Wharves, Roads, and Barges

When the War Department in February 1942 decided to militarize the civilian contractor projects in the Persian Corridor and in April shifted priorities from the British line of communications in Iraq to the Soviet supply line in Iran, it was preparing to assume a larger share of the British Russian-aid burden in the Corridor in two of its three categories-construction and assembly. The third category, transport, including both port operation and inland clearance by road and rail, remained in British hands until 1943.

In construction the British increased the wharf facilities at Bandar Shahpur and extended the ISR south from Ahwaz to Khorramshahr, linking that port by July 1942 to the main line of the railway. To the Americans fell the construction of additional wharfage at Khorramshahr, a permanent all-weather two-lane highway with a parallel temporary road north to Andimeshk, and necessary housing, storage, and shop installations. Completion of the Anglo-American tasks would forge a chain of facilities each of whose three links, ports, highways, and railway, was essential to the smooth delivery of an increasing flow of supplies to the Soviet Union. Construction was the critical operation of 1942, for not only must facilities attempt to keep pace with incoming shipping throughout the year but they must also be sufficiently advanced to be usable by December, the time planned for the arrival of the U.S. Army service troops. In addition, the assembly of motor vehicles and aircraft, the second main task assumed by the Americans, depended upon adequate port facilities for the landing of cased vehicles and aircraft, as well as upon adequate highway and rail capacity for delivery overland to Soviet receiving points.

Making Bricks Without Straw

Because of his primary responsibility for construction, the Iranian District engineer was a key factor in the American task. He and his constructor, Folspen, were to share many headaches, chief among them


shortages in personnel, supplies, and equipment. An estimate prepared in Washington shortly before Pearl Harbor had prophesied that within a few months perhaps four or five thousand American civilians would go to Iran. While the entrance of the United States into the war greatly enlarged its potential responsibilities, resultant shipping stringencies reduced the manpower, supplies, and equipment that could be delivered to the field. Writing to General Wheeler in January from his New York headquarters, the district engineer, Colonel Lieber, estimated that given a force of 1,300 American civilians he could complete the engineer tasks in four hundred days.1 The ultimate failure to complete the task was in large part attributable to shortages. It was a case of making bricks without straw.

American methods of road building require a high degree of mechanized equipment such as tractors, bulldozers, mechanical shovels and graders, large capacity dump trucks, rock gravel plants, concrete mixers, and asphalt distributors. Without skilled operators this equipment is useless. The program assumed, therefore, provision of regular and adequate shipping to deliver the men, materials, and equipment. The War Department had promised a ship every two weeks for the Iranian projects and it was anticipated in the preliminary planning that all men and materials would reach the base before 1 May 1942. But for many crucial months after Pearl Harbor, while the Iranian projects languished, a combination of factors in the world-wide demand for American shipping made the Iranian Mission a stepchild. In consequence an adequate force of skilled American personnel did not reach the base until 1 September, and "sufficient and necessary construction equipment" did not reach the site until October.2  A Folspen report states that War Department approval of a traffic manager for shipments overseas was granted in December 1941 "too late to be of service in .the first and second shipments," and that "after Colonel Lieber left for Persia there was no one in the War Department who really had the job at heart and in hand."3 On 19 January 1942 Folspen wrote the Chief of Engineers that they had hired men on the basis of promised transportation which had been successively withdrawn until their work was being dislocated and their planning and procurement were reaching a point that "now prejudiced the progress of work in Iraq and


Iran." The Deputy Chief of Staff replied that every effort was being made to find shipping, but that "an investigation reveals that delays in providing water transportation have been occasioned by scarcity of ships."4

The serious handicap of personnel shortages is illustrated by a few figures. Against Colonel Lieber's estimate of 1,300 men required, only 900 altogether were shipped to the base during the life of the Folspen contract and of these the peak number at the site at any one time was 751, reached in October. Hundreds of men were hired only to wait in New York for weeks on stand-by pay and per diem until shipping was provided. One shipment of 432 men, at a cost of $135,000 in stand-by pay and per diem, embarked in March on the ill-fated voyage of the Agroileon and did not reach Iran until July and August. Their ship, badly overcrowded, developed engine trouble off Freetown, Sierra Leone. With food, water, and medical supplies running low, they lay there for repairs and then limped on to Capetown. From there, after ten weeks' layover-during which the cost of housing and feeding the constructor's men ran to $83,000 exclusive of their pay-the last of them were transshipped to the Persian Corridor, many of them, by arrival, hardly fit for work. Three weeks before 19 November, when Folspen was ordered to cease further hiring, there were 358 men awaiting shipment from the United States.5

To offset the lack of American men and machinery it was determined in February to employ native workmen up to an estimated total of ten thousand, to be used chiefly in highway construction. Instead of bulldozers and tractors, primitive manpower, equipped with little shovels, filled potholes and heaped embankments against floodtime inch by inch with earth poured from small woven baskets filled by hand. Native labor was obtained at first through British agencies, and this sometimes resulted in the Americans getting less desirable workers. Later when the Americans issued coupons entitling the laborers to rations of tea, bread or rice, and sugar, they got their pick of the market without upsetting established wage scales. Labor was hired directly and, for certain projects, through labor contractors according to a


system used by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and the British Army. Skilled native labor, especially in the north, was adaptable, eager, and quick to learn new methods. They were certified for security by the British. As the labor force was a variable, no exact census is available for 1942; but as of 15 October there were only about 2,000 native laborers on direct hire, increased to 3,500 by 1 November, while contract labor on a unit-price basis accounted for some 3,500 more.6

No less serious than personnel shortages was the lack of mechanized equipment and construction supplies. With 10,000 long tons of engineer materials at sea in December 1941, the district engineer in January requested shipping for 12,000 additional long tons of space and noted that 10,000 long tons of road construction and quarry equipment were being procured, all of which should be shipped by 15 April. Between 14 February and 2 July, seven ships discharged cargoes of about 8,150 long tons7 of construction supplies and equipment for engineer projects. Then came a disaster of the first magnitude when the eighth ship, the Kahuku, carrying 7,480 long tons of excavating, transportation, gravel, rock plant, and asphalt equipment was sunk on 15 June near Trinidad by enemy action. At one blow 60 percent of the required equipment for highway building was lost.8

In July Colonel Lieber reported to Colonel Shingler that the permanent road north from Ahwaz to Andimeshk, scheduled for completion by 1 September, was only 2 percent completed, and that with only about 20 percent of needed machinery on hand "the existing equipment situation in this district is critical." He noted the serious consequences, through the loss of the Kahuku, of having put all the eggs in one basket and urged that in future cargoes be divided among several ships in 500-ton lots.9

Intense efforts were made to obtain desperately needed items for use in the wharf and highway projects. A serious obstacle to wharf building was lack of piling. Under early high-level planning the British had


undertaken to supply all piling; but the capture of the Andaman Islands by the Japanese on 23 March 1942 cut off the British source of promised timber. Many months were to pass before the British were able to deliver teakwood piles. These presented serious problems in construction which were satisfactorily solved by the Folspen technicians by an ingenious method of splicing.

In July, following the loss of the Kahuku, Colonel Lieber dispatched a representative to India to obtain buses for transporting men from the road construction camps to their sites of work, and to locate sources of pipe, reinforcing and structural steel, I-beams, blasting dynamite, drills, rock crushers, road rollers, pumps, and dump trucks. The report of the survey indicated that co-ordination between the various Allied services in Iran and India was not yet highly developed. For example, in the face of need of pipe for American projects, the British "had recently moved about 75 miles of six inch pipe from Iran to India." It was reported that some fifty crates of trucks and passenger cars had been standing idle on the docks at Karachi for the past three months. Machinery and equipment were scarce and expensive. Diversion of defense materials from China was investigated, but "General Wheeler stated that it would be impossible to secure anything from this source without an O.K. from Chungking which he knew would not be granted."10 Diversion from India of goods formerly designated for Singapore was explored, in view of the loss of Singapore to the Japanese five months earlier; but the record does not reveal the results of the inquiry. There was a considerable reserve in India of construction equipment as well as of transport trucks, but it was held by the British and could not be obtained by the Americans for their Iranian projects except by the timeconsuming process of making application to Tenth Army at Baghdad which would in turn apply to New Delhi. Fortunately, back in the Corridor, certain materials were plentiful along the route of the highway. Near Ahwaz was a quarry of low-grade sandstone which provided stone for the base course of the road. Twenty miles north of Ahwaz alluvial gravel was obtainable in ample quantities; and .the Abadan refinery produced asphalt for top surf acing.

No catalogue of handicaps and discouragements that affected construction would be complete without mention of the climate. Although winter temperatures in the region from Ahwaz to the Gulf ranged from 35 to 70 F., with rain, the period between June and September rarely fell below 100 F. Average shade temperature at noon fluctuated be-


tween 120 and 140 F. Colonel Lieber has stated that in July and August at Ahwaz he would wait until the temperature dropped to 124, an hour before midnight, before going to the roof of his billet to sleep.11

The handicaps under which the constructor forces worked took less toll of wharf construction than of highway building. After preliminary reconnaissance, undertaken while the Iraqi projects were still in progress, and after the ships Texmar and Granville were moved from Umm Qasr to Khorramshahr in April 1942 to off-load their cargoes of dock lumber and equipment, personnel were assigned on 26 April to begin construction of two deepwater berths with the necessary rail and road approaches. A completion date of 1 August was set.12 Because the move from Iraq was still under way and engineer and Folspen headquarters were not permanently established at Ahwaz until June, the force was small. Khorramshahr at this time possessed only one small concrete wharf built in 1937 by European engineers. When the Americans arrived this wharf was covered by a large pile of coal and was not used for shipping. Its single crane has been described as "capable of lifting a ton or so when in working order."13 The port was resorted to only when Bandar Shahpur was crowded.14 The two additional berths undertaken by the Americans were designed, in conjunction with completion of the branch line of the ISR being built by the British, to raise Khorramshahr's capacity to 2,200 long tons per day from the early 1942 estimated capacity of between 200 and 700 long tons.15

Using materials brought from the United States, supplemented after midyear by British piling, the two new berths had been brought to 46 percent of completion by the end of June.16 The British Tenth Army then requested construction of a third berth, increasing this later by three more. By the end of the year Folspen had built five opendeck pile trestle wharves sixty feet wide and had brought the sixth berth to 25 percent of completion, providing the equivalent of 2,125


linear feet of deepwater berthing space. This represented 86 percent completion of the wharf construction task.17

Although the new wharf construction of 1942 provided for the greatly increased port capacity that was to follow the adoption of new methods of port operation in 1943, there was no great increase in tonnage discharge during the civilian construction period above the 700 long tons per day maximum estimated at the beginning of the year. Moreover, Soviet-bound goods tended by October to pile up in the Khorramshahr storage areas for lack of adequate inland clearance.

While the British struggled with their transport responsibilities, completion of the highway by the Americans increased in importance. Early planning for one thousand miles of highway construction, predicated upon adequate manpower and equipment, had contemplated that twelve construction units would operate out of four main road camps to be established in desert, plateau, and mountain areas. There were to be five quarry or gravel plant units.18 By midsummer, with only about four hundred Americans on the highway task, there were six road camps: Desert Camps 1 and 2 close to Khorramshahr and Ahwaz respectively; the Kharkeh River, Shaur River, and Sabz-i-Ab Camps between Ahwaz and Andimeshk; and the Quarry Camp, called Foleyabad, three miles west of Ahwaz.

Although handicapped by early uncertainties in planning, bridge construction turned in a better percentage-of-completion record than the highway program as a whole. During the planning period in late 1941 it was not known how many bridges would be required for a roadbuilding program not yet definitely located on the map. Indeed, Folspen were under the impression that the British would build all necessary bridges.19 The general British commitment to provide construction materials at the site was relied upon during the stage of procurement of


supplies. Arrived in the field, where they were ordered to build bridges from the start, the Americans had to hustle for materials. On the initiative of George Paaswell, Folspen chief engineer, who died of an illness contracted in Iran, steel girders from the recently demolished Sixth Avenue "E1" of New York were shipped to Iran where they helped to bridge the Shaur River south of Andimeshk. Some steel beams from an underground cut-and-cover trench warehouse erected at Umm Qasr were brought over to Iran and worked into another bridge. A 900-foot concrete viaduct was built across the Bala Rud south of Andimeshk. All told, Folspen constructed twenty bridges totaling fifty-seven spans for an over-all length of 1,717.98 feet. By the end of 1942 the bridge-building task was 90 percent completed, although on the Ahwaz-Andimeshk leg of the highway completion was only 40 percent of the goal.20

There is no general agreement in the mass of reports by different hands as to percentage of completion during 1942 of the permanent highway from Khorramshahr to Andimeshk. The temporary highway, which was a resurfaced stretch of desert track generally paralleling the railway with occasional forages across country, was completed all but for bitumen surfacing over the 172 miles of its length between Khorramshahr and Andimeshk. Folspen estimated the all-weather 24-foot paved highway between Ahwaz and Andimeshk, which received first priority, was 50 percent complete; estimates for the section between Khorramshahr and Ahwaz range from 28 to 48 percent.21

Delayed by manpower and equipment shortages, the highway program was also haunted by changes in specifications. In the early spring of 1943 the normal rains and spring floods inundated an area of 1,200 square miles through which the American-built highway route lay, washing out two of the twenty bridges so laboriously and ingeniously built the previous year, and eight miles of road. Half the remaining mileage of completed highway was badly undermined and the trucking of Russian-aid cargoes inland away from the ports seriously slowed.

Following this calamity recriminations sputtered on all sides, particularly bitter on the part of the U.S. Army which took over from the engineer constructor in 1943 and was pushing the vitally needed artery northward with service troops and native labor. Flooding along the route was a known phenomenon taken into consideration in the preliminary planning by the J. G. White Corporation when it was engaged


under the ordnance program. The country around Khorramshahr, with the exception of a narrow strip along the riverbanks, is barren, flat desert subject to floods during the rainy season between November and April when precipitation averages 6.57 inches. To the north in the region of Ahwaz, the average precipitation reaches 8.92 inches, with flooding increased by the clayey nature of the flat desert and by drainage from a group of soft sandstone ridges northwest of the town. In their planning, Folspen, aware of the J. G. White recommendations, proposed a 10-foot elevation at the southernmost end of the highway and, beyond the coastal region, a minimum elevation of 3.6 feet with matched openings and flood-control dykes where the highway paralleled the railway. On 28 August 1942 Colonel Lieber approved these specifications, but later, for speed's sake, left the southernmost section at 10 feet but reduced the rest to a minimum of 3 feet and a maximum of 4 feet above the floor of the desert. His successor reduced the elevation of the first four miles inland from the river to 8.5 feet; and in November the third Iranian District engineer eliminated the control dykes, reduced the number of culverts, and cut the elevation of the road above the desert floor to only a foot and a half for all but a 25-mile stretch on the north end and a 4-mile stretch on the south, and for a short stretch encompassing five small bridges. The serious damage to completed roadways inevitably followed in the ensuing rainy season.22

Less harried by adverse circumstances than the highway and port tasks, the erection of necessary buildings was completed in 1942. The list of accomplished objectives included the laying of 8,000 square feet of concrete paving for the motor vehicle assembly plant being erected by the British at Andimeshk, buildings at Ahwaz providing 69,500 square feet of floor space, and offices, carpenter shops, equipment repair shops, motor service facilities, refrigerator installations, and cool rooms for food at Ahwaz and elsewhere.23

Barge Assembly at Kuwait

Included in the lists of American tasks drawn up by Generals Wheeler and Wavell in November 1941 was the assembling, for delivery to the Inland Water Transport agency of the British Tenth Army, of knocked-down prefabricated barges shipped from the United States. Before the war there was considerable barging up the Tigris River to Baghdad and some on the Euphrates. On the Karun River in Iran,


barges had furnished the chief means, before the British extended the railway to Khorramshahr, of carrying cargoes inland to Ahwaz, although at times of low water it was an uncertain means. By request of the British authorities early in 1942 the Americans undertook to provide large numbers of new barges for the Inland Water Transport to meet increasing demands of river traffic controlled by that agency. The assignment went to the Iranian District engineer. On 5 March Colonel Lieber earmarked $100,000 for the cost of local assembly; on 13 April General Somervell notified Colonel Shingler that the first shipment of sixty-two disassembled barges which had been designed and procured in the United States would be shipped two days later; and Folspen, having been orally instructed to take charge of the project, notified their home office on 29 April that they were prepared to take over on 1 June.24

The site chosen for the barge assembly operation was the picturesque Arab town of Kuwait in the Sheikdom of Kuwait, a British protectorate sandwiched between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at the northwest corner of the Persian Gulf. Here an ancient hereditary guild of shipwrights, whose oral tradition claims that they once sent a party to the Mediterranean to instruct the Phoenicians, carried on a thriving native boatbuilding industry.25 An adequate force of native craftsmen and carpenters was available to work under the supervision of a small number of American civilians responsible to an area engineer delegated by the Iranian District engineer. On 21 May a conference was held at Kuwait attended by Colonel Lieber, Charles Sells for Folspen, the British political agent for Kuwait, a representative of the Kuwait Oil Company, representatives of the U.S. Navy and Maritime Commission, and the adaptable and co-operative chief of the native boatbuilders' guild, Haji Ahmed bin Salmon.26

Because the sheik objected to the erection of an assembly plant within the walls of his city, a location was chosen in the quarter called Shuwaikh on a level beach near the oil company's pier. Since made-


quate or contradictory information arrived from the War Department on the number of barges being shipped, their unit weights, measurements, and delivery schedules, it was decided that the local guild would assemble a sample barge under engineer pay and supervision. Cost and time records were to be kept as a guide to future compensation on a contract basis under conditions of quantity production. Arrangements were made for construction of necessary plant facilities or adaptation of existing buildings, for unloading the barges, and for improvising necessary machinery and housing for the Americans. At this stage the number of barges was indefinite, but it was later set tentatively at five hundred. On 22 June an engineer lieutenant 27 and twenty-two Folspen employees reached the site. By 2 July, with the aid of local labor, they had constructed enough plant to commence assembly operations.

Camp facilities were prepared by renovating, repairing, and adapting two stone buildings formerly used as a community isolation hospital. These provided space for dormitories, offices, recreation, kitchen, and mess hall. Frame wash and latrine buildings were erected along with two Quonset huts for additional sleeping quarters and a first-aid station. A small stone house was put up for the area engineer and the camp manager. Other construction provided 2,000 square feet of floor area in two warehouses, and about 16,000 square feet of other space, of which nearly 11,000 were for two planking sheds, and the rest divided among repair shop, power plant, paint shop, carpenter shop, fuel storage, huts for interpreters and guards, and sun and cutting shelters.

On 7 July assembly of the first barge was begun and was finished on 21 July. The next day quantity production was started on a twin assembly line, one barge being started each day until, by the end of October, 23 were simultaneously under assembly. It was a new technique for the Kuwaiti workmen, but they took to it expertly. The barges, measuring 60 by 15 by 5 feet, weighed about seven tons and had a capacity of sixty tons. They arrived at the site knocked down, and their bolted framework was assembled upside down, the bottoms planked, and the canvas sides glued between two layers of planking. They were then turned over by cranes using improvised turning rigs. After the barges were turned over, their deck planking and hardware were fitted and the finished barges were ready to be towed away by sailing ships or motor launches to the waiting Inland Water Transport at Basra or Khorramshahr. The United States furnished the British with twenty-eight Eureka motor launches for this purpose, and a crew of men to instruct in their operation.


The first shipment of barges to arrive for assembly consisted of 48 craft made by Higgins Industries, Inc., of New Orleans. These arrived complete with blueprints and planking schedules, and little difficulty was experienced in their assembly. Assembly of barges from other companies began before blueprints or planking schedules arrived and, as there were differences in specifications, considerable delay arose in the process of fitting. Forty barges furnished by another company showed a variation of a quarter of an inch in their planking, causing assembly trouble. The lumber proved more than normally susceptible to softening in water, making tight sealing of seams difficult.28

In the first month 20 barges were completed. By the end of 1942, 186 had been assembled of 213 received from the United States. The original American force of 22 men had become 18. After the termination of the Folspen contract, the district engineer continued to operate the Kuwait plant using about 185 native carpenters and about 85 unskilled laborers. With the launching of the 368th barge on 23 June 1943, the work was completed. The project was terminated on 28 June. Ten incompleted barges were sent to Khorramshahr and turned over to the Russians.29

Administrative Problems

Set down in a strange land, the constructor force found other problems in addition to those encountered in building wharves and roads and assembling knocked-down barges. Methods of local procurement had to be devised and carried out. Arrangements had to be tactfully agreed upon with local sheiks, khans, and tribal leaders. Security for the American operations and personnel had to be contrived in an area where the westerners' business was not always welcomed or understood. And there were problems connected with the health, status, and discipline of the American civilian employees.

Responsibility for procurement under the engineer contract belonged to the contracting officer, the North Atlantic Division engineer, New York, who delegated all field responsibility and authority to the Iranian District engineer, through whose finance officer all of Folspen's field expenses, including purchases of materials and supplies, building rentals, field payrolls less allotments, field contracts, and miscellaneous


accounts were met.30 Procurement was not, for the American command, what it is for the housewife, who buys a pound of sugar at her neighborhood grocery. Procurement had to fit into agreed Anglo-American procedures which were in turn conditioned by the local economy. Then there were the stipulations about procurement and payments contained in the President's Middle East Directive, and, when it came to the final transaction, there were complications of foreign exchange.

The general theory was that local goods, services, accommodations, and rentals would be supplied in all possible cases by the British, and that necessary American local procurement would be conducted through existing British agencies and within price and wage categories determined by the British, so as to avoid competitive bidding and the upsetting of established practices. But Colonel Lieber soon noted objections to the literal implementation of the theory when, in practice, American requisitions upon the British for needed items might, in some cases, have to be referred to Baghdad, or where, in practice, economies of time and effort could be achieved by direct American procurement and settlement of local debts.

There was also the question of accounting for what was furnished by the British and efforts were made in Washington to define methods and procedures. The principle of reverse lend-lease was developed, sometimes called reciprocal aid, under which it was proposed to regularize aid furnished the United States by beneficiaries of lend-lease and to account for that aid. The Adjutant General issued instructions in June that "the services, supplies, equipment, or facilities will be inventoried, assessed as to value, and receipted for by the receiving unit. Agreement on estimated values will be sought with responsible representatives of the foreign government concerned. A record of dollar value of services . . . will be maintained in order that the government concerned may receive appropriate credit against his account on the lend-lease books." Items covered by American requisitions upon British Army authorities in Iraq and Iran were to be valued when possible in sterling. The principle of reverse lend-lease was officially put to work in the Persian Corridor on 1 August, but the arrangements were modified in the important matter of pricing and record keeping by an Anglo-American agreement published at British headquarters, Cairo, in September. By this time there were small but steady accretions of American military strength in the area, and the financial arrangements applied increasingly to transactions between British and American military forces. The basic principle of the Middle


East financial agreement, and in particular of those portions of it which applied in the Persian Corridor, was the abandonment of pricing. "The guiding principle to be followed in the case of all issues . . . as between the United States Forces and the British Army, and cash payments by the British Army on behalf of the United States Forces . . . is that no financial adjustment will be made. It will be necessary, however, to maintain a record of the transactions on simple lines . . . ." The principle was reciprocally applied. In greater detail, Anglo-American agreed practice in the Persian Corridor was

. . . that any facilities or services requisitioned or requested by the United States Government in connection with the Aid-to-Russia program . . . would be furnished by or through the British, rent free or without charge; and further, the United States forces . . . likewise reciprocated in furnishing facilities constructed by the United States, rent free, to Allied Forces where such facilities were not required by the United States during the period in question.31

The policy was not followed in other commands or theaters. While its adoption facilitated the peculiarly complex problems of doing business in the Persian Corridor, it produced numerous financial riddles to be solved only by the final Anglo-American lend-lease settlement of 1948.32

As American Army strength increased in 1942 it was determined that in so far as possible American personnel would receive supplies from American sources. Bulk issue of basic ration components was drawn from British sources and reinforced by importation or local purchase. A central purchasing agency was created in each area of the American command for the co-ordinated procurement of supplies and the employment of labor. In view of the severe inflation and near-famine conditions which had developed in Iran by late 1942, the effect of heavy purchases upon local markets called for such controls as this


agency could exercise. From February through November 1942, such foods as mutton, bread, rice, and flour were obtained locally through the British. In December the U.S. Army began purchasing meats locally. To help mitigate the conditions which produced local bread riots, the American command sold wheat or rice, sugar, and tea at legal prices and in rationed quantities to its native laborers. This practice increased the attractiveness of employment by the Americans, whom their effort to protect the native workmen from the exploitation of millers, bakers, native labor foremen, and other elements in the local society that preyed upon the weak-hired native bakers and ovens and went into the baking business. The improved strength, efficiency, and morale of the native working force benefited the American war projects.33

Other local arrangements had to be made besides the financial to provide needed water and rail transport, rights of way, and clearances of various sorts. In making contacts of this kind the Iranian District engineer had the advice of four members of his staff who were familiar, through prewar experience, with the country, the languages, and local tribes and customs.34 Iran, in spite of the centralization imposed under Reza Shah, possesses an ancient tradition of local and tribal autonomy. Great care was taken not to infringe local rights in obtaining such materials as earth for mud bricks and gravel and rock for construction. There is record, for example, of a conference at Ahwaz in May 1942 with His Excellency, the Governor of Khuzistan Province, at which Colonel Lieber inquired what arrangements were necessary in regard to such matters, including provision for damage which might be caused property holders. The governor stated that there would be no question about local materials and that he did not believe there would be any damage claims. Colonel Lieber offered to present a written plan of operations, but the governor replied most positively that while he desired to know the plan of operations, he requested that information be given orally and informally, inasmuch as written record would require reference to Tehran with resultant delay.35


Security of American supplies and operations in southwestern Iran was noticeably enhanced by adoption of a policy of mutual trust rather than of force. After consultation with Iranian and British authorities, friendly negotiations were carried on by Lt. Col. H. G. Van Vlack and Arthur W. DuBois, of the Iranian Engineer District, with all important Arab sheiks and Lur khans in the area of operations in the province of Khuzistan. There, tribal chiefs who ruled thousands of followers assumed responsibility for enforcing upon the tribes respect for the security of American personnel employed on highway construction through lonely areas, and for the safety of American camps, stockpiles, and equipment. These chiefs supplied needed local labor, furnished guards and guides, and provided local supplies and incidental services. In return for their assistance the chiefs were paid a monthly honorarium of about thirty dollars, a sum wholly nominal to sheiks and khans already rich enough, but accepted by them proudly as a token of the confidence in which the foreigners held them.

Had the Americans chosen to assume toward the tribesmen an attitude of suspicion and hostility, the American projects in 1942, when British security forces were unequal to patrolling the territory, would have been helpless to withstand the incursions and raids that were customary, especially in the remoter regions. As it was, the policy of co-operating with self-respecting tribesmen, on the assumption that aims were held in common, limited petty pilfering to a minimum in spite of economic conditions which, as Mr. DuBois' report states, "brought the native population to extreme poverty and near starvation." According to the same report, the American alliance with the tribes established and maintained tranquillity in the area of operations, one traditionally harried by tribal raids. Furthermore, "a friendly hinterland was created to provide listening posts and a barrier to enemy activity," while the free offers of service by many tribal chieftains ranged them on the Allied side at a time when German agents were still operating in other sections of Iran. Reliance on the pledged word of the tribal leaders justified itself in practice. After considerable negotiation with the British, who were convinced of the effectiveness of American methods, DuBois obtained from them rifles and ammunition which he turned over on loan to the chiefs for distribution among their tribesmen. Every rifle was returned despite the fact that good weapons were scarce and the tribesmen cherished firearms above all else.36


In the north, where no such arrangements prevailed, the presence of unfriendly tribes and bandits persuaded a planning group in Washington not to extend American civilian contractor highway operations northward. The tribal arrangements were not continued after full militarization of the American projects was achieved in 1943. In view of the American experience with the tribes in southwest Iran in 1942, it is interesting to note a report that in 1949 the government of Iran took steps to enlist the tribes as a part of the country's internal defense system.37

Despite the severity of the climate the health of the Folspen employees held up well-no small part of the credit going to the medical plans, preparations, and skill of Colonel Van Vlack. Between 4 February and 26 July 1942, 6.8 percent of total man-days worked were lost through illness; between 4 February and 1 December, however, the loss of time had averagd down to 2.7 percent of man-days worked. There were three deaths in line of duty.38

Discipline among the American civilians employed on engineer tasks was at no time a major problem. Of the nine hundred men shipped to the base, only fifty-five were discharged for cause during the life of the contract. There were some among them who had been hastily selected in the United States. The arrival in July and August of the large group of more than four hundred men who had experienced the demoralizing effects of the voyage on the Agzwileon ushered in a brief period in September and October marked by shirking, drunkenness, and disorder, centered at Ahwaz. That this was confined to a minority of malcontents is attested not only by the small total of discharges for cause, but by the fact that peak construction activity was reached during those same months, the first in which adequate manpower and equipment were available. The bad behavior of the few does not reflect upon the achievement of the majority. It is recorded to illustrate how the few were dealt with by the military. As Colonel Lieber has written, "The loneliness and heat rapidly separated the men from the boys."39

On 10 September Colonel Shingler informed General Maxwell that some Folspen men were refusing to work in hope of being sent home.


War work was thereby being delayed. Colonel Lieber had recommended that a Selective Service board be established to induct a few men, and Colonel Shingler concurred "that such action on a few malcontents is necessary." Inasmuch as civilians accompanying or serving the Army are subject to military law, General Maxwell replied that "against all civilians whose refusal to work delays war work, you are directed to institute proceedings under the 64th and 96th Articles of War." The first of these articles concerns assaulting a superior officer or disobeying his command, and carries a maximum death penalty. The second covers general and miscellaneous acts to the prejudice of good order. The Army therefore invoked the Articles of War, assembled the men, and read the articles to them. Three civilians were court-martialed and locked up. The British authorities had also complained that drunkenness and disorderly conduct were rather prevalent and were notified in reply that the American civilians, who had no American military police to look after them, "have been informed that they are subject to the authority of British MP's on the streets and in public places in Ahwaz." On 10 October Colonel Shingler requested the co-operation of Folspen leaders, and ordered the commanding officer of the Central District, PGSC, at Ahwaz to see that steps were taken to control drunkenness and brawling, to establish a curfew, and to inform all concerned that out-of-bounds zones would be established and culprits tried by American military courts. Matters promptly quieted down, and the Folspen foreign manager informed his home office on 15 October that "discharges have dropped so as to be almost negligible." He attributed improved conduct to the recent courts-martial, and to the fact that "we have reached the end of the rotten apples in the barrel . . . . There is also the added factor that the job is going ahead and interest in the work is growing daily." 40

The Contract Terminated

In problems and uncertainties the last months of the year of confusion were no exception to their predecessors. In the period from September to the end of the year the Persian Gulf Service Command was reorganized to discharge the new mission, assigned it by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, to assume direct responsibility for the delivery of war materiel to the USSR. In the same period the War Department's policy


of militarizing overseas contract activities was applied to the Iranian District engineer's constructor, Folspen. Militarization was a policy determined long in advance of the change in the status of the American command in the Persian Corridor. But militarization in the Corridor was hastened by the rapid development of the new organization under General Connolly whose advance personnel reached the area in October, and whose first shipment of more than five thousand service troops went ashore at Khorramshahr on 11 and 12 December.41 The termination of the engineer construction contract and plans to carry on construction by military instead of civilian personnel were distinct from the reception, accommodation, and employment of the service organization sent to Iran under the directive of the Combined Chiefs. It should be borne in mind, therefore, that the gradual increase of military personnel which raised military strength from 190 in July to over 400 at the end of October was a reinforcement of the Iranian Mission and its successors, the Iran-Iraq Service Command and the Persian Gulf Service Command, designed only to further their tasks in construction, assembly, and advice and assistance to the British in movement of cargoes to Soviet receiving points. In the final months of 1942, militarization of construction work and the establishment of General Connolly's command coincided in time; but almost to the end of the year they remained distinct but complementary activities. This accounts in part for uncertainties which accompanied termination of the Folspen contract.

This step was implicit in the War Department's policy decision of February 1942; but it did not become practicable until November. Even then some weeks were required to reconcile the views of Washington, Cairo, and Basra as to when and how it was to be accomplished.42 On 18 November Services of Supply headquarters at Washington made to General Maxwell, Commanding General, SOS, USAFIME, alternative proposals: to terminate the Folspen contract, transferring the civilian personnel to Army payroll to carry on construction activities; or


to militarize construction completely, and return to the United States any civilians not inducted. Maxwell replied on 27 November that militarizing by enlisting the civilians in the Army was impracticable inasmuch as a census just conducted revealed that only a few of the men would enlist and that under the draft laws and labor agreements their entry into military service was a voluntary matter. He therefore suggested placing under direct employment of SOS, USAFIME, all suitable and willing civilians then employed by Folspen, to be followed by a progressive discontinuance of construction by this working force until it had been supplanted by service troops who would complete both scheduled and new construction projects.

This plan was communicated to Headquarters, PGSC, on 3 December with a proposal that the progressive militarization of construction work be carried out by a general construction battalion of one thousand Corps of Engineers officers and men to be organized in the United States and shipped to Iran. In the opinion of Col. Theodore M. Osborne, Director of Construction, PGSC, the work could be accomplished by available civilian and military personnel before such an outfit could be trained and shipped to the site. He also pointed out in a letter to General Connolly that it was considered desirable to divorce the Iranian Engineer District from the Engineer Department and the North Atlantic Engineer Division at the earliest practicable date, transferring its activities to the jurisdiction of the PGSC under SOS, USAFIME. This suggestion indicates that consideration was being given in the field to ending the parallel responsibilities of the district engineer and the commanding general, and to finding a better means of centering control and authority in construction matters. Colonel Osborne proposed establishment in Washington of a section at SOS headquarters to take over the administrative functions being handled by the Folspen New York office; but this problem was to be handled otherwise. General Maxwell suggested, along the same lines, that personnel be transferred from the Folspen New York and overseas staffs and from the North Atlantic Division to the port of embarkation to carry on procurement and shipment functions after termination of the contract; but on 25 December General Somervell disapproved. Washington, Cairo, and Basra, though considering different means, were pursuing the same end: to continue construction operations according to the general pattern of 1942 rather than as an integral part of the new American responsibilities which were primarily concerned with transport.

Meanwhile, on 12 December, General Connolly notified General Maxwell that he was ready to take over the Folspen tasks; but General


Maxwell cautioned him that the contract could not be canceled without approval from Washington, and then only by the North Atlantic Division engineer in New York. Word that all necessary steps had been taken was dispatched to General Connolly from Cairo on 30 December. The War Department and the Corps of Engineers had decided to terminate those portions of the Folspen contract that dealt with construction and engineering work, but to leave in effect Folspen's responsibility for administration of matters relating to personnel supply and service.

The Folspen organization both at home and in the field was seriously affected by the uncertainties inherent in the Army's efforts to determine when and how to wield the ax. Personnel recruitment in the United States continued up to 19 November, when it was stopped. It was obvious that an adequate supply of trained technicians would be required in the field for some time to come regardless of what details were agreed upon for termination and progressive militarization. Other factors, too, contributed to uncertainty in the field and to a deterioration in relations of the constructor with the district engineers. Perhaps not the least of these was the departure of Colonel Lieber for Washington on 13 September to take part in consultations, at the office of the Chief of Engineers and in SOS, concerned with the planning and organization of the new regime to be headed by General Connolly. After Colonel Lieber four district engineers served in succession before their office was abolished.43

The lack of continuity in the office of District Engineer was reflected in a variety of ways, all of which tended to interfere with the performance of its. work by the constructor. Folspen was called upon to furnish work, men, and materials outside the scope of the directives. The morale of Folspen employees was not improved as Army officers increasingly undertook direct personal supervision of work instead of issuing orders and directives through constituted civilian supervisors. There were many breaches of the established relationship between the engineer and his constructor: Folspen men were called upon to unload ships whose cargoes were not related to their projects; to handle, sort, transport, and store materials, supplies, and equipment pertaining to other organizations; to service, repair, and maintain such equipment; to transport personnel not connected with the constructor's work; to furnish engineering, designing, surveying, and blueprinting services to organizations other than the engineer's; to provide personnel, equipment, and materials for construction work other than that falling within


the engineer contract and directives; to surrender materials, supplies, equipment, and personnel to other organizations; and, in connection with the arrival of the five thousand U.S. service troops at Khorramshahr, to supply military personnel-often hundreds of men at a timewith food, housing, transportation, and equipment, at all hours, and with no advance notice.44 Fearful that noncompliance or even determined protest would bring cancellation of their contract, Folspen attempted to co-operate until .the work to which they were committed by contract was seriously obstructed.45 Then, on 12 December, after the last of the troops had landed, Charles H. Sells wrote a letter to the district engineer. He stated that persistent but unconfirmed rumors of the termination of the contract reaching the employees had shattered morale and made continued orderly planning and prosecution of the work very difficult. He added:

Consistent and continuing demands are made upon our warehouse by Army officers for supplies and materials entrusted to our custody pursuant to our contract, and orders and directions given by your officers to our workmen and foremen. Under the conditions, therefore, you are requested to immediately advise the Constructor . . . to the end that confusion may be eliminated, an orderly and efficient plan of future operations established, and the present violations of contract provisions eliminated.46

On 15 December Lt. Col. R. G. McGlone, district engineer, replied that the contract would be terminated on 1 January or as soon as possible thereafter. Individual personnel contracts would be transferred to the United States and the men placed under the direct orders of the district engineer. On 31 December Sells requested the engineer to speed the day inasmuch as the increasing extent to which Army officers were making extracontractual demands had drastically cut production below the highs of September-October. Formal termination followed by letter to Folspen dated 1 January 1943, relieving them "of all responsibility for construction and engineering work in this command," adding, "It has been agreed by your home office to continue in force those sections of the subject contract relating to personnel supply and service." On that date all equipment and materials in the custody of Folspen were turned over to the United States, and the district engineer took over direction of some seven hundred civilians and their projects.47

On 31 December the district engineer issued instructions so detailed


as to list the assignment of named individual truck drivers to specified road camps. Certain newly arrived troop units were moved into sections of the incomplete Khorramshahr-Andimeshk temporary highway, whose completion depended on ability to move supplies of bitumen from Abadan. An effort was made to dispose available civilian and troop workers in such a way as to keep plant and equipment in continuous operation. A completion date of 15 February was set for the temporary road.48

In view of the difficulties which had dogged the construction program from its inception in 1941 to termination of the operational features of the Folspen contract at the end of 1942, it is noteworthy that final costs and the contractor's fee, estimated upon the basis of cost plus a fixed fee, fell well within original estimates. In 1941, when planning was necessarily highly tentative because tasks were as yet undetermined in detail, construction costs had been estimated at $25,000,000, for a fee of $1,250,000. Construction completed by Folspen amounted to $22,563,093, for a fee of $884,457.49 To recapitulate the work done: Folspen had built five wharf berths at Khorramshahr and one fourth of a sixth berth. Twenty bridges, constituting 90 percent of projected bridge construction, were finished. The temporary highway between Khorramshahr and Andimeshk was ready except for bitumen surfacing. The permanent highway averaged less than 50 percent of completion. All buildings undertaken had been erected; and 186 barges assembled at Kuwait. With the termination of the Folspen contract, remaining construction was up to the Army.



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