New Job, New Tools: The SOS


The Midsummer Crisis, 1942

The radical change in American responsibilities in the Persian Corridor which was decided upon in September 1942 was a change of method and pace, not of direction. The direction continued, as before, toward the objective of aiding the British in their efforts in the area, particularly their efforts to deliver supplies to the Soviet Union. But the old method of doing this-with the American task primarily in construction and in the operation of assembly plants, while the British, in addition to their other obligations, controlled and operated transport facilities-was superseded by the new American job. Henceforth, to speed the movement of supplies to the USSR, the primary American concern was to be in transport.

Although the accelerating imbalance between tonnages arriving at Persian Gulf ports and tonnages carried inland to Soviet receiving points was a vital factor in determining the change of method and pace, the decision to change was not a local one. It was not even a purely War Department decision. By midsummer of 1942 three broad lines of policy and action in the conduct of the war intersected to mark a point of crisis. The solution proposed to meet that crisis, in so far as Persian Corridor operations were concerned, was the so-called SOS Plan, giving the United States greatly increased responsibilities in the aid-to-Russia program. Dictated first by the military situation in the


Middle East, second by considerations of high policy toward the Soviet Union, and third by the crisis in Persian Corridor logistics, the decision was taken by the Combined Chiefs of Staff in accordance with principles agreed upon between the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States. In listing the three factors in the decision no precedence is implied, for they were closely interrelated and not distinct phenomena. The lines of the war, of which these were but three, crossed and recrossed, tangled and knotted. These three happened to culminate in crisis at approximately the same time.

One of the factors influencing the American decision that summer to strengthen Iran was the ominous military situation in the Middle East at midyear: the surge of Axis forces toward critical objectives, from the west through Egypt and from the north around the Black Sea. It had other repercussions upon Persian Corridor planning; for simultaneously with the prospect that Axis forces would overrun the area, seize the oil of Iraq and Iran, and cut off the Russian supply line, the success of Axis submarines and aircraft in the Arctic was reducing almost to impotence the effort to supply Russia by the Murmansk route. With both northern and southern supply routes threatened with extinction, and with the threatened loss of the Middle East, the question of the degree to which Russian supply routes were to be defended became entangled with the question of military defense of the Middle East; and this had to be balanced against global policy. In the process, old plans and policies gave way to new.

In January the Combined Chiefs of Staff accepted a tentative plan for an Allied invasion of northwest Africa known as GYMNAST, but this plan was shelved in March. In April Operation BOLERO was conceived for the assembly or build-up in England of American forces for an ultimate cross-Channel attack. During the spring General Marshall and Harry Hopkins had reached tentative agreement in London with the British on plans for SLEDGEHAMMER, a cross-Channel landing and diversion operation for 1942, and a full-scale cross-Channel operation for 1943, called ROUNDUP. It was soon felt in the United States, however, that the British preferred postponing an assault upon the Continent until after 1942, and that they were interested in GYMNAST, whose adoption would render difficult any adequate build-up for a cross-Channel attack timed for the spring of 1943. Prime Minister Churchill therefore went to Hyde Park late in June for discussions which moved on to the White House. There, on Sunday morning, 21 June, President Roosevelt handed Churchill a slip of paper bearing news of the fall of Tobruk. The crisis thus precipitated by the retreat of the British to Egypt and the expectation of a junction of Germans and Japanese in


the Indian Ocean, strengthened Churchill's argument to postpone Channel plans in favor of GYMNAST. Churchill having returned a few days later to London, Roosevelt went back to Hyde Park whence he dispatched a telegram on 30 June to General Marshall on the increasingly serious situation in the Middle East. Marshall's replies of 30 June and 2 July were straightforwardly pessimistic.1

Axis success in Egypt and southern Russia was paralleled by the terrific losses inflicted by German submarines, surface craft, and aircraft upon Allied shipping on the perilous route to Murmansk. Thanks to the help the perpetual daylight in Arctic waters afforded Axis sea hunters during April, May, and June, of 522,000 tons which left United States ports, only 300,000 tons got through to Murmansk. From London on 13 July Averell Harriman, in a message to Hopkins, directly related the Murmansk sea toll to the need to step up shipments via the Persian Gulf route. He recommended that all planes and trucks beyond the capacity of the Alaska-Siberia route to the USSR be shipped to the Persian Gulf and that, to take care of this additional tonnage, the Iranian State Railway be operated by the United States. A memorandum of two days later from General Marshall and Admiral Ernest J. King for Hopkins agreed that convoys to the Persian Gulf would suffer less damage than those to Murmansk and indicated that steps were being taken to increase the tonnage to the Gulf and to develop increased inland clearance capacity. At the same time Churchill gave Roosevelt his opinion that sinkings in .the Atlantic in the preceding seven days were at a rate unexampled in this war or the last. On the Murmansk route twenty-two out of thirty-three ships in a recent convoy had been sunk. The next day the Prime Minister sent the President a copy of a cable which he proposed to send to Stalin, reviewing the difficulties besetting the north Russia route and suggesting the suspension of further convoys during the rest of the summer. The President by cable of the same date (15 July) reluctantly approved the proposal and, connecting Murmansk and the Persian Gulf route, as Harriman had done, asked Churchill to consider whether American railroad men should run the line from the Gulf north to help take care of the new tonnage going to the Gulf instead of to Murmansk. Churchill's reaction was instantly favorable and he sent off to Harry Hopkins a draft acceptance of the railway proposal with certain important strings attached to it. Churchill's formal acceptance of the American offer followed after a month, as will appear later in the narrative. Whether


or not Hopkins discussed the Churchill draft with the President it is impossible to judge from available documents.2

At all events, by 15 July four questions of vital policy, each of which would affect future action in the Persian Corridor, demanded answers. First was the defense of the disintegrating military position in Egypt and the approaches to the Caucasus. Second was the virtual elimination of the Murmansk supply route to Russia. Third was the need to build up the Persian Gulf route as an alternative to Murmansk. And fourth, most important of all in its long-range implications, was the choice between continuing plans for a cross-Channel invasion in 1942 and reviving plans for an invasion of North Africa. Postponement of an assault upon the Continent of Europe, a second-front operation urgently desired by the Russians to offset German pressure on the Eastern Front, would, in conjunction with the drastic reduction of tonnages reaching the USSR via Murmansk, cause a most unfavorable impression among the Russians. Yet the situation in Egypt provided strong argument for an operation in Morocco and Algeria. The crux of the problem, then, was how to maintain a balance between the urgent needs of the British and of the Russians.

At the White House on the night of 15 July, Roosevelt, who had decided to send Hopkins, Marshall, and King to London to arrange definitive strategy for the rest of the year, told Hopkins that at London a determined effort should be made to obtain agreement that, if SLEDGEHAMMER could not be mounted in 1942, then another theater must be chosen "where our ground and sea forces can operate against the German ground forces in 1942."3 Two theaters suggested themselves, North Africa and the Middle East, and in either one operations would entail a substantial reduction in BOLERO, and consequent disappointment of Soviet hopes for an early invasion across the English Channel.

The next day Hopkins, Marshall, and King left for London taking with them a detailed memorandum of Presidential instruction of which the eighth section dealt in nine subsections with the problems of the


Middle East. Summarizing the "effect of losing the Middle East," the memorandum stated:

"You will determine the best methods of holding the Middle East. These methods include definitely either or both of the following

"(a) Sending aid [air?] and ground forces to the Persian Gulf, to Syria and to Egypt.

"(b) A new operation in Morocco and Algiers intended to drive in against the backdoor of Rommel's armies . . . "4

The London talks, having moved toward the second of Roosevelt's proposed courses, took up GYMNAST and prepared it for action. Renamed TORCH at a meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff on 25 July, it was. subsequently carried out in the North African landings the following November.5 Roosevelt's approval in July of the revival of GYMNAST was accompanied by his insistence that a European operation would not necessarily be postponed beyond 1943.

His first proposal, to send troops to the Persian Gulf, Syria, and Egypt, met a different fate from his second. Sending troops was not a new proposal. On 25 March Roosevelt had asked the joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of War their views on the dispatch of American combat troops to northwest Africa, Libya, and Syria, and had been informed by General Marshall on 2 April that it was believed American strength should be directed toward a cross-Channel assault and not toward the Mediterranean.6 The July decision reversed that policy; but while it offered countermeasures of great potential effectiveness in the Mediterranean and Atlantic areas, it supplied no immediate solution to the problem of relieving German pressure against the Soviet Union. As unpublished papers reveal,7 during July and August Roosevelt explored the possibility of an American air force to operate with the Russians in the Caucasus. He was encouraged in his design by Churchill's word that Stalin had once said he would welcome such a force; and Churchill, partly as a means of luring Turkey into the war on the Allied side, was eager to send Allied forces to the Soviet front. The Russians, however, refused the offer of air aid in the Caucasus, tentatively in August, then, as the battle of Stalingrad began, flatly in October.8


There was only one possible means left of directly strengthening the Soviet hand in 1942, and that was to increase shipping to the Persian Gulf. This the Combined Chiefs of Staff authorized in August. New shipping priorities gave Russian-aid supplies going by way of the Persian Gulf the same general priorities as TORCH, while BOLERO and the Murmansk route dropped to lower positions in the scale.9

Ways and Means

The rearrangement of shipping priorities marked a last step in the process of developing and promulgating the policy of increasing aid to Russia via the Persian Corridor. Still to come was planning, the equation merging policy with performance. Up to the crisis of midsummer 1942 there had been no dearth of planning, first, for the initiation of Corridor tasks, and second, for means to prevent the choking of the supply pipeline. In the first case, the critical operation entrusted to the Americans was construction of such installations as docks, warehouses, and highways. In the second, the most troublesome phenomenon of the year was the problem of inland clearance. Successful movement required the provision of adequate ports, the establishment of efficient methods of ship discharge, cargo storage, and transfer to trucks and railway, the provision of overland highway routes, and the organization of trucking and railway services to carry the goods north as fast as they were landed. By midyear none of these goals had been attained. The threat of backlogs of Soviet-destined goods began to become an unmanageable reality. The new planning to take care of the increased load decreed by the July decisions therefore overtook and absorbed the improvisations by which the British and their American auxiliaries had been attempting hitherto to keep up with the job.

The Harriman suggestion in July that American operation of the railway would improve inland clearance revived talk along that line which ran back as far as Lord Beaverbrook's proposal of November 1941. In May 1942 General Somervell urged establishment of an American trucking organization as a means of ameliorating a worsening transport situation. Concern over inefficient port operations developed early in Washington and was not lessened by the January observations of William C. Bullitt, personal representative of the President. Washington was unsparing in its pressure on the Iranian Mission to improve cargo handling at the ports, but it is difficult to see how Washington expected that mission, whose transport activities were


advisory only, to bring about effective changes in methods. There is at least one early British suggestion that the Americans "control" the ports of Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur, and that, to bring about better co-ordination, there should be American representation on British movements control committees and on the War Transport Executive Committee which was responsible to London. Though some representation was subsequently arranged, the Americans had no power to act either through the committees upon which they sat or through their own military mission; and the committees upon which they sat derived from sources of distinct authority as far apart as London and Basra.10

Although at midyear new British dock construction was behind schedule, theoretical port capacity at Basra had been considerably increased above prewar level; but actual discharge there fell below the previous year's average. Nevertheless, Basra was at the time the most active Persian Gulf port; but less than a quarter of its cargo discharge was destined for the USSR. The rest was for the British Tenth Army.11 In Washington, Harry Hopkins received analyses of the Basra problem and in May a suggestion from General Burns, formerly assistant to Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., of lend-lease and then executive officer of the Munitions Assignments Board, Combined Chiefs of Staff, that a three-man survey group tackle Persian Gulf problems in co-operation with the other nations concerned. In June Burns suggested to Hopkins that Burns assistant, General Sidney Spalding, head a group to go to Iraq and Iran to determine means of improving .the situation.12 Other suggestions sent in from the field sought to centralize authority and responsibility for port operations. One, from the War Shipping Administration's agent at Basra, requested increased American authority over local port agents when unloading American ships.13 Another, from the U.S. naval observer at Basra, noting that no agency was solely responsible for deliveries to the USSR, recommended establishment of an Anglo-American board at Basra to function in this capacity only, and suggested as a suitable head Bosworth Monck, a Basra representative of the Ministry of War Transport, London, who had previously


developed the port of Murmansk and who was thoroughly familiar with Russian needs.14

Most of these suggestions aimed at tightening administrative controls in order to increase performance; but there was the equally serious problem of the lag in construction. Without dock and highway facilities movement on a large scale was impossible. Both British and American dock construction at Basra, Bandar Shahpur, and Khorramshahr was far behind schedule at the middle of 1942, as was the American highway between Khorramshahr and Andimeshk. In fact, because of the shift in priorities and the move of the American constructor from Iraq to Iran, completed only in June, the American projects for Iran were barely begun. No adequate force of skilled Americans reached the site of work until September, and no sufficient quantity of construction equipment, especially for highway building, until October. War Department plans to militarize and expand the activities carried on under civilian contract owed their inception as much to the unsatisfactory progress of construction as to the unsuitability of maintaining civilians in a theater of war. But at midyear these plans were still in the talking stage.

The events of June and July, culminating in the high-level decisions affecting Persian Corridor operations, launched a period of intense activity.15 General Sidney Spalding was sent from Washington; Prime


Minister Churchill himself went from London to Cairo and Tehran, as did Averell Harriman. Harriman and General Maxwell went to Moscow to consult Stalin on Soviet needs, and Harriman, after stopping off in Cairo on the way back to report to Churchill, proceeded to Washington. General Faymonville came down from Moscow. The signals offices at Cairo, Basra, Baghdad, and Tehran dispatched thousands of words of estimates, surveys, and recommendations. And all the while time was passing, and there was no time to lose.

When General Spalding reached Basra in the last days of July it was known that some twenty-eight ships, most of them from the United States, bearing 125,000 long tons of cargo for the USSR were scheduled to reach Persian Gulf ports beginning in October; and that some 7,000 additional tons from India, East Africa, and elsewhere were also coming. The immediate problem, therefore, was to devise measures for clearing 132,000 long tons of incoming Russian-aid materiel. In addition was the even graver problem of meeting a new target. By the July decisions, 200,000 long tons a month of Russian-aid deliveries was the new goal. It was double the figure originally set and at midyear so hopelessly far from attainment. In all of 1942, including the latter months when Soviet deliveries considerably bettered the record of the early months, the total lift for the USSR through the Persian Corridor attained only about 350,000 long tons. The new target therefore set a goal almost seven times as great as that actually achieved in all 1942; and it was set when the prospects for its accomplishment were at their dimmest. It was two and one third times ,the estimated August inland clearance capacity. It disposed of any thought of surrendering to the crisis by reducing Soviet tonnages, for it affirmed that, no matter what the difficulties, Russian aid would be increased.16 With the sights drastically raised, it was up to the planners to devise ways and means to meet the new goals.

The preparation of recommendations for handling the cargoes soon expected and those to come in the new program required stocktaking of three sorts. First, present methods had to be reviewed, their deficiencies analyzed, and their improvement determined. Second, present and projected facilities had to be surveyed: docks and dock equipment, railway rolling stock, highway routes, labor, and construction equipment. On the basis of data developed from these two kinds of inquiry, the third step, preparation of capacity estimates for port discharge and


inland clearance, could be taken. Many individuals and agencies shared in the arduous business of fact finding. Lt. Comdr. Derwood W. Lockard's probing analysis of the immediate need as well as the ultimate proved reliable and suggestive, although his estimates were nearly all increased as planning went on. American fact hunters were almost wholly dependent upon British sources for their information and, as there were many different British sources, estimates rarely agreed even upon vital points. Much information was channeled through Colonel Shingler's transportation officer, Maj. Erme B. Myott, to Shingler who, after consultation with local American, British, and Soviet authorities, prepared numerous comprehensive and detailed estimates for General Spalding. These became the basis of studies carried on by the G-4 staff at USAFIME headquarters, Cairo, which in turn were used in drawing up General Maxwell's recommendations to Washington after he and Spalding had conferred with Churchill, Harriman, General Wilson, Commander-in-Chief, PAI Force, and the top British Middle East transport and quartermaster men, Maj. Gen. Sir Donald J. McMullen and General Riddell-Webster respectively.

What to do with the incoming cargoes which were just over the horizon was Spalding's first order of business. Some decision had to be reached, and reached promptly, in order that the necessary shipping arrangements could be made at New York and other American ports. A conference at Basra on 29 July, participated in by Spalding, Faymonville, Shingler, Lockard, and Monck, concluded that, in the period 10 October to 10 November, when the 132,000 long tons would hit the Persian Gulf ports, inland clearance by road and rail-after deducting tonnages for the British military forces, the Iranian civilian economy, and the Polish refugees being cared for by the British military-could accommodate only 111,5001ong tons for the USSR. Other figures, based upon data not used at that meeting or providing solutions different from those reached on 29 July, appear in messages and estimates which went from Spalding to Washington and from the Ministry of War Transport, Basra, to its officials at New York who had to load and route ships with due regard to the capacities of the various Gulf ports to receive certain kinds of cargoes. The significant general conclusion of the conference on the immediate problem was that as of 1 August there was an estimated gap of 54,000 long tons monthly between the capacity of the ports of Basra, Bandar Shahpur, Khorramshahr, Ahwaz (lighter port on the Karun River), and Bushire to receive all cargoes and the smaller capacity of existent rail and road facilities to carry all kinds of tonnages inland. It was obvious that substantial backlogs would accumulate at the ports until inland clearance could be brought into balance with


port capacities. The cargoes arriving in October-November would have to be processed under existing conditions and methods subject to whatever improvements were immediately possible to make; but General Spalding advised Washington that wharf cranes, diesel engines for the railway, road-making equipment, and military port operating personnel additional to that already requested by Colonel Shingler for the militarization and expansion of the civilian contract operations were urgently required.

The general problem of the new quota called attention first to existing organization and procedure. Some Americans whom Spalding consulted complained that, as Commander Lockard put it, plans to increase Russian loads "frequently have had only lip service paid them." This criticism was directed at the British who were at midyear solely responsible for transport matters. Whether accurate or not as a statement of fact, the criticism did not do full justice to the other responsibilities borne by the British forces in the Corridor. Indeed, when General Spalding told General Wilson at Cairo that "there has been no serious backing of the Persian supply route" by the British and American forces, Wilson in reply referred to a letter in which Churchill had once pointed out to Roosevelt that it would be difficult for the British to supply Russia and at the same time maintain British forces in a suitable state of readiness to repel invasion.

The tug of war between priorities for British and Soviet needs had resulted in numerous frustrations and alterations of plans, a striking example of which was furnished by the shift of the American tasks from the port construction at Umm Qasr and other Iraqi projects. It is easy to understand, long after the fact, that such difficulties were inherent in a co-operative rather than a combined operation; but the feeling was strong at the conferences held by Spalding that they might have been largely avoided if the British had not divided responsibility for their Russian-aid operations among at least five agencies. Within the area controlled by Tenth Army, transport facilities were created and operated by separate transport directorates for Iran and Iraq; the Ministry of War Transport and UKCC, independent agencies each reporting to London, shared in both policy and operation; and the busiest Persian Gulf port, at Basra, was nominally under the control of the Iraqi Government. Lockard's recommendations for improvement struck at the basic weakness of divided responsibility. Although Tenth Army, by virtue of the directive given in 1941 to Quinan, was responsible in general for the Russian-aid delivery program, no single agency responsible to Tenth Army had the matter in hand. Lockard noted that on 20 September the Quartermaster General, Tenth Army, would be-


come Inspector General, Communications for Iraq and Iran, and that he would be advised by directors of transportation and movements control whose functions, contrary to those of their parallels at GHQ, Middle East Forces, Cairo, were, as of 1 August, for local reasons, not clearly enough defined to prevent friction and overlap. The Lockard report recommended establishment of a permanent committee to suggest improvements in efficiency and to be presided over by a representative of the Ministry of War Transport. The other members would be an officer of Tenth Army and an American officer qualified as a transport expert. The committee would be responsible to Tenth Army, but would have the right to appeal to higher authority any movement ordered by Tenth Army detrimental to Russian aid. It was further recommended that the committee was to be solely concerned with Russian-aid movements and must have power to allocate priorities in both ship and land movements.

While improvement of methods and centralization of authority were vital parts of any scheme to increase performance, benefits resulting from them would be conditioned by the tools available for the job. Tonnage estimates therefore depended on the condition of ports, railway, and highways, and on the speed with which the disparity between port discharge and inland clearance could be wiped out. Up to midsummer of 1942, Basra, both as the sea gate of the British line of communications and as the best equipped port on the Gulf, had been discharging more cargo than Khorramshahr, Bandar Shahpur, and Bushire together. But until the port area of Basra was connected that summer to the ISR by the branch line to Cheybassi, Russian-aid goods, which approximated one fourth of Basra ship discharge, had to go overland by truck, and this threw a disproportionately heavy burden upon the UKCC and British Army motor transport services using the Khanaqin Lift and other highway routes north from Basra. On the other hand, Bandar Shahpur, where new dock construction at midsummer was far behind schedule, discharged much less tonnage than was cleared inland by rail. Bushire landed small tonnages and sent them inland over one of the worst roads in Iran. At midsummer Khorramshahr's discharge capacity was only half that of Basra's. Like Basra's, it was largely dependent, for clearance to Soviet receiving points, on road transport, for the new rail extension to Ahwaz, though completed in June, was not yet useful for heavy work. As Khorramshahr's docks were finished and put into service and as the new rail line gained capacity, that port would rise, as it eventually did, to top position. But the planners m August had to forecast as well as they could the rate of improvement in facilities and to provide a shift in loads from port to port as the relative pros-


pective capacities of ports to discharge and to clear inland altered. It was apparent that, until Basra's rail connection with the ISR could haul large tonnages, truck haulage out of Basra would have to be stepped up; and until the new highway out of Khorramshahr was ready, other highway routes would have to be utilized. The only hope of holding the accumulation of backlogs to manageable proportions was therefore to build up motor transport wherever possible during the remainder of 1942. Thereafter, if all went according to plan, motor transport would become secondary to the railway.

The procurement of enough trucks and drivers was a pressing problem, for there was no time to bring them from the United States. Lockard estimated that the UKCC had assembled-and as of 1 August was operating-1,300 lend-lease trucks and around 1,000 Iranian trucks on contract. There were perhaps 3,000 nonmilitary trucks in Iran, many of them laid up for lack of tires; but it was felt that UKCC could put tires on 1,000 of them from its stock of 16,000 tires, and thus add an estimated 7,000 .tons to road capacity. The Lockard report recommended the drastic step of requisitioning all remaining nonmilitary trucks in Iran, and the equally drastic step of suggesting to the Russians that their trucks, which were driven north loaded, be sent over the route twice before delivery. Colonel Shingler's tonnage estimates, which went forward to Cairo and Washington, forecast that up to 1, January 1943 more than half of total inland clearance would be accomplished by truck, and that after that date more than half would move by rail. His figures showed an imbalance between ship discharge and inland clearance up to 1 December 1942, but optimistically ( as the event proved) expected new construction, new methods, and increased manpower to even the score after that date. Procurement of trucks was essential to attainment of his goals.

The Shingler estimates were predicated upon the use of every known trucking route in the frantic search for maximum delivery, although in his view it was preferable to use those which were most convenient and quickly capable of development, expanding as a last resort to less desirable routes. His figures thus included calculations for use of highways in eastern Iran, including the Zahidan-Meshed route used for a time by UKCC and under improvement by a UKCC contractor. This route had been opposed by the Russians in January 1942 as delivering cargoes too far from their battle lines; and, since it terminated at Ashkhabad, inside the border of the Turkmen Soviet Republic, it would almost certainly continue to be opposed by the Soviets as requiring admission within their borders of American and British military personnel. As a minor feeder to these routes S.hingler included the use


of Karachi for discharge of not more than 30,000 long tons monthly. Two highway routes originating in Iraq were also included in the Shingler estimates.17

The total discharge capacity of ports,18 which was estimated at 189,000 long tons as of 1 August, rose in the Shingler tables to 252,000 for November, and 399,500 tons for June 1943, with the possibility of advancing the last figure to February. The last two figures, if attained, would be sufficient to accommodate both the new target of 200,000 long tons monthly for the USSR and mounting tonnages for British and American military needs, Iranian civilian economy, and the Polish refugees. The totals given included estimates that the ISR could haul 78,000 long tons north of Andimeshk in November, 90,000 in December, and 180,000 by June 1943, or 6,000 tons a day in contrast to its 1941 rate of 200.19

Concurrently with the assembly of these figures the process of relating them to available and prospective operational plans was going on. Churchill, Harriman, Maxwell, and Spalding concluded their various consultations at Moscow, Tehran, and Basra and reassembled at Cairo. There, just before Churchill's departure for London, Harriman repeated to him the suggestion that American service troops expand and operate Persian Gulf ports and the ISR. The fact gathering had now to be turned to account in devising methods of operation. The British and Americans who conferred together at Cairo had before them the suggestions of the past nine months. These were of three kinds: increased manpower; increased centralization of authority and responsibility within the British administration; and American operation of rail, port, and motor transport facilities. The first was being partly met by the War Department's militarization of civilian contract activities, service troops for which were proposed for shipment in the latter part of 1942. This program, conceived months before the midsummer crisis brought the SOS Plan into existence, was, while retaining its individuality up to a late hour, ultimately to be merged in troop estimates and dispositions for the SOS Plan. Centralizing within the


American command responsibility for transport solved part of the old problem of divided British responsibilities. But there was still to be solved the intricate question of the relation of American to British responsibilities.

On 22 August General Maxwell sent to Washington the broad outlines of an American plan. This superseded a tentative plan sent to London a few days earlier by General Spalding. Maxwell's proposals embodied the conclusions of the conferees at Cairo and was concurred in by GHQ, Middle East Forces, subject to approval of a final general plan. Maxwell stated the purpose of the plan as twofold: to assist in increasing the flow of supplies to the USSR; and to provide the British forces in the Corridor with their necessary requirements. A basic target figure of 251,000 long tons monthly was established, of which 180,000 would be carried by the ISR north of Andimeshk. Inasmuch as this figure was for the ports of Khorramshahr, Bushire, Bandar Shahpur, and Tanuma only, it represented a decision to concentrate American activity at those ports, whereas the Shingler figure of 252,000 long tons monthly had included other ports. The basic American target therefore did not include the additional tonnage that could be handled at Basra by the British. It was further proposed that the American Army operate the ISR from Tehran to the Gulf, and that an American truck forwarding organization be set up to supplement the UKCC. In addition to units already planned for the militarization program, Maxwell proposed a total troop strength for the plan of 8,048 officers and men. He noted that Negro troops would be "acceptable" for port and truck units.20

The Maxwell message had this to say on the problem of authority and responsibility:

The allocation of traffic in this area would be made by the British military authorities, even though the actual operations would be under control of the U.S. Army Forces in the Middle East. All action would be under a general policy to be established by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, which would take into consideration


all the principles which govern the amount of cargo which is agreed to be forwarded to the USSR. Inasmuch as the traffic is subject to emergency military demands, and because the facilities are within the British theater of operations, it is felt that the allocation of the traffic should rest with the British military authorities.

Two more messages served to transfer the planning to Washington. From London on 22 August Prime Minister Churchill sent his answer to President Roosevelt's proposal of the previous month:

I have delayed my reply until I could study the Trans-Persian situation on the spot. This I have now done both at Tehran and here, and have conferred with Averell [Harriman], General Maxwell, General Spalding and their railway experts. The traffic on the Trans-Persian Railway is expected to reach three thousand tons a day for all purposes by [the] end of the year. We are all convinced that it ought to be raised to six thousand tons. Only in this way can we ensure an expanding flow of supplies to Russia while building up the military forces which we must move into Northern Persia to meet a possible German advance.

To reach the higher figure, it will be necessary to increase largely the railway personnel and to provide additional quantities of rolling stock and technical equipment. Furthermore, the target will only be attained in reasonable time if enthusiasm and energy are devoted to the task and a high priority accorded to its requirements.

I therefore welcome and accept your most helpful proposal contained in your telegram, that the railway should be taken over, developed and operated by the United States Army; with the railroad should be included the ports of Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur. Your people would thus undertake the great task of opening up the Persian Corridor, which will carry primarily your supplies to Russia. All our people here agree on the benefits which would follow your approval of this suggestion. We should be unable to find the resources without your help and our burden in the Middle East would be eased by the release for use elsewhere of the British units now operating the railway. The railway and ports would be managed entirely by your people, though the allocation of traffic would have to be retained in the hands of the British military authorities for whom the railway is an essential channel of communication for operational purposes. I see no obstacle in this to harmonious working.

The change-over would have to be carefully planned to avoid any temporary reduction of effort, but I think it should start as soon as possible. Averell is cabling you detailed suggestions.21

Harriman sent a message to the President on 23 August. He strongly reinforced Churchill's cable by stating that the British did not possess the resources or personnel to carry out the expanded program even if the United States should supply the equipment. Furthermore, Harriman warned, "Unless the United States Army undertakes the task,


the flow of supplies to Russia will dry up as the requirements of the British forces in the theater increase." He added that the importance of developing the ISR could not be overemphasized and that "the condition in the Prime Minister's cable of the British retaining control of traffic to be moved is reasonable, offers no practical difficulty, and should be accepted." The message went on to recommend that the task be undertaken, and that a top-caliber railroad man of a western railroad be drafted and commissioned in the Army with the rank of brigadier general. He should be "vigorous and young, not much over fifty, with experience on mountain and desert operations, (and) ability to handle relations with different nationalities." With a party of twenty to twenty-five key men he should proceed at once by air to Iran to arrange with the British on the spot for the gradual taking over of the ISR south of Tehran. Noting that the turnaround of ships in the ports "is deplorably slow," Harriman recommended early dispatch of port battalions, including the transfer to Khorramshahr of one "now in Karachi which has not been allowed to function due to labor union restrictions." Karachi, an auxiliary port in Shingler's estimates, was thus eliminated by Harriman. Although Churchill's message had not touched on motor transport, Maxwell's proposal had included a trucking service while urging top priority for port and rail plans. Harriman noted, "The British are also asking for help with trucks and personnel to increase the road transports," and added, "This is an important proposal but of second priority to the railroad and ports."

On 25 August, the President directed General Marshall to prepare a plan for operation of certain Iranian communications by U.S. Army forces. This signal set in motion three more stages in the process of increasing aid to the USSR. First, a plan had to be evolved; next, it had to be considered and approved; and finally, it had to be mounted. It was now Washington's turn, for the first time in the war, to train its biggest planning guns upon a major Middle East project.

The Chief of Staff passed the President's directive to Operations Division which referred the whole business of planning to General Somervell's Services of Supply. The preparation of a detailed plan was assigned to the Strategic Logistics Division, SOS, Col. Dabney O. Elliott, Director, with over-all responsibility centered in General Lutes, Somervell's Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations.22 On 29 August Somervell wrote Lutes that the plan was to be so complete that the signature of the President would set it into motion, down .to the last detail. "This is the first opportunity," Somervell said, "that the SOS


has had to turn in a report of this kind, and I wish it to be the best we can do." By 3 September the plan was completed by the Strategic Logistics Division, SOS. On the next day it was passed to General Somervell and by him to Operations Division and the Chief of Staff, equipped with a draft letter for the Chief of Staff to send to the President, submitting the plan to him, and a draft cable for the President to send the Prime Minister, stating, "I have approved a plan to put [Churchill's] proposal into effect."

But the plan was to take a different course. It was not, after all, a purely American plan and so the President's approval would not have set it in motion. It was a plan for fitting increased American responsibilities within the already existing framework of British responsibilities and authority. From the office of the Chief of Staff the completed plan went, therefore, on 9 September to the U.S. Joint Staff Planners. Having received their approval it went on to the Anglo-American Combined Staff Planners on 11 September, who debated it, amended it, and recommended its approval by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. This was granted on 22 September by CCS 109/1 and the plan was returned to the U.S. War Department for action. On 25 September Maj. Gen. Thomas T. Handy, Assistant Chief of Staff, OPD, transmitted CCS 109/1 to the Commanding General, SOS, for his information and action. It was just one month from the date of the President's directive, just two months from the day the Combined Chiefs' naming of TORCH made inevitable increased aid to Russia through the Persian Corridor.

The SOS Plan

The Plan for Operation of Certain Iranian Communication Facilities between Persian Gulf Ports and Tehran by U.S. Army Forces, running to nineteen typewritten pages with ten inclosures, consisted of basic correspondence, estimates, appreciations of terrain and facilities, maps, organization charts and tables, and drafts of letters of instruction, activation orders, and movement orders.23 Its provisions may be summarized under the general headings of logistics and administration.

Logistic Recommendations

Target Estimates. The plan assumed no carry-over of backlog tonnages from the period of special stress between August 1942 and June


1943. On that basis it adopted the Maxwell- Shingler figure of 6,000 long tons per day (or 180,000 long tons monthly) for ultimate rail carriage of all cargoes north of Andimeshk. Its target for the ports of Khorramshahr, Bandar Shahpur, Bushire, and Tanuma increased the Maxwell- Shingler figure to 8,700 tons daily, or 261,000 monthly, for all cargoes. It looked forward to ultimate road capacity by truck of 172,000 long tons monthly, a figure greatly in excess of those previously set. The expanded highway estimate, if attained, would leave ample leeway for increased port performance which would otherwise overtax the railway.

Facilities, Manpower, and Equipment. The Maxwell recommendation that the four ports just named should be American operated was followed, as was the provision for three port battalions (including one to be transferred from Karachi to Khorramshahr, as suggested by Harriman). The Maxwell estimate of 3,121 men for the ports was likewise accepted. Concise information on port equipment was not available to the Washington planners, who noted that ample stocks were on hand at the New York Port of Embarkation and could be shipped out with the port battalions.

The composition of railway units was restated by the plan, although it followed the Maxwell strength figure of 2,722 officers and men. The units were to be one engineer railway grand division, one engineer battalion ( railway shop), two engineer battalions ( operation ) , and one engineer transportation company (less one platoon). The plan provided for 75 locomotives and 2,200 freight cars of 20-ton capacity, which included the 1,200 cars in the Maxwell estimate and 1,000 cars already ordered under lend-lease. To accomplish delivery the plan contemplated diverting to Iran 1,200 cars at Karachi destined for Iraq, but noted that this would be subject to procurement in the United States of adequate brake equipment for them for the mountains of Iran.

Three highway routes were listed in the plan in addition to that running north from Khorramshahr, a part of which was under construction by the engineer civilian constructor. The three others were

Khorramshahr-Ahwaz-Hamadan-Kazvin, Bushire-Shiraz-Tehran, and some portions of the route through Iraq via Khanaqin used by the UKCC and British military motor transport. The plan anticipated that truck deliveries would also be made at Tabriz and Pahlevi, both inside the Soviet zone of Iran. Like the Maxwell estimate, the SOS Plan expected to use native drivers to supplement American soldier drivers in the motor transport service; but the native role was somewhat di-


minished, while the military strength was increased to 5,291 officers and men for the trucks. In addition, the SOS Plan provided a large reserve of military personnel for highway maintenance, not to be shipped "unless experience dictates the need for them." This reserve comprised two engineer regiments, one engineer maintenance company, and three engineer dump truck companies. In addition an engineer headquarters (corps) was set up in the plan to supervise road maintenance and to go overseas "in the primary shipments."

The problem of estimating and providing trucks in suitable quantities and sizes illustrates the complexity of logistic planning. To begin with, the width and surfacing of highways to be used were determined by the potential traffic they would be called upon to bear. The traffic tonnage was conditioned by many factors, of which the chief one was the determination at highest levels of Soviet needs and the next in importance was the capacity of the ports to receive and discharge tonnage. Once upon the highway, tonnage was susceptible to a variety of treatments, these in turn conditioned by such diverse factors as terrain, climate, and the human element en route. During the days of intensive planning it was determined that the use of small trucks (under 3-ton capacity) was wholly out of the question because not only were there not enough drivers to man the larger number of trucks thus required to move a given tonnage but the larger number of trucks would call for an excessive number of maintenance crews and service stations. Moreover, more trucks per ton of haulage meant larger and less manageable convoys. And if these factors were not themselves controlling in the decision against small trucks, the hot and waterless terrain would, as always, have had the last word. It was the experience of the British in Iran that because of the dust trucks could not proceed safely closer than three hundred yards apart, double that if there were two lines of traffic. This was a problem in visibility, not in the comfort of the drivers. With such spacing in dusty areas the advantage lay with fewer and bigger trucks. In actual operation, photographs show that American convoys, depending on highway surface conditions, .traveled from fifty feet to three hundred yards apart.24

The Maxwell estimate called for 7,200 trucks of 7-ton average carrying capacity. The SOS Plan noted that some 1,100 trucks could be found immediately, some of them, of 10-ton capacity, to be repossessed from a lot ordered by the British under lend-lease, and others, of unknown size, at Karachi "belonging to the Chinese." But, unfortu-


nately for the intention of the earlier planners, the remainder, stated the plan, would have to come from the stocks of 2 1/2-ton trucks with trailers presently available or in production in the United States.

The plan included in its strength estimates a total of 822 officers and men for command headquarters, and 7,405 officers and men for miscellaneous services. The Signal Corps, for example, estimated that 1,181 officers and men would be required to establish communications between the command and Basra, Asmara, and Karachi; and within the command along the railway and highway routes. There would be need also to provide hospitalization for 10 percent of total troop strength; units and equipment for water purification, shoe and textile repairs, laundry, and sterilization; and limited ordnance supply and repair equipment, all at a 120-day supply level.

Overseas Movement and Future Supply of the Operation. Arranging for overseas movement was dependent upon settlement of a whole series of priority questions. First came priorities within the project itself, and these were basically determined by the plan's acceptance of the primacy of rail and ports operations. But then everything to go abroad had to be fitted into a prearranged spot on a ship; and the availability of ships was interlocked with the general conduct of the war and with the priority given to the Persian Gulf movement with relation to the many other movements competing for shipping at the same time. Nearly 40 percent of total planned strength was to be diverted from BOLERO.25 The Combined Staff Planners, commenting on planned diversions of shipping, noted that forty-four cargo ship railings diverted to the Persian Gulf would cost BOLERO, because of the shorter distance to England and quicker turnaround, a total of 110 railings. In arranging personnel shipments, rail operating troops came first, followed by port and truck troops. These three groups, with accompanying housekeeping and general service and maintenance personnel, came to some 18,000 men. The planning indicated the following analysis:

Troops in area26 ----------------------------------- 338

Port Battalion from Karachi ----------------------- 889

Available in area ----------------------------- 1,227


Maxwell estimates_____________________________________ 8, 365

SOS Plan____________________________________________ 9,769

Total from US ------------------------------------- 18,134 Plus total available in area --------------------------- 1,227

Total________________________________________ 19,361

Deferred (highway maintenance and service troops) __ 4, 515

Aggregate strength_________________________ 23, 876

A basic plan for movement overseas was presented on 30 August by the Transportation Corps. It calculated shipping for a total of 41,000 ship tons of cargo including provision for 16,159 vehicles. It was estimated that with shipping withdrawn from BOLERO and the Murmansk route, 50 percent of personnel could sail the first month of the movement, and that, beginning 1 October, cargo could be shipped at the rate of ten ships a month through January 1943. The Transportation Corps calculations counted on getting the initial echelon with its proportionate share of equipment out to Iran and at work there by the end of December 1942, completing the whole movement by late February or early March.27

The SOS Plan provided for carriage of 475,000 ship tons, but otherwise closely followed the estimate of the Transportation Corps. After some fifty-one vessels had carried the movement to Iran, it was estimated that two vessels a month of 8,000-ton cargo capacity each would be required to keep the force supplied. Although every effort would be made to get as many parts of the new task under way at once through simultaneous shipment of men and materials, the basic priority of shipments would be in the following order

(1) The forward echelon of headquarters.

( 2 ) Railway and port operating personnel.

(3 ) Equipment and supplies for operation of railway and ports.

(4 ) Personnel and equipment for motor transport operations.

(5 ) Miscellaneous service and other units to make the command self-sustaining.

Administrative Recommendations

In administrative matters the SOS planners confined themselves to general recommendations, inasmuch as the organization of the American command and its operation within the framework of British powers


and responsibilities were matters respectively for determination by the American commanding general in the field and for mutual agreement between British and American field commanders, subject to the direction of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. It was recommended, therefore, that the Persian Gulf Service Command should be reorganized to continue existing American activities in construction and assembly and to carry out the new commitments. The organizational structure suggested was a simple one: a PGSC headquarters and three subheadquarters for ports, railway, and motor transport services to which the operating units of those services would report. Hospital, depot, and miscellaneous service units were also provided for. The Commanding General, PGSC, was to have wide discretion to deal directly on transport matters and allocations of traffic with representatives of Great Britain, the USSR, Iran, and Iraq "in conformity with policies established by the Commanding General, USAFIME," and was to be empowered to communicate directly with the War Department "except for military operational activities."28 The SOS Plan thus envisaged a semiautonomous American organization nominally under the jurisdiction of USAFIME at Cairo but able to act promptly on vital local questions. "The importance of the Iranian supply routes," stated the plan, "renders it essential that the British and United States commanders have authority to take the necessary steps on the ground to remove any administrative or other hindrances to the smooth operation of this channel of supply at maximum capacity."

As had been recommended by Churchill, Harriman, Maxwell, and Spalding, the Americans were to operate transport services while the British were to continue to control traffic. The plan did not elaborate details for the working out of arrangements. In one field of activity in which Anglo-American co-operation would be required it did, however, venture a comment. It was noted that unrest in Iran might at any time give rise to acts of sabotage, especially against the railway, whose many tunnels and bridges made it peculiarly vulnerable. Enemy successes in North Africa and the Caucasus would increase the danger from this source, and to counter the danger British forces in Iran, according to information as of 15 May available to the planners, numbered only 15,000. The SOS Plan assigned only one military police battalion and one military police company to the American forces, and their functions would be confined to routine interior guard and police duties at ports and other American-controiied installations. In view of these scant means of enforcing security, the plan observed that Ameri-


can railway units would have to be trained to defend themselves against marauders. "It is assumed," said the plan, "that since Iran is within the British area of responsibility, the necessary security of these supply routes and critical installations will be provided by the British."

The Plan Approved

The directive of the Combined Chiefs of Staff was the law and the prophets for the Anglo-American effort in the Persian Corridor. In the logistic field it accepted the recommendations of the SOS Plan in all but a few minor details. The Combined Chiefs added the barge port of Ahvaaz on the Karun River to the list of installations to be operated by the American Army; and they adopted the recommendations of a combined military transportation committee for the overseas movement of the American forces which modified SOS Plan recommendations for shipping. The Combined Chiefs noted that no difficulty would be anticipated in effecting the first and second priority personnel shipments through early November; and that after that it would be necessary before arranging for further troopships to await word from the field as to how much native labor could be used on American projects, and whether economies in troop shipments could be achieved in this manner. In order not to overtax the still limited facilities at Persian Gulf ports, the Combined Chiefs reduced the monthly cargo ship sailing estimates for the movement from ten to five, and noted that as late as December the ports could handle not more than 34,000 long tons monthly for the overseas movement without reducing cargo handling for the USSR, British military needs, and requirements of the Iranian civilian economy. As it developed, even this figure proved optimistic.

The main business of the Combined Chiefs was to establish policy for co-ordinated Anglo-American operations, and more than half their paper was devoted to the definition of the respective responsibilities of the British and American armies. Three assumptions were stated as basic: "This area lies within the sphere of British strategic responsibility, which will require careful co-ordination regarding control, allocation, and priority of supplies"; to carry out its increased responsibilities in the Persian Corridor, the United States would have to divert personnel, equipment, and ships from planned use in other theaters; and the new plan would increase the strategic dispersion of United States military resources by throwing new forces into an area "definitely threatened by the German drive into the Caucasus." The second and third of these basic assumptions underlay the forceful statement which


was set as the first condition attaching to acceptance of the plan. The first assumption governed the remaining conditions.

The relevant passages from CCS 109/1 follow:

9 (a) (1) That the primary objective of the U.S. forces in this area will be to insure the uninterrupted and increased flow of all supplies into Soviet Russia. Over and above the minimum requirements for British forces consistent with their combat mission, and essential civilian needs, Russian supplies must have highest priority.

( 2 ) That the necessary military protection be furnished by the British to insure adequate security of the railroads, roads, and harbor facilities against the threat of sabotage and Axis air, ground, and sea operations. The Commanding General, Persian Gulf Service Command, must be familiarized with the British plan in order that he may integrate his available local defensive means with those of the British.

( 3 ) That the control of these railroads, road routes, and ports be exercised by the British General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Persia/Iraq Command as follows:

a. The Commanding General, U.S. Persian Gulf Service Command, will develop, operate, and maintain the port facilities at Bandar Shahpur, Khorramshahr, Tanuma, Ahwaz, and Bushire. He will assist in maintaining roads leading from these ports to the general vicinity of Tehran and will operate and control U.S. motor transport moving on such roads. He will develop, operate, and maintain the railroads leading from those ports to Tehran.

b. Priority of traffic and allocation of freight will be controlled by the British General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Persia/Iraq Command. Inasmuch as the primary objective of the U.S. participation in the operation of lines of communications from the Persian Gulf area to Tehran is to increase and insure the uninterrupted flow of supplies to Russia, it is definitely understood that the British control of priorities and allocations must not be permitted to militate against the attainment of such objective, subject always to the military requirements for preparing to meet a threat to the vital Persian Gulf oil areas. Should the British Commander in Chief make any decision which in the opinion of the Commanding General, U.S. Persian Gulf Service Command, would unnecessarily prejudice the flow of supplies to Russia, the latter will immediately report the circumstances through the joint U.S. Chiefs of Staff to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington.

c. U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf Service Command will be, for all administrative purposes, under the direction of the CG/USAFIME.

d. During any period of active or imminent British military operations in the area, the Commanding General, U.S. Persian Gulf Service Command, will conform to such decision, but if he does not agree will immediately report such disagreement, through the joint U.S. Chiefs of Staff, to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, who will give a decision on the matter.

e. An uninterrupted and increasing flow of vital supplies over these routes to accomplish the primary objective (supplies to Russia) is contingent upon complete cooperation between U.S. and British Commanders in the area. In the event that problems arise which cannot be mutually solved, each Commander will communicate (the British Commander, if desired, through the War Office) with his respec-


tive Chiefs of Staff, who will in turn present the matter for the decision of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington.

Unfinished Business

It was inevitable that both the SOS Plan and the directive of the Combined Chiefs of Staff would be modified when put to the test of actual experience in the field. The one was a forecast which on the whole proved remarkably accurate; the other was a working compromise whose ambiguities in certain important matters had to be clarified as the experiment in co-operation developed. Both papers left to the future a legacy of unfinished business not apparent in the summaries of their contents; and both embodied rejection or acceptance of varying points of view. Differences of opinion and ambiguities in policy were among the many obstacles besetting the Persian Corridor delivery program. It would require an Olympian omniscience to say that the job would have gone faster if this or that had been learned earlier; or to go even farther and say that all the main pitfalls were clearly foreseeable by September 1942 and therefore wholly avoidable. Such a sweeping statement would be false. Some of the unfinished business, broadly considered, was avoidable. Nearly all of it, if considered from such a single and limited point of view as the primacy of the logistic commitment to the USSR, was avoidable also. The entire operation under the SOS Plan, which had its origin in a tangle of global events and policies, was never free of their implications and influences, and cannot, therefore, be fairly judged by any limited criteria. This must be borne in mind in considering differences in point of view as expressed in the SOS planning period.29

A striking instance of delay in reconciling differences of opinion on a matter of major policy was transport operation by the Americans. When it was first suggested, the United States was not a belligerent, and for many months after Pearl Harbor the debate for and against American operation proceeded not as between the Americans on one


side and the British on the other, but as between disputants in each camp, whose arguments canceled each other out. It is an extreme simplification to say that American operation of the ISR came a year after it should have because a perverse and obstinate group of British Army men in the field delighted in keeping the railway to themselves and refused to extend themselves too strenuously in aid to Russia; and yet there were Americans who believed just that. A psychiatrist might trace the roots of their belief to the auxiliary status of the American forces in the area of British responsibility; and to their consequent feeling that, somehow, they were being put upon and were at a disadvantage which in some fashion represented a British success in extended Anglo-American maneuvers. But the auxiliary status went, as it were, with the job. When the British first asked American help in 1941, it was the only way help could be furnished. No evidence has been found that President Roosevelt demanded any quid pro quo whatever when the Iranian Mission was organized, or that at any time thereafter it ever occurred to him to do so. Although resultant conditions for members of the United States Army may have been, and indeed in many an instance were, personally galling, nothing illustrates more convincingly the disinterestedness of the American task as a whole than the continued auxiliary position of the United States forces in the Corridor. The position, while admirable, was not an easy one for the U.S. Army.

There was, for example, the basic assumption of the SOS Plan as restated and approved by the Combined Chiefs: American operation, British control of movements and allocations. Churchill had written Roosevelt, "I see no obstacle in this to harmonious working"; Harriman had called it reasonable, and had told the President it offered "no practical difficulty." The Maxwell proposal had accepted it as a matter of course; but then the Maxwell cable of 22 August had posited a dual mission for the American command: to provide British forces with their requirements and to supply the USSR. It is significant, however, that CCS 109/1 stated that the sole justification for U.S. Army activity under the SOS Plan was aid to Russia. There is no mention of aid to the British line of communications, Basra to Baghdad. Between the dates of the Maxwell recommendation and the directive of the Combined Chiefs of Staff the Combined Staff Planners had threshed out the problem of allocations. For American operation under over all British control of movements was not just a question of division of authority. Control of traffic carried with it the implementation of policy, and would reflect basic decisions as to the priorities to be given to British and Soviet needs. It was an old and a sore point and had plagued the Americans since their first arrival in the field.


British control of movements and allocations wore three aspects. First, this control was essential to the exercise of British responsibility for the military security of the area. On this ground alone the American planners had no thought of challenging it. Second, British control, if not subject to fixed policy with regard to the primacy of Russian aid, might conceivably result in diminution of that program. This aspect worried the Americans among the Combined Staff Planners, and they succeeded after considerable exchange of ideas in achieving in CCS 109/1 the statement given above as paragraph 9 ( a ) (1) , including the word minimum, which was not present in all preliminary drafts.30 This statement, taken with that in paragraph 9 ( a ) ( 3 ) b, marked a meeting of minds and the establishment of unmistakably clear policy regarding priorities in Corridor movements. But American operation of transport within the over-all control of movements by the British offered still a third difficulty on the purely administrative level. Time and again the U.S. Army had, whether deliberately or inadvertently, experimented with this sort of divided responsibility in its relations with its own civilian contractors. There was evidence that, at least on that level, divided operational and managerial responsibility could not be efficiently administered. Because this third aspect of the control problem was tied in with the other two, the opinions of those who believed divided responsibilities to have been the bane of Persian Corridor activities in 1942 and equally undesirable as a feature of the SOS Plan were overridden in favor of the optimistic hopes of Churchill and Harriman.31 This was the biggest piece of unfinished business left by the SOS Plan and the Combined Chiefs of Staff directive; but by 1 May 1943, as the story of subsequent operations will show, effective control of movements passed to the Americans. There is no doubt that Stalingrad and El Alamein had a lot to do with British willingness to delegate the controls they exercised under the Tri-Partite Treaty to the Americans, for the diminishing threat of Axis invasion enabled them to relax a full state of readiness to repel invaders. But the change, which was the only fundamental alteration in the SOS Plan under pressure of field conditions, was equally attributable to the inefficiency of di-


vided responsibility and to the mutual confidence in which the AngloAmerican partners held one another.

In September 1942 the turning back of Axis pressures against the Middle East was not even a plausible hope; hence the Combined Chiefs' proviso that, although British control of priorities and allocations must not militate against the flow of supplies to Russia, such control would be "subject always to the military requirements for preparing to meet a threat to the vital Persian Gulf oil areas." This proviso indicates how closely interwoven were the issues of movement control and security, for both of which the Combined Staff Planners assigned responsibility to the British. But whereas movement control ultimately became effectively American, security was in practice enforced by both armies. There were two categories of security to be covered by the planning: the over-all military security of the area, a problem which diminished as Axis threats disappeared in 1943; and the local security of ports, docks, storage areas and warehouses, property in transit, vehicles, men and equipment, telegraph systems, oil and gasoline refueling stations, rail and highway bridges, tunnels, and rights of way-a complex agglomeration of liabilities, from the security point of view, which had to be taken care of by both the British and the Americans. In this second category of security responsibilities it was never a practical possibility to draw a distinct dividing line between British and American jurisdiction. Both the SOS Plan and CCS 109/1, therefore, confined themselves to a statement of basic and comprehensive British responsibility for all kinds of security. The draft telegram prepared by the Combined Chiefs for the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, PAI Force, was broadly expressed. "You will be responsible," it said ( paragraph 2 ( d ) ) , for providing the necessary military protection "to insure adequate security of the railroads, roads and harbor facilities against sabotage and Axis air, ground and sea operations." The instruction continued: "You will also insure that such defense means as are available to the Commanding General, U.S. Persian Gulf Service Command, are co-ordinated with yours, without interfering in any way with any arrangements made by him for the local protection of his forces." The wording should be compared to the language of GCS 109/1 ( paragraph 9 ( 2 ) ).

Both versions provide for the protection of day-to-day logistic operations, as well as for the contingent duty of repelling invasion. The two texts perhaps reveal a secret of the success of the Combined Chiefs in directing a great wartime coalition: they were not unnecessarily dogmatic, nor were they tiresomely consistent in details. Theirs was the task of making a shoe that would fit in all weathers and outlast, if


necessary, a succession of wearers. The problem here was one of command relationships. In the discussions of the Combined Staff Planners the American members respected the paramountcy of British responsibility for security under treaty obligations. Moreover, the SOS Plan provided, as has been noted, only the most meager American military police forces for the most routine of interior guard duties, and the planned American force was for service, not combat. The American planners, however, did feel it desirable that the British commander in the field should acquaint his American opposite with his security plans, and this stipulation was incorporated in CCS 109/1 (paragraph 9 (2 ) ) . On the other hand, the draft instructions for the British commander (paragraph 2 (d) ) laid upon him no obligation to communicate his plans for security to the American commander. The draft instructions were wholly silent on this question, with the result that the British commander was free to proceed either in accordance with the directive paper or with his specific instructions, both of which emanated from the same supreme source of authority. This was a piece of unsettled business which, unlike other ambiguities, caused no future trouble since there was no invasion and therefore no necessity to put any American soldiers in the area under British command.32 Nor was there any time during the rest of the war when either the British or the American commander used the machinery of the directive to appeal disputes to the supreme authority of the Combined Chiefs. Once again cooperation worked.

Although the SOS Plan and CCS 109/1 left a few important questions to the future, the biggest of these problems, control of movements, was promptly solved by straightforward adjustment in the field. The closely related questions of security responsibility and command relationships, while never precisely defined, were answered from day to day by a working compromise between a unification of forces, which the


Americans did not desire, and a separation of forces, which no one desired.33

Some further recommendations of the SOS Plan and CCS 109/1, which chiefly concerned internal affairs of the American command and which were altered after a period of trial and error, require comment. Two of these were in the logistic field, two of them in the administrative. The SOS Plan, perhaps influenced by the interim proposals put forward in July and August to deal with the immediate problem of backlogs, recommended several highway routes for the use of American motor transport. As soon as construction permitted, American trucking was assigned to the road between Khorramshahr and Kazvin. To Churchill's suggestion that the Americans operate the ports of Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur, the plan added Bushire and Tanuma, suggested by Maxwell. The directive added Ahwaz. By decisions reached in the field only Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur were taken over by the American command, although the lighterage basin near Tanuma, which was later designated Cheybassi, was taken over in addition and operated between July 1943 and October 1944. Bushire was eliminated as a port for American expansion and operation early in 1943, and Ahwaz, as a busy center of British Inland Water Transport activity, handled too little Soviet cargo to justify its inclusion in the American program.34

Although the SOS Plan recommended wide powers for the American commanding general to deal locally with representatives of the other nations concerned with supply and although it permitted him to communicate directly with the War Department, it left him subject to the commanding general of USAFIME. This decision represented a rejection of opinion within the War Department which advocated separation of the American command in Iran from USAFIME.35 But the separation did not take place until 10 December 1943, following the declaration of Tehran respecting the sovereignty of Iran.

A similar ambiguity in administrative controls concerned the intentions of the SOS planners as to the administrative relationship between


the American command and the representative of the War Shipping Administration. A draft Letter of Instructions for the Commanding General, USAFIME, stated that in port matters under the jurisdiction of the War Shipping Administration, the Commanding General, PGSC, "will be assisted by their local representative, who will operate under his supervision."36 This established one of those situations where "control" and "supervision" overlap, sometimes with unfortunate consequences. Although the draft just quoted never became a binding statement of policy, it suggests that the planners were willing to take a chance on the consequences of leaving certain areas of port management divided between the American command in the field and the civilian War Shipping Administration.37

Implementing the Plan

While the SOS Plan was still in the mill the War Department on 14 September ordered Brig. Gen. Donald H. Connolly from Headquarters, Army Air Forces, to Headquarters, Services of Supply, to prepare to take over command of the new American force for the Persian Corridor. Connolly was an engineer graduate of West Point (1910 ) and had served several assignments as district engineer on rivers and harbors projects. On detached service in 1934 he had, as Administrator of the Los Angeles Civil Works Administration, come to know Harry Hopkins. In 1935-39 he served as Administrator of the Works Progress Administration at Los Angeles. In 1940 he was Corps Engineer of the Ninth Army Corps; from 1940 to 1942, Administrator of Civil Aeronautics, Department of Commerce, directing construction of many airports; he served also as a member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; and in 1942 he went to Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington. The SOS planners had made numerous recommendations for key personnel for the new Amercian command, but only one was put into force. Their recommendation that Shingler be made chief of staff was effective briefly until Connolly's personal choice, Col. Stanley L. Scott, arrived at Basra to relieve Shingler. Scott, like Connolly, was an engineer graduate of West Point (1916 ) and was brought by Connolly to Washington from a position as Division Engineer of the Southwest Division. As Chief of Staff of Headquarters 1616, the name the newborn organization for Iran took from its office space in the Munitions Building in Washington, it was to be his job to direct


the mounting of the SOS Plan. A wide range of assignments had preceded this one, including a term as district engineer at Honolulu when he was head of the Public Works Administration for the Territory of Hawaii (1931-34 ) , service in the Office of the Chief of Engineers, instruction at West Point and Fort Belvoir, and district and division engineer posts from 1938 to 1942 in which he was in charge of construction programs for rivers and harbors, dams, locks, and airfields exceeding a billion dollars in value. His new task involved the selection of some forty key personnel who were flown to the field during October, November, and December ahead of the first shipment of troops. Colonel Scott also assigned final priorities of men and materials for shipment. Working within the broad outlines of the SOS Plan which had recommended the form of three operating services, he was to devise a pattern of organization for the reorganized PGSC.38

On 1 October Connolly was issued a Letter of Instructions as the commanding general of the PGSC. Leaving Scott in Washington to see to the mounting of the new undertaking, Connolly reached Basra on 20 October. Colonel Shingler, who had continued field command of PGSC, now became Connolly's acting chief of staff and served until Scott, who was chief of staff of the headquarters at Washington, arrived at Basra on 20 November and relieved him. On 25 October Connolly was promoted to major general.39

Planning for the overseas shipment of Movement 1616 and its successors occupied General Connolly during the brief period of his stay in Washington, and Colonel Scott until his departure in November. On 2 October the President sent a memorandum to the Secretary of War and other cabinet and administration officials in which he informed them of the circumstances which had made it imperative to increase aid to the USSR via the Persian Gulf in order to meet the quotas set under the Second (Washington) Protocol for the period 1 July 1942 to 1 July 1943. He urged "that the project for the operation and enlargement of the transportation facilities of the Persian Corridor


be given sufficient priority and support in the form of men, equipment and ships to insure its early and effective accomplishment."40

On 5 and 6 October Colonel Scott presented General Somervell with two memoranda based upon the estimates of the SOS Plan and subsequent estimates which had been sent in by Maxwell and Shingler. These papers listed troops, supplies, and equipment needed, divided into five priorities. The first embraced troops and supplies for 10,000 men's subsistence, including a 150-day supply for water purification equipment, refrigerants, and cleaning and laundry supplies. The second category was port unloading equipment. The third was locomotives, with diesels ahead of steam engines. The fourth included small trucks, pumps, machinery, and construction equipment. The fifth was larger trucks. Other papers reveal the multiplicity of items necessary for the expedition: quartermaster materials for truck repair and maintenance; ordnance, engineer, and signals materials; and for the railway such details as grinding wheels, steam gauges, and tubular water glasses for boilers. The variety was endless.41

The groupings listed indicated relative importance of the several items in point of their arrival in the field. Their shipment was fitted into over-all shipping priorities. In arranging these Colonel Scott and General Connolly altered the order previously accepted. General Maxwell had recommended equally high priorities for the railway and the ports, and Harriman had likewise subordinated personnel and equipment for trucking to the other services. The SOS Plan had adhered to these recommendations but had stipulated that, if simultaneous shipment for ports and railway could not always be accomplished, personnel and equipment for the railway should take precedence. Priorities for Movement 1616 placed the ports first, followed in order by the railway and the motor transport requirements, though it did not follow that everything for the ports had to be shipped before anything for the railway. Items were fed into the pipeline, however, in that general order, and as much went forward together as shipping space permitted. After he had been in Iran for about six weeks, Connolly told Somervell that this was "my biggest mistake," for he had supposed that the physical task of unloading ships at the ports was the bottleneck. Upon arrival, however, he learned that the rate of unloading ships, under existing condi-


dons, was determined by the ability to move cargoes inland. "If I had known the above before leaving Washington, I would have arranged my priorities of men and equipment differently," he wrote.42

In view of the agreement among those who conferred in July and August with General Spalding that immediate provision of greatly increased truckage was urgent, some explanation is required of the relatively low priority which the SOS Plan assigned to men and equipment for a motor transport service. The explanation is a simple one: the SOS Plan aimed not at a temporary need, but at long-range requirements. Properly developed, the railway would obviously handle the lion's share of inland clearance, with motor haulage supplementing it. The conferees were faced with an immediate problem whose solution was sought locally because there was no time to wait for an SOS Plan to be developed and mounted. The interval between midsummer and the early months of 1943, when the Americans took over their new assignments, saw little diminution of the critical transport crisis, so that in time the problem, which had been a British one, was merged in the new American effort. The trucks and motor transport personnel which were shipped out for the SOS Plan from October onward eventually did their part in bringing backlogs under control.

Meanwhile, until he was relieved by Connolly Colonel Shingler attempted, with what incomplete information Washington supplied him, to fit the plans for the militarization of civilian contract activities into the new plans for reinforcing and expanding the American task. To a memorandum addressed to Spalding on 12 September Shingler attached "compilations showing U.S. Army Service units deemed necessary to support the Special Units assigned or planned for operation of facilities in the Persian Gulf Area."43 A list of equipment for road work was carried by Colonel Lieber, who departed the next day for Washington. Shingler's memorandum reported a somewhat cool response to efforts he had been making to discuss the proposed American commitments in the field of transport with-British military authorities. It furnished a footnote to Churchill's assertion to the President that the changeover of certain operations from British to American hands would have to be carefully planned to- avoid "any temporary reduction of effort." Shingler wrote, "Apparently word of our prospective participation had spread since several British underlings appear to be 'resting on their oars' awaiting our appearance. Port conditions are


particularly disturbed . . . . It is obvious to all that we are of necessity concerning ourselves with conditions over which we have neither the authority nor the physical means to improve now." The root difficulty during the period of transition which was beginning was that until Connolly arrived in the field with a new mission in transport, Shingler's responsibilities remained the old ones in construction and assembly, and his efforts in transport would continue to be purely advisory. His message to Spalding would indicate that he was not informed how far the SOS Plan had progressed, and his planning was therefore along the old lines of the militarization program.

The merging of that program with the new undertaking came very late in the day and without any formal abandonment of the militarization program. As has been told, estimated troop strength under the SOS Play included the Shingler-Maxwell estimates for personnel, plus the strength previously earmarked for militarization, plus supplementary estimates. Until General Connolly's assumption of command on 20 October, it would appear that planning in the field was for an expanded militarization program with added responsibilities. This conception of the situation underlies a letter from Shingler to Louis Dreyfus, American Minister at Tehran, on 18 September, only a few days before the Combined Chiefs of Staff approved the SOS Plan and issued their directive. The letter discussed the procurement of Iranian drivers up to the number of 6,000 for the fleet of 7,200 trucks "to be operated by this headquarters" in moving tonnage to northern Iran and beyond. It noted that, while "a certain percentage of drivers" would be provided by the U.S. Army, "It is quite essential that a major portion of the truck drivers be civilians, and secured in Iran." Dreyfus was requested to make inquiries of the Iranian Government's attitude in the matter and was told that in view of present British intentions to recruit a smaller number of native drivers "primarily for military" haulage, it was Shingler's hope that Americans would not be excluded "through treaty provisions or other considerations" from utilizing native manpower. An initial group of 2,000 would be required by November.44 It can be inferred from this letter that Washington, in its intense preoccupation with preparation of the SOS Plan, had not fully informed Shingler that the plan would provide over 5,000 American soldier drivers for the truck fleet, and that Shingler was thus proceeding, in accordance with .the situation as it existed during the midsummer conferences with Spalding, to make provision for a solution of the trucking problem that was dependent primarily upon native drivers. It was well


that he did, for the American trucking service ultimately found it necessary to use several thousand native drivers.45

Thus, while the plan itself was getting off to a very good start in Washington, its eventual implementation in the field was headed for many months of difficult transition. Once put into action, the plan gradually brought order out of confusion. How long this toilsome process took is apparent in the statistical tables in this book. By the middle of 1943 there was evidence enough that the new tools would do the job.



Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

page created 17 January 2002

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online