Port Operations

In the scheme of transport the sea gates to the Corridor were basic. Into their maw would pour more than four million long tons of Russian-aid and other incoming cargoes handled by the American Army at Khorramshahr, Bandar Shahpur, and Cheybassi.

In the planning stage the ports seemed the key to the smooth flow of tonnage and the planners concentrated their procurement of men and equipment and their priorities upon this vital spot in the logistical pipeline. The test of actual operation revealed the interdependence of numerous factors of which the functioning of the ports was but one item. Performance at the ports was affected by factors which spanned the whole range that lies between ship discharge on the most fundamental operating level and administrative controls proceeding from the highest levels of strategic planning. Ship discharge was conditioned by the adequacy of ships' gear as well as of cranes, fork lifts, and similar equipment at dockside. Adequacy of berthing space and labor supply also influenced performance. The handling of landed cargoes determined in its way the rate of discharge, for inadequate dock, warehouse, and open storage space, and insufficient intraport transport, such as railway, trucks, barges, lighters, and tugs, caused the piling up of goods and diminished the capacity to unload shipping. These factors in turn affected the rate of inland clearance via rail and highway, as they were equally affected by the efficiency of inland clearance. Administrative controls, likewise, by determining the flow of shipping to .the ports, the berthing of ships, and the allocation of movements and priorities (British, American, and Soviet), bore down heavily upon the ports.

If all these factors were in perfect and harmonious balance, then the Ports Service could function at top efficiency in its critical spot in the supply pipeline; but such perfection does not happen. Nobody expected that it could happen in Iran where four different nations theoretically concerned themselves with each turn of a ship's winch; where the spilling of dried beans from an ill-packed consignment burned up .the wires (and the bureaucrats) halfway round the world;


and where a deficiency in Soviet shipping at Caspian ports caused the backing up of supplies in the pipeline all the way to North America.

Direction of the American-operated ports was consequently the most complex of the subordinate posts in the American command. It was a tough assignment, and it fell to Colonel Booth. After a year as director of ports,1 Colonel Booth's comprehensive schooling in manifold troubles qualified him for transfer to headquarters at Tehran. There he served first as assistant chief of staff for operations, next as chief of staff, and finally, then a brigadier general, as commanding general. The Ports Service became for the American command not only a school of experience, but a touchstone of the command's ability to solve problems, surmount difficulties, and deliver the goods.

Evolution o f American Responsibility

The SOS Plan contemplated American operation of certain ports within the framework of the British communications responsibilities that were stipulated by the Tri-Partite Treaty. This meant that American operations were to be subject to British control of traffic. Managerial responsibility and discretion were thus, in the plan, restricted to the operational level, and a simple operating organization was proposed, to consist of a port headquarters and a subordinate working force of port battalion.2 Details and modifications were to be worked out in the field as experience dictated.

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 9th Port of Embarkation-which had been activated in the United States on 14 July 1942 and during the next three months organized, trained, and equipped-was selected to provide the administrative port troops for the Persian Gulf assignment and divided into three echelons for shipment. The advance party, headed by 9th Port's commanding officer, Colonel Booth, and consisting of five key officers, reached Basra on 1 November.3 The first troops came ashore at Khorramshahr on 11 and 12 December. They were the 378th Port Battalion of 940 officers and men (white) and some personnel of the 9th Port. They were followed on 27 January 1943 by the 380th Port Battalion of 19 white officers and 927 Negro troops along with the rest of 9th Port, to be augmented still later by the 482d Port Battalion (white officers, Negro troops), the 385th (white), and finally by a new 380th. These were the troops to


do the job; but from the beginning there were complications. The British were everywhere in charge, and there was nothing automatic about taking over from them, especially as much of Colonel Booth's attention was occupied after his arrival in assisting in the final determination of what ports should be taken over as well as how. By early January Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur, the two ports served by the ISR, had been settled upon, as originally proposed by Prime Minister Churchill, for American operation.4

Between the arrival of the first port troops, in December, and 1 May 1943, the Americans passed from the condition of voluntary helpers to the status of fully responsible operatives. At Khorramshahr the men went to work on 13 December, the day after they landed, working as volunteers under the direction of the British. On 7 January the port was formally transferred to American operational control, but some British forces remained, at American request, throughout that month to help with ,the transition. In a letter to GHQ, PAI Force, the American commanding general requested also that the British continue "to handle Movement control until the necessary American personnel arrive and are trained to properly man the jobs."5 The request reveals that already the American command had determined that one of the necessary modifications in the field of the generalizations of the SOS Plan would be to end the division of responsibilities for operational control and control of traffic, by the plan allocated respectively to the Americans and the British, and to unite them in American hands. This very important step followed soon. The interim period, with the Americans in charge and the British still helping, ended on 1 April when American operational control of the ports became fully effective. On 1 May, although under the Tri-Partite Treaty the British still exercised final authority over communications and movements in the Corridor, the American command became the determining agency in movements control, setting targets, and allocating traffic. At the port of Bandar Shahpur the same evolution took place. American troops first reached there on 2 February 1943 where they learned their jobs as volunteers under British direction. As of midnight of 17-113 February, the port was transferred to the Americans, who carried on with some British assistance until 1 April when American control of operations became complete.


The interim period was not propitious for the setting of records. Indeed, whether during the phase of British responsibility with American help, or that which followed, of American responsibility with British help, both Armies shared the difficulties of mutual accommodations to one another's methods and temperaments under circumstances unfavorable for efficient results. With storage areas at Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur congested, inland clearance very slow and, in January 1943, sixteen out of twenty-eight cargo ships m the area lying idle for lack of accommodations at ports, and with 165,000 long tons of cargo undischarged and no prospect of relief in sight, some Americans were inclined to think ill of British operations.6 Too many ships arrived without cargo gear. When they arrived at Bandar Shahpur during the period when unloading equipment at dockside was nonexistent, things went badly; and when lighterage capacity dwindled to three 100-ton lighters, throwing the chief burden for discharge upon the docks, matters were not improved. Some Americans complained that, though they were on duty fifteen hours a day, they stood around for many hours waiting for freight cars which existed, they felt, in plenty, but which were not available at dockside because of the derelictions of British Movements Control. The Americans were indignant when the British authorities in charge of allocations of berthing space put ships with Russian-aid cargoes to anchor in the channel and docked ships carrying British military supplies.7

There was merit in such complaints and in others buried in the files; but it was not always realized that throughout 1942 the commander of the British forces was responsible not only for maintaining communications from Basra to Baghdad and from Khorramshahr to Tehran, for improving ports, highways, and railways to accommodate ever increasing Russian-aid tonnage, and for moving that tonnage to Soviet receiving points. He carried also the supreme responsibility of maintaining up to ten divisions of troops against the strong possibility of enemy attack through the Caucasus or through Anatolia, a threat which was not relieved until after Stalingrad. If British operation of the various Gulf ports in 1942 was not a marvel of efficiency and was hopelessly inadequate to handle the mounting flood of Russian-aid shipping


toward the end of the year, steady progress was nevertheless made in the provision of additional docking space at Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur, and in other extensive construction, some of it delegated to the American Army. The additional facilities, as they came into use, increased port performance and encouraged the British to urge upon the Americans at the turn of the year a 10-berth building program to provide a 30-percent reserve port capacity over and above estimated road and rail clearance capacity. Colonel Booth advised the American command that improvement of existing facilities and methods would be preferable to additional construction.8 Differing opinions and policies were inevitable in the interim period and if some of the newly come Americans were irked by the creaking British machinery, they nevertheless learned how to get along with it, for it was all there was to work with.

The central British agency for shipping was the War Transport Executive Committee,9 directly responsible to the Ministry of War Transport in London. Established in the Basra port area on 23 October 1941, its authority embraced Iraq, Iran, and all territories bordering on the Persian Gulf. It was the central clearinghouse and final authority for movements information, berthing and allocation of ships, arrivals and departures, loading and unloading priorities, port operations, and co-ordination with inland clearance. Its daily meetings were attended by representatives of the British director of transportation at Tehran, PAI Force Movements and Transportation officers, the Royal Navy, whose Sea Transport officer contracted for labor through the firm of Gray Mackenzie & Co., Ltd. (which had handled British shipping interests locally since 1851) , and the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation, which was responsible for documentation of Russian-aid cargoes. The Royal Air Force and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company were also represented. With all these interests were co-ordinated the civilian requirements of Iraqi and Irani trade. In addition the existent Basra Port Directorate and the Khorramshahr Port Committee, set up in May 1942 to co-ordinate interests at that port, arranged matters concerning dredging, channel markers, removal of sunken obstructions, and piloting. The British Army's Inland Water Transport organization provided river and interport barge service, and lighterage and tug services. As an instrument of the Ministry of War Transport, the powerful War Transport Executive Committee's policies and acts were sub-


ject to British cabinet policy and, as an agency in a theater of war, its authority and acts were subject to the overriding priority of British military and naval operational requirements. Matters which could not be settled in committee had to be referred to London for determination.10

In the early days of the committee in 1941-1942, the United States Military Iranian Mission had no shipping responsibilities whatever and no interest in shipping except to see to it that supplies and equipment required by its civilian contractors were expeditiously unloaded. To keep an eye on American shipping in the Persian Gulf, a U.S. naval observer was stationed at Basra in October 1941 and a regional director for the War Shipping Administration (WSA) was appointed on 1 November 1941.11 Both these men sat with the War Transport Executive Committee, being joined in July 1942 by a representative of the U.S. Army.12 After the arrival of 9th Port personnel, signifying that the new SOS Plan, with its increased responsibilities and tasks for the United States, was operative, the American port commander for Khorramshahr attended the committee's meetings for the first time on 11 January 1943 as a representative of the U.S. Army, being succeeded later by a representative of Movements Branch, Operations Division, Headquarters, PGSC.13

The interim period came to a close on 1 May 1943 when the American command assumed, in effect, control of Movements. In so far as American operations through the Corridor were concerned, the recommendations of the American members of the War Transport Executive Committee increasingly influenced policy and action. Delays caused by reference of disputed matters to London were virtually eliminated. In fact American controls over the berthing of ships were extended in certain instances even beyond the American-operated ports by an Anglo-American agreement of 10 September 1943;14 and when an American served as chairman of the War Transport Executive Committee, though no new powers were added, a fitting symbol of the American share in the common task was made visible.


The American Organization and Its Functions

just as port operation developed ramifications unforeseen by the SOS planners, so port administration eventually required a more elaborate organization than that suggested in the SOS Plan; but at the start it resembled the SOS suggestion for a simple administrative headquarters and a subordinate working force. Colonel Booth, designated Director of Ports Service,15 was already in command of the small group of administrative personnel comprised in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 9th Port of Embarkation, and these mainly staffed the new Ports Service headquarters which he established at Khorramshahr. His working force of port battalions would operate and maintain port facilities and execute construction jobs which, at the beginning, were restricted to the modification of existing installations. After the arrival of the first large shipment of American port battalions and administrative troops, Ports Service headquarters was removed on 21 December to Basra, where it was in direct contact not only with the War Transport Executive Committee, but with Headquarters, Basra District, PGSC.16 This administrative subarea of the American command inherited from its predecessor headquarters certain functions connected with ports and shipping which had evolved in pre-SOS days when there had been no direct American responsibility for port operations or shipping. Colonel Shingler, the commanding officer of Basra District, found himself charged with responsibility for construction activities at ports as well as with liaison with the British agencies and the WSA in such matters as the collection of shipping information.

There was thus at the outset an area of responsibility for shipping and port matters which was occupied in part by both Colonel Shingler and Colonel Booth, each of whose commands stemmed, in the PGSC organization, directly from General Connolly. Possibility existed for a conflict of authority as well as of duties. Moreover the district, as an administrative subarea of the PGSC, exercised wide responsibilities for both administrative and operational activities. Among these, the office of director of ports was placed under the commander of Basra District, and the ports of Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur were administratively responsible to him, though their troops and administrative officers and men, as members of the port battalions and of 9th Port, came under the director of ports. Of such is the Kingdom of


Snafu, never happier than when founded upon strict obedience to logic and the principle of historical survival.

The situation was soon righted when on 3 March 1943 Colonel Booth assumed command of Basra District. He immediately consolidated his three commands into one organization.17 Ninth Port remained the source of trained shipping personnel in the administration of district and ports activities. The Ports Service was predominantly operational, while the district became predominantly administrative. The organizations of the port commanders at Khorramshahr, Bandar Shahpur, and Cheybassi (when in July the American command began operations there) were brought under unified command and direction, and Ports Service became, in effect, an autonomous operating service.18

With the consolidation of the ports and district headquarters, manpower economies were reflected in the reduction of officers from 46 to 35, and of enlisted men in the headquarters detachment from 195 to 179. Those released from administrative assignment became available for operations.

On 16 May 1943 Basra District was redesignated Gulf District, and the combined District and Ports Service headquarters continued at Basra until its removal late in September to Ahwaz.19 The ensuing year brought only minor readjustments in the organization chart; but the passing of peak operations made possible a progressive contraction in the organization. First, operational direction of Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur was taken over late in 1944 by the Ahwaz office of the Port Operations Branch, Operations Division. The next step in contraction followed on 24 February 1945 when Gulf District was abolished and Ports Service moved to Khorramshahr, effecting a reduction in the Ports Service organization from six to two staff divisions for service and operations. This arrangement continued until 10 October


when Ports Service was terminated. The next day all of its remaining functions were assumed by Transportation Branch, Operations Division. In its thirty-four months of existence, Ports Service had come full circle, from Khorramshahr through periods at Basra and Ahwaz and back to Khorramshahr again, expanding and contracting with the job to be accomplished.20

The scope of port operation required collaborative effort or, at the least, efficient liaison, with other organizations-American, British, Soviet, and Iranian. In the early days when growing pains were continuous and violent, Colonel Booth had written:

The Ports Service is charged with more duties and responsibilities in this theater than landing cargo. Landing the cargo is the easiest phase of our operation and is the phase in which we are best equipped with experts. Storage, documentation, guard, rail and truck loading operations and operation of internal use motor trucks are duties and responsibilities that Ports Service is now charged with.21

He might have added that the ports organization usually found itself in the middle of the logistical mill, ground by upper and nether stones. Those who were primarily interested in speeding ships' turnaround joined with those interested in speeding the turnaround of railway cars to urge the ports organization to do something about their complaints. As a result functions were often redefined and reallocated to tighten performance, simplify procedure, or increase efficiency.

The shift of certain Gulf District responsibilities in 1944 to the Ahwaz office of one of the command's general staff divisions diminished Gulf District powers. A transfer of responsibility in the contrary direction occurred when certain functions passed in January 1944 from Movements Branch, Operations Division, to newly established port transportation officers within the ports organization. This took place as part of a reorganization, promulgated by Gulf District, assigning to the Army Transport Service of the combined ports organization responsibility for the movement, loading, and discharging of ships, and to the port transportation officers the movement of freight and passengers to and from the ports and the procurement and allocation of all transportation facilities for the ports. In addition they were to perform all documentation and maintain current records on all freight stored


or in transit at their ports.22 These duties were partly operational and partly executive or of a staff nature; yet, in the sudden rush of developments, they had come to be exercised by Movements Branch, which, as a general staff office outside the ports organization, was less suited to perform the operational functions than an office within the ports structure. Hence the change.

Yet Movements Branch had earlier been brought into the picture in an effort to improve the situation at the start of operations. On 11 March 1943 Colonel Booth appealed to General Connolly for closer co-ordination with the Military Railway Service in the matter of speeding the turnaround of freight cars at the ports. By an agreement of 29 December 1942 between Colonel Booth and Colonel Yount, Director of MRS, port commanders were to control yards and storage, tally and load cars, and prepare and distribute shipping tickets for each car, while the MRS would operate switch engines and have technical supervision of rolling stock in yards and on the main lines. But loading was subject to priorities, and these were arranged through Movements Branch of Operations Division, the staff division responsible for the supervision and control of matters relating to the whole lend-lease activity of the theater. In consequence of Colonel Booth's appeal, branch offices of Movements Branch were established on 17 March 1943 to facilitate the processes of documentation and administrative direction. With this help the ports organization at Khorramshahr in particular was urged to speed loading. Stress was laid on the fact that the Russians had in only seventeen days reduced from 1,330 to 728 the number of freight cars held in their zone north of Tehran. The port commander at Khorramshahr was therefore told that of the 500 cars standing in his yards, 250 must be dispatched by the end of May. A further tightening of organizational structure occurred when on 29 May railway terminal operations at Khorramshahr passed from MRS to the port commander.23

Through its representative at Basra who sat with the War Transport Executive Committee, Movements Branch provided liaison between the American and British operating agencies, obtaining from the


British all available shipping information for transmittal to Ports Service and to GHQ at Tehran. In the early period the WSA representative received directly from arriving ships stowage plans and manifests which he distributed to port agencies. After July 1943 ships' papers were received in advance of ship arrivals, thus greatly speeding the processes requiring manifest and stowage information; but in the course of time the function of the WSA became largely advisory, supplying Movements Branch with shipping forecasts and information, and technical advice on loading, safety, and routing.24

Two other offices within Operations Division were closely involved with shipping and port matters. Control Branch, which was responsible for advising the commanding general on target estimates, received recommendations on port capacities from the Gulf District organization. While the Movements Branch officer at Basra maintained liaison with the British agencies, the Ocean Traffic Section of Movements Branch at Tehran was the agency for co-ordinating Soviet movement and priority requirements. Established on 1 February 1943 as the Traffic Control Section, its primary function was to perform liaison between the American and Soviet headquarters in obtaining disposal instructions for all cargoes destined for the USSR.25 The chief Soviet agencies involved were the Soviet Transportation Directorate and Iransovtrans. The latter's office in Tehran was divided into subofflces for processing such disparate items as tanks, food, clothing, and engineer equipment. The Ocean Traffic Section had to screen the often conflicting demands of these separate offices. In general, cargoes for Bandar Shah on the Caspian Sea were appropriate for their destinations in the central Russian manufacturing area. Those headed for Dzhul'fa along the motor truck routes were chiefly commodities such as food, clothing, ammunition, spare parts, and similar items destined for immediate use on the battle front.

The process by which Soviet requirements were translated into American action was unavoidably cumbersome. It began with the manifests of incoming ships. At the outset these came through the British, then through the WSA, often at the last minute and in so few copies as to be almost useless. Later these came in advance by courier; finally via the Movements Branch office in Basra. Copies of the manifests were then forwarded to Tehran and translated into Russian. The Ocean Traffic Section began the process of breaking them down into categories, and the various offices of the Soviet agencies got to


work making up their requirements in accordance with their latest orders from the battle front and their latest information as to Soviet ability to receive cargoes at the transfer points and carry them on to Soviet destinations. In the end each item of a ship's manifest was listed according to destination. The detail was enormous and exacting and intensified by the unremitting pressure for speed. Thousands of commodities were sorted out on paper in this way at Tehran and designated for eleven different destinations. Then the lists were sent to the ports for action; but at the ports, especially in the first year, the local Soviet representative was likely to make last-minute adjustments, usually dictated by alterations in front-line requirements. Any such change would affect co-ordinated loading plans for northbound trucks and trains and slow the flow of tonnage, so that the very act of accommodating American operations to Soviet requirements was likely to bring a protest from the Soviets against American delays. The Russians were implacable in their demands for speed and quantity, and where there were so many protests and suggestions, many were bound to be justified. This was especially true in the early months, and Colonel Booth called upon his port commanders in March 1943 to improve the loading of freight cars, after Soviet complaints of incompatible cargoes such as sugar and iron wire in one car, or improper stowage of airplane engines, leading to damage in shipment, or overloading of cars. Betterment followed automatically when an increase in available rolling stock improved the selectivity of freight cars and therefore the efficiency with which a ,trainload of hundreds of different kinds of items could be made up.26

Sometimes Russian suggestions were less to the point than those concerning loading. At a conference on 8 May 1943 with Lt. Col. Harry C. Dodenhoff, the port commander at Bandar Shahpur, the Soviet representatives suggested night shifts at the docks, although floodlighting had not yet been installed. And sometimes a congenital cautiousness in the Slav nature compromised American actions designed directly for Soviet benefit. Such an instance, occurring in January 1943, though originating at the shipping level ultimately occupied the time and attention not only of the highest War Shipping and Maritime Commission officials in Washington, but of the Commanding General, PGSC, and the Russian Ambassador at Tehran. Because of the large number of ships at anchor at the head of the Gulf awaiting discharge, General Connolly, in accordance with WSA's instructions to clear the Shatt al Arab, diverted a limited tonnage of relatively


low priority to Karachi, where the ships could be more promptly unloaded and returned to America for fresh cargoes for the USSR. But the local Soviet authority, in the words of General Connolly's reports to Washington and the United States lend-lease representative at Moscow,

. resisted each, every and all diversions and no concrete recommendations could be obtained from him. He was informed that if he did not act in the matter that I would be forced to fix priorities .... It is obvious here that Soviets prefer holding excess cargo in ships idling in ports . . . . Russians apparently consider that their recommendation on low priority cargo would be sanctioning diversion to Karachi, which they oppose.

The dispatch adds, in connection with Soviet implications that the American effort in their behalf is not all it might be, "Needless to say we are vitally interested in increasing flow of supplies to USSR. That is our only reason for being here." The War Department backed Connolly and the diversion relieved the shipping glut in the Gulf.27

Sometimes Soviet ideas were tried out with no very encouraging results. An instance is an attempt to improve the dispatching of cargoes from Bandar Shahpur by rail. In November 1944 an agreement between Iransovtrans and the American command provided, first, for shipment of commodities by individual order numbers in carload lots, and, second, for holding for complete discharge and segregation before dispatch certain items specified by headquarters at Tehran on disposal instructions.28 The immediate result of the agreement was that, at the close of the month of November, the Storage and Transit Area at Bandar Shahpur was glutted with cargo which, instead of being loaded at shipside directly for its northern (Soviet) destination, had to be sent to the dump and sorted. Fortunately the last ton of Russian-aid cargo was cleared from Bandar Shahpur on 31 December. The new instructions did not prevail long enough to bring to serious proportions the accumulation of backlog they seemed destined to create. Their promulgation is a further monument to the American effort to oblige the Soviet Ally.

Because of their inflexibility and literalness, the Soviet representatives were never easy to please; but the record shows that, after the early months, Soviet-American procedures settled down to a working basis. If they had not done so, the total tonnages would tell a different story.


Aerial Photo Of Khorramshahr

The Ports and Their Problems

Even a sampling of ports relations with other agencies shows that getting the cargoes off the ships was, as Colonel Booth had said, the least of his worries, though one of his biggest jobs. Problems and operations were synonymous. The physical ports were a problem. The troops who disembarked at Khorramshahr in December 1942 had sailed some seventy miles up the Shatt al Arab River. Sentab jetty, the port's chief installation, was situated on the east bank of the Shatt half a mile upstream from its confluence with the Karun River. Along these two rivers, bordered by groves of date palms, and in the flat desert spaces enclosed by them, busy construction activity betokened the efforts, begun by the British in the previous year, to transform a sleepy native village and its single concrete berth, connected with the interior only by a desert road fit for camels, to a vital port of entry for millions of tons of war material destined for the USSR. In December 1942 a rail branch and an incompleted modern highway stretched inland from the docks to Ahwaz, eighty miles away. By the following May new construction gave Sentab jetty seven berths connected with the shore by six trestle approaches for railway tracks and trucks. It stretched 3,251 feet parallel to the shore. Its width had been doubled and it was paved level from end to end to allow trucks to drive over the three railway tracks which extended its full length. It was floodlighted for night operations. (Mad 5-inside back corer)

By May the fearful summer had set in, with the thermometer regularly climbing above 100 F., and afternoon shade temperatures ranging between 110 and 125. After May and continuing to October sun temperatures would exceed 140 accentuated by spells of high humidity and severe periodical dust storms. Only October and November provided pleasant weather. When the first troops came ashore in December the nights were cold, the days often lashed by torrential rains, and this was to continue into March, followed by heat and drought. It was a miserable environment which the troops entered after forty-one days at sea and, though much construction had preceded their arrival, housing was lacking so that they had tents pitched for them in a muddy flooded area about a mile inland from the jetty. Six months later the main camp of adequate mud-brick barracks being erected on the same site for Khorramshahr's permanent troops was only half completed. When the camp was finished in August, a serious drag on efficient operations was ended by the improvement in housing.29


Aerial Photo Of Bandar Shahpur

Besides Sentab jetty there were three other dockage installations at the port of Khorramshahr. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company wharf at Abadan handled heavy cargoes like locomotives from shipside to barges. The barges proceeded to about a mile above the jetty where Failiyah Creek entered the Shatt al Arab River. Just within the creek, on its east bank, a wooden bulkhead was extended by additional construction. By March 1943 a lighterage wharf 1,500 feet long and 10 feet wide, connected with the adjacent railway system by three tracks and served by a 100-ton electric derrick and a 5-ton crawler crane, was ready to unload barge cargoes for placement upon railway cars. The leveling of ground along the tracks provided ample open storage space.

Two small lighterage wharves completed the dockage facilities used by the U.S. Army. At the junction of the Karun and Shatt Rivers, the Customs jetty, enlarged by the British in 1942 and 1943 and provided with rail approaches, was mainly used for commercial lighterage; but the U.S. Army was authorized to use it when there were available facilities. About three miles up the Karun River, on its west bank, was Khumba Wharf, extended and improved in 1943 by port of Khorramshahr engineers, and used mainly for landing crated trucks and unloading barges containing engineering supplies.

The chief storage area at the port was called the Russian Dump, formally known as the Transit Storage Area. This was a 32-acre tract situated next to the railway yards about a mile inland from Sentab Jetty. Provided with railway tracks running parallel with storage sections, and with 1,800 feet of gantry-crane track, this area furnished space for temporary storage of overflow Soviet cargo. Here Russian-aid cargo was segregated, checked, loaded, and dispatched northward by rail or truck.

In the early days when much American equipment was arriving, destined for the Ahwaz General Depot 77 miles north, it had been stored in an area adjacent to the Russian Dump where pilferage was prevalent. The construction of three open-sided warehouses provided shelter for receiving and sorting American materiel. As the cargoes passed through to Ahwaz, subsequent arrivals were stored at Customs jetty warehouses for Khorramshahr subdepot use.30

The officers and men of the 378th Port Battalion and of 9th Port, who arrived at Bandar Shahpur on 2 February 1943 as an advance


echelon of the Army Transport Service to take over the port from the British sixteen days later, had already come ashore at one Persian Gulf port and had found it no paradise. They did not know, when they approached the low, miasmal shore of Bandar Shahpur, what life there was like; but they may have suspected, as they looked about them, that whatever was climatically bad at Khorramshahr would be worse at Bandar Shahpur, whatever was climatically good at Khorramshahr could be no better at the primitive island port fifty-four miles to the east. Lying on an island in the Khor Musa, an inlet at the head of the Persian Gulf about forty-three miles from the Gulf itself, Bandar Shahpur was built as the sea terminus of the ISR. There was no town, only a native village of conical straw mats lashed to ballie poles,31 sprawling over 70 percent of the port site. There was no landward communication save the single-track railway which, carried on 900 feet of trestle from the single jetty, reached the island, stretched across it on raised ground through the classification yards to the north side, and then spanned the mud flats of the Khor Musa to the mainland over a 6-mile embankment. Isolated, treeless, and dismal, Bandar Shahpur, too, was no paradise; but in 1942 under British operation it had received half the Russian-aid cargo arriving at Persian Gulf ports, and it was to bear its fair share in 1943 and 1944.

The first American group were housed in mud huts used by the Royal Air Force. The second, arriving soon after, pitched their tents knee-deep in mud, and fought off flood conditions that were inevitable on a low, flat island unprotected save by primitive dikes. Life was not sweetened by the proximity of the native laborers' camp, infested with vermin and strewn with refuse; but by the end of the first month, February, nearly all the natives had been moved to Sar Bandar where, at a location six miles away on the mainland, just west of the railroad, a camp was contrived for them which, at the peak of operations, accommodated some 4,000 persons.

Beginning in March 1943 wooden sidewalks were laid, drainage installed, and lighting wired in the enlisted men's washrooms. By May barracks were started. By December much needful construction, including two tidal gates to control the flooding of the mud flats, had been finished. It was right that at Bandar Shahpur, where the men's living conditions at the first had been even worse than at Khorramshahr, improvement was prompter.

The port installations were relatively simple. The old jetty, extending far into the water because of the shallow shore line, was of


wooden piles. Its two berths totaled 800 feet in length and the jetty was 40 feet wide, bearing three lines of railroad track. During the months of June to August, the new jetty, which had been under construction for over a year by the British firm of Braithwaite, Burns, and Jessop under contract to the British Army, was put into use, adding three berths. Seventy-seven feet wide, its steel-piled length, curving 1,680 feet in the opposite direction to that of the old jetty, completed a flattened Y-shaped structure. Its tail was the 900-foot trestle carrying the single rail track to shore. At these jetties ships tied up and discharged their cargoes by the use of ship's gear directly to the rail cars, while some cargo was manhandled to cars and some was transferred overside to lighters.

At the beginning, the only usable lighterage wharf was the Bazaar Wharf, unhappily located on a creek which was dry at low tide. This was abandoned after American engineers, working from March to October, had enlarged and reconstructed Khor Zangi, an old wharf on the mainland two miles north of the island. With two rail spurs to the main line, and three powerful cranes in concrete foundations, the enlarged wharf, 660 feet by 20 feet, situated on deep water, was able to discharge loads directly from lighters to the railway cars on which they proceeded north. Small buildings for offices, storeroom and gear stowage, supplied with utilities, completed the equipment of Khor Zangi Wharf.

Open storage was provided on the island between the railroad tracks, and at Sar Bandar, where the Americans installed three portal cranes, in unlimited area on the flat ground. Three corrugated iron warehouses and some smaller structures on the raised ground of the railway yards furnished covered storage. Fresh water, particularly in quantities for provisioning ships, had come originally in tank cars by rail from Ahwaz; but the Americans improved that, too, by increasing the capacity of an existing pipeline which brought water forty miles from an inland creek.32

The difficulties posed by the physical condition of the ports themselves gave way in time before the steady improvements made in facilities and equipment. Even the heat, for which early planning had made allowance in expectation of a 20-percent reduction in ship discharge during the worst months, failed to produce the expected seasonal slumps. In fact, although at Bandar Shahpur during a measured five weeks' period in the first summer, there was "ten to twenty times as


much heat exhaustion and heat stroke" as at Khorramshahr, both ports managed to attain maximum discharge in July of 1944.33 To be sure this performance reflected the matured organization and techniques gained in more than a year of operations, as well as the virtual completion of construction and improved inland clearance; but the human factor was basically and doggedly there, too. When General Styer, Chief of Staff, Army Service Forces, visited the command in July 1943, he reported to General Somervell, as an instance of troop morale at Bandar Shahpur, that when it appeared that the port might not meet its May target, port troops had asked if they might increase their working time to two 12-hour shifts.34

A distinctly human problem caused some trouble in the first months of port operations when it was discovered that pilferage was by no means confined to the native workers at the docks and storage areas. Some of the American port battalion troops found post exchange and canned subsistence items irresistible, and opinion surveys revealed that they reasoned, somewhat imperfectly, that since these, and other items of lend-lease cargoes, had been paid for by the American taxpayer, they were entitled to help themselves.35 Such reasoning, while hardly to be condoned, is not wholly incomprehensible in a world in which travelers have long indulged, with the tacit consent of society, in the purloining of hotel silver, linen, crockery, and even the pictures on the walls; but when pilferage extended to war materiel, no excuse could be allowed. Moreover, the Russians put in a prompt complaint, to both British and Americans, and action followed. "It is a paradox," wrote Colonel Booth to the Khorramshahr port commander, "that we should work hard, collect and ship goods 15,000 miles and then not protect them to the best of our ability." He then empowered the port commander "to stop pilferage on the part of natives by the use of weapons, and under regulations, to deal with any of our own troops caught pilfering."36

Several steps were taken which shortly proved effective: additional guards were stationed at the sorting sheds, at holds of ships when they were open, and at each ramp leading to the Sentab jetty; a fence


was built around the sorting shed area; boxes broken on arrival or in handling were isolated, put under guard, and sent to be recoopered.

Although the matter of pilferage consumed most of the month of March, it was by no means either the sole or the chief problem to concern Colonel Booth as Director of Ports Service and Commander of Gulf District. Indeed, the colonel learned, as did the King in Hamlet, that

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions ....

The investigation of pilferage, coupled by the 9th Port's inspector general with the problem of security at Khorramshahr, also served to throw into high relief many defects in the machinery.37 The pilferage was but a symptom, a part of the larger problems of officer competence and assignment, efficient use of enlisted men, employment and supervision of native labor. These factors spread in widening circles, to include such larger considerations as cargo handling, packing and storage, dock equipment, and, inevitably, the meeting of targets, the need for speed, always more speed, with the Russians clamoring for goods, and authorities all the way back to Washington bearing down with increasing pressure to reduce the number of ships, loaded or half loaded, lying idle in the outer anchorages, waiting to be discharged and to return home for a new cargo. On 27 February a message went to General Connolly from General Somervell:

All plans for your Command are being attacked by reason of ship delays. Everything must be done to eliminate this . . . . Desire that all-out effort be made to unload and release ships which have been delayed in turnaround at PG ports. Even if it means rehandling of cargo, this effort must be made. A similar effort must be made to move this cargo into USSR.38

Called upon for a report, Colonel Booth stated to General Connolly on 1 March that daily average ship discharge for Khorramshahr had risen from 958 long tons in November, two months before American port troops went into action, to 2,234 long tons in February.39 But this improved performance fell well under the 100,000 long tons per month designated by Washington planners for shipment to the Persian Gulf ports. Among the several factors working against further improvement were manpower and equipment. Manpower consisted of two classes


of supervisors and two classes of working forces. Supervisors responsible for operations were officers from 9th Port. Since nearly all experienced stevedore officers were 9th Port men, their limited numbers were spread thin, one being assigned to each ship. The second class of supervisors were the port battalion officers, who were responsible for command of troops at the ship and saw to it that troops performed according to the requirements of 9th Port operation officers. This group were described by the Army Transport Service officer in charge of dock operations at Khorramshahr as "young officers recently from OCS and splendid fellows and willing to learn, but I don't know one instance of them having previous shipping experience."40 In addition to this severe handicap to efficient performance, port battalion officers, too, were spread thin because of the necessity of using port battalion personnel in other than stevedore duties. Consequently, too few supervisors were available at the docks. The solution, Colonel Booth wrote on 3 March, was better distribution of enlisted men; but even as late as 15 April Colonel Booth was forced to admit, with regard to supervisory personnel, "I see no way to avoid using the white Port Battalions on supervision. The Ninth Port is not large enough to take the entire duty." A request for more 9th Port officers, directed to Washington as early as February, had produced no officers as late as 10 August.41

The working forces consisted of U.S. Army troops and of native laborers. The first port battalion to reach Khorramshahr, the 378th, had received training in stowage methods, materials handling, winch operation, and cargo knotting and lashing. Among them were some experienced stevedores, winch operators, and shipping clerks; but in the judgment of a responsible 9th Port official, it "was not a well trained organization upon arrival" and "received practically all of its technical training after debarking at Khorramshahr."42 The 380th Port Battalion, which arrived in January, had, in the language of its chronicler, been "hurriedly trained." Both groups had to learn on the job and both job and cargo tended to suffer in the process as relatively green men became crane operators, cargo checkers, warehouse foremen, transportation clerks, pump tenders, and even guards, truck drivers, blacksmiths, towmotor operators, and malaria control technicians.43


To compensate for shortage of port personnel, increased use was made of the second class of worker, the native laborer. Recruited, paid, and regulated by the Gulf District labor relations officer, native labor at Khorramshahr was hired directly by the labor officer and collectively through local labor contractors, who received a fixed rate per ton, the rates being adjusted from time to time as experience dictated. At Bandar Shahpur all labor was hired directly. At both ports the natives, almost wholly inexperienced, learned as they worked. Under such conditions cargo damage was inevitable; but the American soldier supervisor-instructors produced among their thousands of native workers not only stevedores and longshoremen but also operators of such machinery as winches. This was achieved with a minimum of friction. To the ports operation as a whole the contribution of native labor was indispensable.44

In the matter of certain equipment the early story was also one of shortages, ironically the result of reliance in Washington upon a report from the field during the early planning in July 1942 that there was a sufficiency of cranes and gear. But in January 1943 power machinery for unloading and loading railway cars at the Russian Dump at Khorramshahr consisted of two small gantry cranes so that much of the cargo, including steel rails badly needed by the Soviet forces, had to be loaded by hand. A month later, two additional 3-ton portal cranes and one 5-ton crawler crane were in operation, and during March and April four more portal cranes, ordered after Colonel Booth's arrival in the field in November, arrived and were erected. In January, at the height of the shortage, British PAI Force recommended joint pooling of Anglo-American crane facilities, suggesting that the British director of Ordnance Services be empowered to register and allocate all cranes, including those to arrive in future. The suggestion was declined by the American command, co-ordination of cranes was effected through the War Transport Executive Committee, and by August there was a sufficiency of cranes, but still a shortage of rigging and gear.45

Lighters and barges come under the heading of equipment factors affecting port operations. Lighters were used from berth to berth in the same port and barges in ferrying discharged cargoes from one port to another. Their supply and allocation tied in very closely with port performance. After 1 May 1943 control over barges, lighters, and tugs, exercised by the British Inland Water Transport ( IWT ) , was the only


element in port operations still in British hands. With the increase in the number of barges resulting from the American barge assembly operation at Kuwait, the problem of their use in time boiled down to allocations. The Americans were not satisfied with the service IWT gave them. There were instances of delays in ship discharge caused by late arrival of barges in spite of ample advance notification to the IWT; and there were instances in which more lighters were assigned to a ship than were required. In April, having consistently received inadequate lighterage allocations from the IWT to whom application was made at the daily berthing committee meetings at Margil (Basra port), Colonel Booth requested the Operations Division at Tehran headquarters to apply to PAI Force headquarters at Baghdad to approve an estimate of requirements for adequate barge and lighterage tonnage for Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur. In July, after months of somewhat desultory discussion and correspondence between the top headquarters, the British, while refusing to grant the Americans control of lighterage operations, obtained concurrence at Tehran to an allocation considerably smaller than that first proposed by Colonel Booth. Thus matters rocked along thenceforth.46

As if to top off the difficulties of the early months, torrential rains in March washed out large sections of the newly built highway and damaged the rail line so that inland clearance by rail and road between Khorramshahr and Ahwaz was severely restricted. Tonnage piled up at the Russian Dump at Khorramshahr and damage to stored cargo resulted.

In the midst of all this, representatives of the Washington headquarters of the Transportation Corps, on a world tour of inspection, arrived on 15 March for a stay of some nine weeks.47 It was hardly a propitious moment for visitors. The seventh ( and last) berth at Sentab jetty was still under construction; the command was still shy at least ten thousand American troops; and the visitors from Washington early discovered what was already all too well known in the command-that more cargo was being shipped in these early months than could be


unloaded and that more cargo was being unloaded than could be transported to the USSR. They were also no less disturbed than was the command, from General Connolly down, over the length of days ships spent at port in the process of discharge.48 And so they settled down to study the ports.

The diagnosis, embodied in papers which for convenience will be called the Allin reports, covered most of the ailments which had been worrying the director of ports from the beginning. It was summarized almost too simply: "Two definite bottlenecks exist in the Persian line of communication, namely, interior clearance and port clearance." To that no one could have taken the slightest exception, nor to the visitors' "opinion that the interior clearance from the ports to Russian delivery is the major bottleneck." That had been General Connolly's diagnosis of the previous December. To a number of conditions in port operations the Transportation Corps specialists called attention with helpful results. As a consequence of their diagnosis of Sentab jetty, that key installation was widened by new construction which began in March. Unloaded cargo could then be temporarily stored at shipside, thus speeding discharge without waiting for removal of cargoes from the dock. The efforts of the Ports Service to recooper damaged crates and boxes both at the ships before unloading and at the storage areas received the blessing of the Allin reports, and were accelerated by them.

Recognizing factors beyond the control of the command in the field, the reports recommended improvements in dunnage and ship stowage, and in the system of supplying manifests, along with other changes in procedure which had to be effected in the United States. These were to prove helpful; but the command was seriously disturbed at the recommendation which went forward to Washington to effect "a moratorium or suspension of shipments to the extent of one-half month's program, namely, 100,000 cargo tons . . . ."49 Of this more will be said later; but the suggestion echoed General Somervell's February warning that plans for General Connolly's command were under attack because of ship delays.

The Allin reports also dealt with problems of personnel. They noted a low state of morale, "evidence of friction among officers," "a dis-


tinct feeling that the officers have been passed over in the matter of promotions," and insufficient recreation and rest camp facilities for the men. This last matter was remedied before midyear by planning and new construction which had been impossible at the beginning. Exception was also taken in the reports to the transfer to other duties of the first Khorramshahr port commander, it being asserted that he was a trained shipping man and that his place was taken by a nonshipping man who was a "previous acquaintance of the Commanding Officer of the Basra District." On this matter the position of the commanding officer of the district and director of ports was that although the first man was a shipping man he was not a successful administrator;50 and it is a matter of record that the second Khorramshahr port director served in that capacity only some two months, being relieved by the director of ports, like his predecessor, for "failure to produce."51 General Styer reported to General Somervell the "gratifying results" being obtained by their successor, Col. Bernard A. Johnson.52 To assist in port operations, the Allin reports of April urged the assignment to the theater of "an officer skilled in stevedoring," an assignment which had been asked of Washington by the command in that very month, when Maj. Emery C. Creager of the Los Angeles Port of Embarkation was requested by name. When by the following July Washington had done nothing about it, Lt. Col. Benjamin C. Allin renewed his request directly to General Gross, and Major Creager was ordered to Iran 17 July.53 He was followed shortly by Col. Hans Ottzenn, Superintendent of the Water Division, New York Port of Embarkation, detailed by the Transportation Corps on the orders of General Somervell and with the concurrence of General Connolly to visit Khorramshahr and inspect stevedoring operations with a view to correcting any observable deficiencies. On 5 August Colonel Ottzenn informed General Connolly that he was unable to make recommendations for improvement in port operations "other than those which upon investigation I find are already planned . . . ." At the same time Colonel Ottzenn urged the War Department to see that the WSA did not reduce shipping to the Persian Gulf as urged by Colonel Allin's reports. The command's monthly capacity figures, he felt, accurately reflected current ability to handle cargoes and use Corridor facilities


to capacity, which would be wasted and partly idle if ship arrivals were diminished.54

The allotment of total shipping to Persian Gulf ports was a matter of top war policy. While General Connolly strove to develop maximum capacity to handle what higher authority shipped to him for the USSR and while the USSR strove continuously to obtain ever increasing tonnages, Washington had to apportion shipping within the total requirements of a global war. An instance of the Russian pressure was passed on to General Connolly from the American lend-lease representative in Moscow in June 1943. During the discussions over the Third Protocol tonnages-those to be supplied the USSR from July 1943 through June 1944-the Soviets, aware of Washington talk of reducing Persian Gulf shipments, complained that General Connolly's capacity was not being fully used and urged increased rather than decreased shipments. On the other hand, Washington's effort to balance its global program was reflected when, in March 1944, the War Department indicated that after April tonnage should drop to 160,000-180,000 long tons, and not again exceed 200,000 long tons. Furthermore, the command in the field was cautioned to clear with Washington before agreeing to Soviet requests for increased commitments. The word was to cooperate with .the Soviet "within the scope of our present commitments."55

Matters had obviously improved since the early months of 1943;but there was to be one more report which upon reaching Washington caused elaborate repercussions. The Allin reports had contained thefollowing reference to relations between the command and the WSA:

Effort should be made to secure the co-operation of the officer personnel with representatives of the War Shipping Administration. Of all the theaters we visited, this is the sole exception where the assistance of the War Shipping Administration representatives has not been received and made use of. It is our opinion that in this theater the lack of co-operation is the fault of the Army and not the War Shipping Administration.

It will be recalled that before the coming into effect in late 1942 of the SOS Plan the indirect shipping interests of the United States in the Persian Gulf had been looked after by the U.S. Naval Observer,


Basra, and by the regional director of WSA, Mr. Seaholm. In the early days of the new regime under the SOS Plan, as the American command gradually assumed more and more direct responsibility for shipping as a part of its logistic mission in the Corridor, WSA, as has already been stated, had performed certain functions at the ports in liaison with the War Transport Executive Committee. But as the American command's organization expanded to handle increasing responsibilities, Movements and other regulatory offices were established to operate, for efficiency's sake, within the chain of military command. Inevitably WSA's functions became increasingly advisory.

Under date of 20 June 1943, and in Mr. Seaholm's absence in the United States, Oscar A. J. Henricksen, assistant regional director, addressed a letter to the Director, Foreign Service Division, WSA, Washington.56 Although it was a personal letter transmitting personal impressions, its author stressed its official importance. He wrote:

Mac, these are harsh words but they are the truth and if anybody ever sat down and wrote about the actual conditions out here and they were published in the United States, all I have to say is that somebody better get out from under. There have been numerous representatives of the Army investigating the conditions at Khorramshahr, but as to the actual report turned in, no one knows.57 In this connection I wish to state that I take personal responsibility for everything mentioned in this letter, let the chips fall where they may.

The WSA on 3 July passed the letter on to General Burns, Executive, Munitions Assignments Board, Combined Chiefs of Staff, who forwarded it to General Somervell, who sent it to General Connolly with a letter containing the following passage

I enclose copies of correspondence that reflect upon the discipline of port troops and the efficiency of the operations of your port organization at Khorramshahr. There have been other reports of a similar nature indicating a lower state of discipline, a poorer relationship with WSA authorities, and less efficiency of technical stevedoring operations than obtains in any similar location in the world.58


General Somervell announced his intention of sending Colonel Ottzenn to investigate, and of assigning "a competent officer to take charge of your stevedoring operations without delay." This was gratifying, in view of the theater's previous application for a stevedoring expert. General Somervell went on to speak of Henricksen's allegation that personal favoritism instead of shipping competence determined appointment of the Khorramshahr port commander, a charge likewise made in the Allin reports, and concluded, "I appreciate that this action is taken.59 without knowledge of the full story, but the unfavorable reports coming in and the low performance in unloading requires vigorous response by all of us." Through his chief of transportation, General Gross, General Somervell also requested his chief of stag, General Styer, who was in the CBI theater, to proceed to Khorramshahr "to look into complaint made by WSA representative."

Arriving at Basra early on the morning of 15 July, General Styer was met by General Connolly and Henricksen ( among others) and they proceeded with military staff members to Khorramshahr where a conference was followed by a tour of the docks.60 Before leaving for Cairo en route home next day, General Styer reported by radio to General Somervell, supplementing this message with a full written report dated 24 July. Henricksen explained to General Styer that his letter described conditions as of 31 May, that "he did not claim Army port operations inefficiently handled, but complained that in unloading of ships more attention was paid to meeting target than to care of cargo and wear and tear on ships' gear," that he "did not state that competent shipping personnel is not used," a statement attributed to him by the radios out of Washington, and, finally, that "considerable improvement" had occurred since 31 May and that he believed "that targets will be met unless there is a serious exodus of labor during the date picking season."

The considerable time lag between the period covered by the WSA complaint and the visit of General Styer had brought about improvements. Thus the recooperage carried out aboard ship on badly packed cargoes, a procedure begun at the time of the Allin reports, now rendered less likely such spillage and waste as when Henricksen saw it "snow sugar and hail beans, and this is not a joke, as I have seen beans an inch deep on the dock which were later shoveled overboard." But the burning of drums of vegetable shortening, also reported by Henricksen, proved on investigation to have been an instance of a ship-


ment spoiled in transit and destroyed with Soviet concurrence after condemnation by the U.S. Army veterinarian.61 Unskilled native labor and inexperienced Army supervision were responsible along with defective packing for cargo losses and damage; but General Styer was disinclined to regard all of the instances complained of as indicative of fundamentally unsound conditions. He wrote, "Another instance pointed out by Mr. Henricksen concerned the capsizing of a barge loaded with some vehicles. He felt that this could have been prevented with proper supervision. This is not a daily occurrence. I have seen similar accidents happen in New York harbor with highly skilled crews." Likewise General Styer found that the complaint that port crews were undisciplined in their relations with ships' officers and crews was founded upon "only two instances," and that "Mr. Henricksen's statements about these were so general that I could get no more specific impression than that Mr. Henricksen thought they should accept suggestions from the ships' officers and crews in all cases and should not have talked back in the cases cited."

General Styer concluded his report with tentative figures of target estimates and actual discharge. They showed that during the interim period to 1 May discharge did not come up to target but that in the third month (July) of full American responsibility the target was exceeded. "General Connolly," he wrote, "has a difficult job well in hand. In my opinion he now has it organized and built up with necessary facilities to the point where he will successfully accomplish his mission."

General Connolly did not forward his accounting to General Somervell until after the arrival of Colonel Ottzenn. Colonel Ottzenn's favorable impression of conditions and steps being taken has already been noted. He too recorded that Mr. Henricksen was satisfied with present operations, and added figures to indicate the manpower handicap suffered at Khorramshahr. In contrast to the 5.4 Army Transport Service officers available for supervision of each ship at the New York Port of Embarkation, only 1.9 officers were available at Khorramshahr.

General Connolly's letter of 11 August to General Somervell summarized the difficulties and concluded as follows:

Considering the heat and other difficulties of the area, morale is high. Performance is the best standard for judging morale. You may be interested to know that the rate of movement of USSR supplies through the Corridor as set up for August is about five times the rate existing prior to the arrival of the PGSC, and the rate actually attained in July was four times that rate. The August rate (for Russian tonnage alone, and disregarding British, Iranian and PGSC cargo) is


eleven times the maximum rate at which supplies moved over the Burma Road during its peak month. This should be sufficient evidence to any fair-minded person that the Command is not only efficient but has good morale.62

Tabulation of port discharge tonnages from July 1943 to the end of operations amply justifies the confidence of General Connolly, General Styer, and Colonel Ottzenn that, as General Styer put it, the command was "over the hump and will meet or exceed future forecasts if ships and cargo are furnished." The WSA did not institute a moratorium on shipping, and by the last month of 1943 total port discharge reached a tonnage which was only exceeded during one month in the busy year of 1944. In February 1944 the deputy representative of the British Ministry of War Transport for Abadan reported:

One thing is quickly apparent to the observer, all junior officers have become exceedingly proficient at the work and there is a fine team spirit-quite apart from the keen competition between individual groups to turn out the best results each day.63

The following December the WSA stated:

With the U.S. Military, WSA has very cordial relations, due largely to the quality of the officers we have worked with and also to the fact that among them and the enlisted personnel are many men who have had previous experience with stevedoring, railroading, trucking, etc.64


The most pressing objective of the ports organization was to get ships unloaded and returned to sea. Ship discharge was the first link in the logistical chain, prerequisite to all others. During the period from the end of October 1942, months before the arrival of the American port troops, to 22 January 1943, "average turnaround time" according to WSA calculations was 55 days. In the first five months of 1943, the period of greatest ship congestion at Persian Gulf ports, including the American-operated ports, the WSA noted:


59 vessels in the area remained 40 days or more. 46 vessels in the area remained 50 days or more. 33 vessels in the area remained 60 days or more. 22 vessels in the area remained 70 days or more. 9 vessels in the area remained 80 days or more. 5 vessels in the area remained 90 days or more.

Of the last group, one horrible example remained 124 days in port "before getting rid of her load"; but it is noted that she was "held up on priorities and for other reasons."66 The note is a further reminder that port operation was not simply a matter of removing cargo from ships' holds. High turnaround time was not necessarily a reflection upon the stevedores, though of course speedy turnaround was impossible if operations were inefficient. Not only could turnaround figures produce a possibly misleading impression when scrutinized at a distance of ten thousand miles from Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur. Failure of discharge totals to come up to target estimates could also mislead if the estimates were not accurate. The Allin reports had observed that in the early months these estimates seemed sometimes impossibly high and unrelated to the realities, and in both April and May estimates were modified.67 In time the mechanisms for producing accurate estimates improved, and the passing of the target in July 1943 marked not only this improvement but improvement in techniques of port operation as well. A WSA report shows that ship turnaround time fell steadily from an average of 51 days for April 1943 to 18 in December, and dropped during 1944 to 8.2 in September.68

Improvement in the rate of discharge was a formidable factor in bringing operations in October 1943 to a current basis; but in that month some berths were vacant for several days because of a temporary diminution in shipping. This allowed clearance of all cargo from the Russian Dump. More ships arrived in November and December, and in the latter month Khorramshahr discharged over 155,000 long tons. On 21 December the American port troops at Khorramshahr unloaded 7,041 long tons from seven ships. Two days later the Ministry of War Transport sent congratulations and dispatched men to study the


methods used. The record was exceeded on 13 February 1944 when 7,693 long tons were likewise discharged from seven ships at Khorramshahr. On 8 March 2,458 long tons were unloaded from a single ship in 24 hours at Khorramshahr, and on 15 May Bandar Shahpur set a record not to be surpassed by discharging 4,4'75 long tons from a single ship in 24 hours.69

It should be realized that these figures, while correct as absolute measurements of achievement on a given ship at a given time, are no more indicative of relative efficiency than are the more abstract figures of average turnaround time or average tons per ship day. Because of the differences in ships, cargoes, and other variable factors, neither absolute daily discharge tonnages per ship nor abstract averages are reliable indexes of efficiency, as they are not based upon comparable factors. The number as well as the competence of labor gangs, the weather, and .the nature of cargoes are too diverse to combine into comparable averages, and this is true in spite of the fact that operating officers found such averages, though abstract, to be useful day-to-day guides in estimating performance. For instance, the ship from which the record cargo was discharged at Bandar Shahpur carried a cargo of sugar in bags and possessed eight hatches instead of the usual five of Liberty ships. An unusual concentration of ships' gear, deck cranes, locomotive cranes on the dock, and the availability of an abnormally large working force all contributed to the record performance.70 An equally large labor party, using equal quantities of equipment in exactly similar weather, might, while working with equal skill and diligence, take twice as long to unload a ship whose cargo was diversified and cumbersome. Records should therefore be analyzed in the light of the considerations stated. Under the far from standard conditions in effect at Persian Gulf ports no statistically reliable means of recording comparable discharge tonnages existed. Total tonnages remain the best index of performance and efficiency.

During the first six months of 1944 available shipping fluctuated and monthly discharge totals failed to reach the level attained in December 1943. While totals fell off somewhat, the abstract tons per ship day figures increased. Subject to the reservations in the foregoing analysis, the rising tons per ship day figures indicated that, in general, increased efficiency had less cargo to work on. During this period the Chief of Transportation, Army Service Forces, officially recognized increased efficiency in a letter stating that among U.S. Army overseas


ports, Khorramshahr had placed second for discharge improvement, fifth for gross discharge, and tenth in turnaround.71

In July 1944, with 2,956 port troops on the job,72 Khorramshahr attained its peak performance by discharging 192,'761 long tons of cargo, a comfortable improvement over the 41,421 long tons of the first month of American port operation there in January 1943. Sentab's seven berths and four anchorages were used almost to capacity, two berths being empty for a day. The port handled 34 ships that month30 carrying cargo for the USSR, 3 carrying U.S. Army cargo, and 1 carrying both kinds. During July, 28 ships completed their discharge and sailed away. The installation for lighterage of heavy cargoes at Failiyah Creek took care of 70,069 long tons in July 1944 in contrast to 35,000 in April 1943 and its estimated capacity of only 9,000 in January 1943.73

After July 1944 Khorramshahr operated below its capacity. In August, when the discharge total dropped to 124,004 long tons, there were fifty-seven empty berth days and a general relaxation of pressure.74 The coming into use at the end of 1944 of the shorter Russian supply route through the Dardanelles was reflected in the decline of the Persian Gulf route.

American operations at the Customs jetty and at Khumba Wharf were discontinued in August, and thereafter Sentab jetty's berths were often vacant. By March 1945 the primary functions of Failiyah Creek were the receipt and clearance of alkylate and cumene in drums for forwarding by rail to the USSR.75 In early March the remaining Soviet-bound cargo at the Russian Dump, including sheet steel, pipe, rails, oleomargarine, canned meat, and galvanized wire, was dispatched by rail and Soviet trucks. By the middle of the month the dump was terminated as an active installation.

In March 1945 discharge at Khorramshahr had dropped to 30,216 long tons. In effect, the port had completed its Russian-aid mission and turned its efforts to outgoing cargoes amounting that month to about half of the incoming total. In May the same proportions held good for Sentab jetty, while Failiyah Creek was busy barging outgoing


American locomotives. It was returned to the British on 24 June. The mission of Khorramshahr as a Russian-aid port was formally declared terminated as of 1 June 1945.76 During the months that followed the port's main job was evacuation of American equipment and troops.

After hitting its stride in the latter half of 1943, Bander Shahpur's developed capacity was consistently underused. Strengthened by new construction, extensive use of lighterage, the sweat and grunts of port troops and native laborers, and mounting efficiency in the loading and dispatching of rail cars, the port was able to handle more tonnage than came to it in ships' bottoms. With discharge in December 1943 in excess of 71,000 long tons, the military strength at the port was 1,676.77 But ships consigned to the port diminished in numbers until in April 1944 only twenty-five out of a possible 150 berthing days were used, and no ships were docked between the eighth and twenty-first days of that month. The command, finding itself in the position of a restaurant keeper who does not know how much patronage to plan for, reduced the military strength of the port to 1,247 in July.78 But shipping rose and discharge reached its peak of 95,156 long tons in spite of the reduced military manpower. By the following November, with 1,508 port troops, discharge had fallen to about one third proved capacity.79

December 1944 was the last month of Russian-aid operations at Bandar Shahpur, and the next month the Americans discharged 1,199 long tons of British cargo before they climbed aboard boxcars for Ahwaz and Khorramshahr and new assignments. By the end of January the process of handing over to the British was virtually completed. A handful of American soldiers stayed on at Bandar Shahpur most of the year performing guard and caretaking duties.80

At Khorramshahr the Shatt al Arab River turns and for some twenty miles runs westward to Basra. Eight miles west of Khorramshahr the international boundary separates Iran from Iraq. By the terms of the Anglo-Iraqi arrangements of early 1941, the relatively well equipped little Iraqi port81 was controlled by the British. It was the sea entrance to the British line of communication which extended to Baghdad, and, like Baghdad, with its Habbaniya military airport, Basra had its Shu'aiba military airport, both of them manned and controlled by the British under their treaty rights. Basra was, operationally


speaking, British. It was essential to the supply of the Tenth Army, and the gateway to the sea for the whole of PAI Force. Russian-aid activity at the port was therefore additional to the essential business of supplying the British Army.

In the midst of this British area the SOS planners had proposed to assign to the American command responsibility for the operation of a lighterage basin known as Cheybassi. Cheybassi was not even a native village, though there were a few huts there in the palm grove along the river. In fact, as a port it was not even known as Cheybassi until the local name was officially adopted to distinguish the American operations there from the British depot activities about two miles downstream at Tanuma, whose name had been used for the whole region on the north (or east) side of the Shatt.82 But although included in the SOS calculations for American operations, Cheybassi remained in British hands until 1 July 1943, landing lightered British military stores intended for the Tanuma Depot and an occasional consignment for the USSR. In all of 1942 no Russian-aid tonnage passed through Cheybassi.

By early June 1943 it was apparent that the American Ports Service, having settled down to its tasks at Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur, was ready to take over Cheybassi. Colonel Booth so recommended on 2 June; an Anglo-American agreement ratified his recommendation on 23 June and set the date for taking over as 1 July. Cheybassi was designated a United States port with the same status as Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur. On 28 June 17 enlisted men and 6 officers arrived to take over, and by the end of July the station had reached a strength of 10 officers and 110 enlisted men of whom 8 were from 9th Port and 75 from the 378th Port Battalion which had also started things off at Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur. Port troops filled supervisory and technical jobs. Native labor supplied by civilian contractors were stevedores, while directly hired natives were used for such station operations as intraport railway, utilities, and antimalarial work. As of 30 September 1943 there were 736 native laborers at Cheybassi.83


The facilities, though modest, were more than adequate to take care of the traffic. There was the basin itself, jutting into the north bank of the Shatt, flanked by wharves. There were a concrete runway into the water for use by amphibious vehicles, and raised concrete platforms for loading direct to rail cars. There were two 3-ton portal cranes and a 50-ton floating crane. Cargo came from ships in the stream or lying at the docks at Basra's port of Margil across the river from Cheybassi. Access was provided by rail and road. A meter-gauge rail line connected Cheybassi and Margil over a remarkable vehicular bridge whose center span sank into the river instead of rising to make way for ships. At Cheybassi's transfer yard this meter-gauge line met the standard-gauge, single-track spur of the ISR which the British had constructed in 1942, and this spur, like the ISR south of Tehran, was American operated.84 Access roads connected Cheybassi with Tanuma and Khorramshahr on its side of the Shatt, and with the Basra dock and business areas of Margil and Ashar on the opposite bank. In August the Cheybassi operating troops occupied new barracks built a mile and a half inland on the desert to avoid the mosquitoes which plagued the river bank.

From the start, operations at Cheybassi differed from those at the other American ports. For one thing, there was much less variety in cargoes handled, Cheybassi's function being primarily to handle heavy cargoes like tanks which could not be trucked from the Basra area over the British highway route to Tabriz and which were therefore lightered to Cheybassi and put directly aboard ISR flatcars for the journey to Tehran. For a time petroleum products and alkylate in bulk tins and drums from the Abadan refinery were lightered to Cheybassi for transshipment to the USSR. In addition there was at all times an agreed American obligation to provide unloading at Cheybassi on twenty-four hours' notice for British military stores up to 200 long tons per day. Though the total never exceeded 2,500 long tons in a given month the proportion of British stores to USSR cargoes handled varied. Russianaid cargoes ranged through the period of American operation at Cheybassi from 50 percent to 90 percent of the total at a given time.

In a second respect Cheybassi differed from Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur, for Cheybassi was, as it were, an American enclave in British country. Even its tonnages derived from British tonnages, for nearly every ton that was landed at Cheybassi by the Americans had already been discharged elsewhere under British operation. Relations were bound to be close, and co-operation was cordial and efficient. By


the Anglo-American agreement of June 1943, the American port commander operated the Cheybassi lighterage basin, adjacent docks and open storage areas, camp, and ISR railway spur. In return the British retained control over movements and security, maintained the wharves, and operated light and power services, while their IWT supplied lighters and tugboats along with a daily statement to the American commander as to lighter cargoes destined for his port. There is no record of difficulties arising over allocation of lighters such as occurred at the Iranian ports. It is a fair assumption that these things were more smoothly managed not only because the American and British forces were actually engaged at Cheybassi in joint work but because the American staff there was in direct and personal touch with the IWT.

In one respect Cheybassi was similar to the other American ports, for all three developed more capacity than was used. Cheybassi, though, had not the comfort of reaching its full potentiality, if only once or twice. The SOS planners in 1942 had estimated a monthly tonnage of 30,000 for the port. In August 1943 there were landed 19,731 long tons, being followed in December by a performance of 19,840 long tons. In the following eight months landings ranged between 12,000 and 19,000 long tons; but the December figure was the peak, far below estimates. As in the case of the other ports, the organization was ready but the business went elsewhere, as the European war receded westward.85

Because Margil, the port of Basra, had been eliminated by Allied planning as a Russian-aid port and because the petroleum and alkylate shipments from Abadan had been diverted to Failiyah Creek, it was decided that Cheybassi was no longer required. With landings at the vanishing point in September, the port in effect returned to British control. Official transfer took place on 5 October 1944.86 In fifteen months of American operation total landings were 235,000 long tons.

Four ports in the Persian Gulf area, although operated by the British, received Russian-aid cargo in which the American command had a direct interest. Bushire, the ancient seaport of Iran some 200 miles down the east coast of the Gulf beyond Khorramshahr, had been marked in the SOS Plan for American operation but was eliminated early in 1943. Until July it received consignments of crated motor vehicles from the United States which were assembled at Bushire for delivery overland to the USSR. After July no Russian-aid cargoes passed through Bushire. Because of its possession of suitable dock facili-


ties, the wharves on the island of Abadan in the Karun River just below Khorramshahr landed a substantial portion of the crated aircraft shipped from the United States for assembly at Abadan and delivery to the USSR. Most of these aircraft were discharged first at Khorramshahr and barged to the British-operated docks at Abadan. At Ahwaz, seventy-seven miles up the Karun River, the British operated a barge terminal where, in the beginning, minor quantities of U.S. Army cargo and some Russian-aid cargo were landed from barges. The experiment of hauling U.S. Army cargoes by barge from Khorramshahr to Ahwaz was dropped by the end of April 1943.87 Because the American mission was primarily to speed the flow of supplies to the Soviet Union and because only 10 percent of the Ahwaz tonnage was destined for the USSR, Ports Service recommended that the American command should not take over Ahwaz operations from the British. Soon afterward both American and Russian-aid cargoes were diverted elsewhere.

At Margil, the dock area on the Basra side of the Shatt al Arab River opposite Cheybassi (Basra is some two miles inland), Russian-aid cargoes arrived in considerable quantities during 1943 and 1944, and American port officers were therefore stationed at Basra to coordinate movements with the British. Between June 1943 and November 1944 these cargoes totaled 446,430 long tons.88 The lion's share of the total was discharged at Margil and trucked overland to Tabriz via the British-operated Khanaqin Lift. The balance was carried across the Shatt by lighter to Cheybassi and thence by the Americanoperated ISR to Tehran. Concentration of Soviet-bound freight in the latter half of 1944 at the American ports and abandonment of the Khanaqin trucking route reduced Margil's Russian-aid tonnage to a trickle in September 1944, and to nothing at all after November.

After the inactivation of Ports Service in October 1945 and the taking over of its functions by Transportation Branch of Operations Division, close-out and evacuation loomed ahead, posing fresh problems. Indeed, for the ports men, who had to carry on until the last anchor was weighed, headaches were not to cease until the shore faded astern over the shimmering horizon of the Persian Gulf.89

The return to the British in June 1945 of the lighterage terminal at Failiyah Creek left only Sentab jetty among dock facilities under


American control, and even there the British firm of Gray Mackenzie & Co.) Ltd., took over the handling of British shipping.90 There remained only the formidable task of preparing to ship out men and equipment when the time should come. As of 30 November there were still 4,263 91 el American troops in Iran and mountains of supplies and equipment.

At that time, in response to a request from the War Department for shipping estimates, the command replied that its port troops, augmented by a civilian contractor, could outload ten Liberty ships and one locomotive carrier up to date of departure. After 1 January 1946 the contractor, the American Iraqi Shipping Company,92 could carry on. The ships were dispatched, all but the locomotive carrier; but the estimate proved altogether too optimistic, for it was reported to Washington on 15 December that by 27 December, the date upon which port operations would cease, Army port battalions would have loaded one ship with organizational equipment for the United States and one and one-half ships with United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration rolling stock for China, leaving cargoes for eight and onehalf ships and one locomotive carrier to be loaded by the contractor after departure of troops. This amounted to 70,000 weight tons of railway rolling stock, 20 locomotives, and 270 trucks. The contractor worked on through January and February and the last ship left for China on 24 February 1946.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 troops left by air and small cargo ships, and the Iranian Army on 26 December assumed security responsibility for Khorramshahr and began taking over control of the port. Beginning on that day the remaining troops began to board the transport General Richardson. On 30 December the transport sailed, and the American job at the Persian Gulf ports was history.93



Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

page created 17 January 2002

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online