. Behind the continued ineligibility of Russia for lend-lease aid lay intangibles which added immensely to the material difficulties in establishing the new supply route.

The relations of the Americans to the British in the Corridor were conditioned by the responsibilities of the British in that area. They were also conditioned by the relations of the Americans to the Russians. Aid to the Soviet Union, catapulted into American public concern by the German invasion, created political puzzles more baffling than those inherent in aid to Britain. During the debate over the adoption of lend-lease, objections to British aid had stemmed largely from Anglophobia, but even Anglophobes knew instinctively that the force of logic behind such help was inescapable. Hitler's attack of 22 June 1941 caught the American people completely unprepared in their minds. Always stronger on the side of championing the weak against the strong than on the side of viewing situations with the cold perspective of, say, the professional strategist or European diplomatist, the American people in 1941 were still shocked and grieved over the Russo-Finnish War of 1939-40 which resulted in expulsion of the USSR from the League of Nations. One summer the Soviet building at the New York World's Fair had been "the" spot to visit; the next summer, the building had vanished, and with it nearly every trace of Soviet-American good feeling. It was inevitable that, reflecting this drastic shift in public opinion and buttressed by the Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939, the policy of the American Government toward the Soviet Union should have been one of austere aloofness tinged with suspicion. The American people, having gradually come to admire the postrevolutionary Russian people and having suffered a violent revulsion following the Soviet attack on Finland, now, in June of 1941, were stunned and puzzled. It was difficult for them to make another about-face overnight and suddenly champion the newly attacked USSR. Soon after Hitler's invasion a former American ambassador to the Soviet Union


publicly proclaimed that country's government "a godless tyranny, the sworn enemy of all free peoples of the earth." 23

The delicacy of the American Government's position, even as late as the date of the formation of the Iranian Mission, was therefore reflected in the somewhat indirect approach that mission took toward the problem of Soviet aid. Inasmuch as the United States was still militarily a neutral and the Soviet Union not yet officially eligible for lend-lease, the mission, while undertaking to aid Great Britain and Russia, was to proceed to aid the latter by aiding Britain. The reasons were not only that the southern part of the Persian Corridor was under British authority by virtue of the Anglo-Soviet occupation of August 1941 and that American forces were going in as an economic auxiliary furnished under military auspices by a neutral friend. The indirection as to aid to the Soviet Union was also still politically necessary in September, and requires further explanation.

For a considerable period prior to the sudden German attack, the Soviet Union, along with the Axis Powers and Vichy France, had been subject to economic blockade by the Allied Powers. The United States had set up machinery for waging economic warfare and after the conclusion of the Hitler-Stalin pact had taken various measures against the Russians. Only the week before the attack upon the Soviet Union the United States Treasury had frozen forty million dollars of Soviet credits, and as late as 20 June reports of leakage in the economic blockade against the Soviet Union had been discussed by members of General Chaney's Special Observer Group in London as among disturbing elements in the Middle East picture.24

When the attack came, Prime Minister Churchill, in an early broadcast to his people referring to Hitler as "this bloodthirsty guttersnipe," pledged British aid to the Soviet Union. The American official reaction was bound to be slower in the light of the shock to public opinion a similar announcement would have caused.25 The next day, 23 June-with a background of gloomy predictions in the newspapers that the German armies would smash through to the Black Sea in a few weeks, consolidate their supply lines, and drive on through the Caucasus to Iraq and Iran-The New York Times, in a front-page article headed, "Washington Waits," stated, somewhat cryptically,


"If Britain wants the United States to extend lend-lease aid the attempt will be made." As for official utterance, the government contented itself with Acting Secretary of State Summer Welles' statement of that same day, "Hitler's armies are today the chief dangers of the Americas." One day later the President was quoted indirectly in a press conference as prepared to implement the policy announced by Welles; but the President's remarks, mainly anti-Hitler, stressed American inability, through prior commitments to Britain, to be of much present help to the Soviets. After all, the United States was still a nonbelligerent. But that same day, the 24th, the Times quietly reported release of the Soviet credits frozen ten days before.

The Department of State did not share the shock and surprise of the less well informed general public. It had long been formulating a policy of American aid in case Germany attacked the Soviet Union, and when the attack came it was ready with recommendations for reconsideration of restrictive anti-Soviet export control regulations. Then on 9 July the President told Summer Welles that he was anxious to send Russia substantial aid at once, preferably before October, when winter would interfere with transportation. The Department of State set to work to devise a modus operandi for handling requests from the Soviet ambassador outside the established machinery of lend-lease, which, for obvious political reasons, could not yet be extended to the Soviet Union.26

By mid-July a committee had been created, consisting of the Soviet ambassador, the chairman of the British Supply Council in North America,27 and Harry Hopkins, the moving spirit in lend-lease affairs and the President's deputy in their administration. Hopkins' dramatic flight from Great Britain to Moscow via Archangel, bearing to Stalin a reassuring message from Roosevelt, bridged far more than the vast distances of land and sea that separated those two chiefs of state. In his conversations, following his arrival at Moscow on 30 July, Hopkins obtained from the Russians a detailed statement of their supply needs. He also won their confidence to an extent not hitherto achieved by others; and he returned to Washington equipped to speed the ma-


chinery of Russian aid. An early sequel to Moscow was a joint ChurchillRoosevelt statement of 5 August regarding aid to the Soviets.28

Meanwhile, on 12 July, Maj. Gen. James H. Burns of the Division of Defense Aid Reports brought to Washington for consultation Col. Philip R. Faymonville, who had served from 1934 to 1939 as United States Military Attache' in Moscow, winning from Ambassador Joseph E. Davies praise for his "unusual good judgment," a quality called for particularly in the newly developing Soviet-American relationship. "He speaks Russian fluently," Mr. Davies wrote, "and apparently is most highly thought of by the leaders of the Army here," that is, in Moscow.29

Shortly after reaching Washington, Faymonville joined Burns' staff and was useful in receiving the Soviet Military Mission which arrived in the capital on 23 July. He was also present at a series of conferences held in the office of Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy from 9 to 11 August to determine the extent of American aid and the means of furnishing it.30 The policy arrived at was that no War Department materials could be made available to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics without prior release by the British of materials allocated to them. Since the British were committed to aid Russia, the question became one of three-cornered negotiations, with the arrangement of quantities and priorities subject to three valid points of view with the Americans in the middle. A sampling of October cables and letters will indicate how the machinery worked.31 On 3 October a consignment of tanks went off to the Soviet Union by arrangement with the United Kingdom, whose quotas were affected by the amounts diverted to Russia. On 24 October the Assistant Secretary of War wrote the Secretary of State on the procedure adopted for speeding shipments to Russia of goods originally contracted for by the United Kingdom. On 29 October General Chancy in Washington cabled his Army Special Observer Group in London that the Anglo-American agreement (Balfour-Arnold) on aviation aid, approved by the Secretary of War on 28 October, corresponded exactly with the previous agreements with the Soviet authorities.

In September the President sent Averell Harriman, his special representative in London on material aid to the British Empire, to Moscow


for important three-cornered conferences there with a Soviet commission under Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov and a British group under Lord Beaverbrook. Travel orders naming the expedition the Special Mission for War Supplies to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were made out for Mr. Harriman, General Burns, Colonel Faymonville, acting as secretary, Admiral William H. Standley, shortly thereafter to become American Ambassador to Moscow, William L. Batt of William S. Knudsen's Office of Production Management, and General Chancy.32 The discussion following, in which Marshal Joseph V. Stalin participated on three occasions, produced the signing at Moscow on 1 October by Beaverbrook, Harriman, and Molotov of the First ( Moscow ) Protocol, described as "a binding promise by this Government to make specific quantities of supplies available for shipment to Russia by a specific date."33

The Moscow Protocol was the first of four similar instruments for aid to Russia. It called for shipment from the United States through 30 June 1942 of roughly a million and a half tons of supplies. The Second ( Washington ) Protocol, signed 6 October 1942 and covering the period to 1 July 1943, promised 3,300,000 tons to be shipped by the northern Russian ports and 1,100,000 via the Persian Gulf route. The Third ( London ) Protocol, running through 30 June 1944, promised 2,700,000 tons via the Pacific route and 2,400,000 by either the northern Russian ports or the Persian Gulf. It was signed 19 October 1943. The Fourth (Ottawa) Protocol, signed 17 April 1945, promised 2,700,000 tons via Pacific routes and 3,000,000 via Atlantic routes including the Persian Gulf and the route into the Black Sea, then newly available. It covered the period to 12 May 1945. These protocols were definite commitments on the diplomatic level, different from those given to any other lend-lease recipients. While they contained escape clauses, President Roosevelt was always intensely concerned that they be honored to the letter. Behind every other circumstance that was to affect the supply program which the United States was to undertake in the Persian Corridor stood the protocols and the inflexible necessity of meeting their tonnage promises, come what may.34


The commitment of October 1941 had been carefully prepared for by the President's statement to Congress on 11 September, "The Soviet Government's purchases here are being made with its own funds through its regular purchasing agency."35 This statement followed the making available on 24 August of five billion dollars for lend-lease expenditures, from which the Soviet Union was excluded. At the time of the Moscow Protocol, the situation was that the United States had joined Britain in pledging almost unlimited aid, that much could be done through lend-lease aid to Britain, and that it was by then apparent that the President deemed the American public not unfavorable to Russian aid.36

So far, Russian supply was on a cash basis. During September-October, for instance, the United States loaned the USSR ninety million dollars with which on 21 October to purchase ammunition then available in the United States.37 In an exchange of messages between Roosevelt and Stalin of 30 October and 4 November respectively, the United States agreed to advance one billion dollars to Russia to be repaid without interest over a 10-year period, commencing five years after the end of the war. The arrangement was in accordance with the Soviet's expressed preference and was similar to that granted the Netherlands and Iceland, which paid cash for aid procured, for efficiency's sake, through the usual lend-lease channels. On 7 November 1941 the Soviet Union was officially declared eligible for lend-lease as a nation whose defense was vital to the defense of the United States. When a second billion was allocated to the Russians on 20 February 1942, the President took steps to formulate an agreement for repayment in kind, to allay Soviet fears that they would have to repay in dollars. Signed 11 June, this became the Master Agreement, superseding the first billion loan arranged.38

The financial aspects have been labored at this point for two reasons. First, their complexity was largely a product of the political difficulties of launching the program in the face of American opinion toward the


Soviet Union before Hitler's attack. Second, Soviet property rights over the goods shipped had been first determined when the Soviet Union was purchasing on a cash basis. These rights, carried over into the lend-lease period, gave rise to much of the friction that developed later during the stages of shipment and delivery for they permitted the Soviet agents to exact the most scrupulous adherence to the letter of their bond at every stage of the process.39

The severity of Soviet inspections can be traced quite as much to these financial arrangements as to their national traits. In this connection it must be borne in mind that the Russians enforced upon their own people equally strict personal responsibility all along the chain of command. Their readiness to punish individuals of their own forces who passed inferior goods became legendary among the Americans who worked with them in the field. It is unrealistic to deplore the Slav's lack of easygoing Anglo-Saxon adaptability.40

After the signing of the protocol it was decided, on the recommendation of Harry Hopkins, to leave in Moscow an American representative of lend-lease who had been a member of the Special Mission for War Supplies to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which had negotiated the protocol. Colonel Faymonville, secretary of the mission, thus remained for some years as chief of the special mission, first in his capacity as a representative of the Division of Defense Aid Reports, thereafter as a member of the Lend-Lease Administration.41 To the Iranian Mission, authorized to render aid to Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and other friendly powers in the Persian Corridor, and to the civilian lend-lease mission in Russia, the War Department added a second military mission charged with aiding the Soviets. This was the United States Military Mission to the Union of Soviet Socialist


 Republics, established on 5 November, with Maj. Gen. John N. Greely as chief.42

The Iranians and the Americans

The United States Military Iranian Mission and the United States Military Mission to the USSR formalized the logistical partnership entered into before Pearl Harbor between neutral America and belligerent Britain and Russia. But there was a fourth partner, Iran, whose role it was to smile appreciatively while the bigger fellows tramped up and down in her house. To be sure, the presence of British and Soviet forces, backed by the tripartite agreement, provided Iran with a protection against the Axis which she did not herself possess, whether or not she might have wished to use it. The large matter of external security was thus taken care of, and neither the Americans nor the Iranians were concerned with it.

Internal security, though also an assumed responsibility of the occupying powers-the United States was not at any time during the war an occupying power in Iran-was another matter. Protection of trains and truck convoys against marauding tribesmen, patrol of tracks, roads, docks against sabotage, vigilance against pilferage-these primarily local functions should theoretically be performed by the Iranian authorities, lest a populace made hostile by foreign surveillance become itself a rearward threat to communications.

In the fall of 1941 the forces at Iran's disposal were inadequate to assume so staggering a task of policing as the ambitious supply plans of the Allies involved. Although the Allies permitted Iran in September 1941 to break off diplomatic relations with certain of the Axis Powers, it was two years before they allowed that country to declare war against Germany. Meanwhile, the Allies discouraged development of military power by Iran. These were policies and decisions in which the United States as an auxiliary remained silent. But there was a feeling in some quarters that the Iranian partner in the logistical task might relish a less passive role than that of the appreciative smile originally called for by the script of 1941. It was less a problem in logistics and security than in diplomacy.

After American entrance into the war Iran's eligibility for lend-lease, declared on 10 March 1942, offered a fresh approach. The


establishment in that year of two additional American military missions, one to advise Iran on certain matters affecting its Army, the other to reorganize and command its Gendarmerie, brought Iran, though on a modest scale, into direct partnership with the United States. These missions also brought the United States for the first time directly into the four-sided Corridor partnership.

The advisory missions, under Maj. Gen. Clarence S. Ridley and Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf respectively, performed two important functions. By aiding Iran's ability to preserve law and order along the supply line, they helped the lend-lease operations. But even more importantly, by demonstrating American concern for Iranian sovereignty, they contributed something new to the historic situation, easing, if only briefly, dangerous tensions.

One thing remains to note before commencing an account of the American effort in the Persian Corridor. It was not like the historical facts of enemy threat, Allied need, American planning, tonnages delivered. It could not be felt, as a swirling sandstorm is felt; it was not visible as were swarms of stevedores unloading ships, or convoys of trucks creeping through snow-choked mountains. It was a thing as intangible as discouragement, as impalpable as heat.

It was a spirit shaped by diplomatists and expressed by the sheer obstinacy of men's guts, a spirit animated by Roosevelt, who "considered Iran as something of a testing ground for the Atlantic Charter and for the good faith of the United Nations."43



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