Target Zero

Before the last man crossed the gangplank of the General Richardson many men had consumed many reams of paper for more than a year planning for that inevitable moment. On 12 May 1945, four days after V-E Day, the War Department designated the Persian Gulf

Command an inactive theater. This action was one of a series of steps which included the disbandment of the Motor Transport Service on 1 December 1944, the closing of the port of Bandar Shahpur for Russian-aid purposes that month, the ending of aircraft and motor vehicle assembly early in 1945, the relinquishment of the railway in June, and a progressive contraction in function, structure, and personnel paralleling the falling off of incoming shipments. Later in May General Marshall notified PGC that its mission would be declared accomplished on 1 June. On that date the target would become zero.1

The Chief of Staff's message also indicated that operation and maintenance of transport agencies would revert to the British by 1 July, an aim not fully achieved by that date. Circumstances altered cases in the ending of things, even as in their early planning. Indeed, the nonexistent powers of divination and infallible judgment were no less prerequisite to a perfect ending than to a flawless beginning. Of the two, divination would perhaps have been the handier in planning to close out the PGC.

To dismantle and dispose of its installations and provide for its men was the job to be done. But how? where? when? It would have been convenient to know when the war in Europe would end. Some thought they knew, but their calculations were badly jolted by the Battle of the Bulge in December. It would have helped, also, to know how fast and how fully to bring into use the Black Sea shipping route to Russia after the Mediterranean was cleared of the Axis. It would have been invaluable to know what to do about the continuing war


against Japan; whether, for instance, to move the PGC apparatus, lock, stock, and barrel, off to the Far East, as General Colmolly once proposed. Men planned as they could for what they could foresee; but the Japanese signature, affixed aboard the Missouri on 1 September 1945, set them to planning anew. With the sailing of the General Richardson evacuation of the command's troops was completed. On the last morning of 1945, as Khorramshahr stirred, a note, long heard, was silent. No bugle sounded reveille. The Americans had gone.

The Process o f Contraction

The progress of the war in Europe in the summer of 1944 not only aroused hope, too soon proved vain, of an early German surrender, but, by removing the Eastern Front farther and farther from the Persian Gulf supply line and by clearing the Mediterranean Sea, made it feasible to plan for a shorter sea route to the USSR by way of the Black Sea. The strategic necessity for further large-scale shipments through the Persian Corridor was diminished. Beginning in September the Army Service Forces (ASF) at Washington prepared a series of studies to determine the future of the PGC.2 The purpose of the studies was to reconcile existing Persian Corridor supply obligations with current developments. The supply obligations to the USSR were established by the several protocols, of which the Fourth (Ottawa) Protocol, though not formally signed until 17 April 1945, was planned for the period between 1 July 1944 and 30 June 1945. Two sets of plans for reduced operations were required, both subject to change in view of the highly fluid conditions. By the first set, the ASF at Washington had to determine how long and to what extent to continue Corridor operations; by the second set, the PGC had to plan, within targets fixed by Washington, how to reduce its operations. Only one point was wholly clear when the planning began in September and that was that PGC was scheduled for progressive reduction. It was so notified on 15 September 1944, and ordered to prepare plans accordingly. The ensuing plans, code-named KARO, will be noticed later.3

An ASF study of 15 January 1945 notes the following tonnages allocated under the Fourth Protocol to be shipped from the Western Hemisphere to USSR receiving points:


Via the Far East route________________ 3, 719, 497 long tons 

Via north Russian ports_______________ 2, 032, 754 long tons 

Via Persian Gulf and Black Sea_________ 870, 416 long tons

Total___________________________ 6, 622, 667 long tons

It had already been decided that PGC would be closed out as soon as the Black Sea route and a contemplated route through the Baltic could assume its undelivered tonnages, and in accordance with this basic policy the PGC had been notified on 11 November 1944 that the MTS would be discontinued forthwith. This was the first major reduction in the command's operating machinery. By the date of the January study only 287,273 long tons remained to be shipped under the Fourth Protocol allocations from the Western Hemisphere via the Persian Gulf route and the Black Sea route to whose ports the first ships came that month. Spread over the remaining life of the Ottawa Protocol, that total, to which must be added petroleum products transported through the Corridor from Abadan, fell far below the developed port and inland clearance capacity of the Anglo-American forces. In view of this fact, it was incumbent upon the planners to consider whether the PGC could not be shut down altogether rather than continued at much less than its capacity. The problem was colored by two unknowns: the duration of the war in Europe and the peculiar circumstances governing the use of the Pacific route to eastern Siberian ports. This route was affected by uncertainty as to Japan's attitude toward it. By means of the Siberian shipments, the United States, at war with Japan, was reinforcing the USSR, ally of the United States and enemy of Japan's ally, Germany. But, because the USSR was neutral in the war between Japan and the United States, Japan did not blockade shipments to Soviet ports. To obviate interception of American vessels at sea bound for Soviet ports, some one hundred and twenty-five American ships in this service were transferred under lend-lease to Soviet control-. The fear that this somewhat unreal contrivance might be exploded whenever it suited Japan's convenience overhung the operation from its inception.

Two conditions were therefore posited in the ASF study: (1) Could the PGC be shut down if Japan closed the Pacific route and thus threw the entire burden of shipment under the Fourth Protocol upon the remaining routes? ( 2 ) Could the PGC be closed out if the Pacific route remained usable? In the first case it was decided that the PGC must operate until the Black Sea route, whose estimated capacity for February was set at only 40,000 long tons per month, could reach 269,000 long tons per month, or, in the event of the defeat of Germany, the


Black Sea route and the Baltic together could handle that amount. It should be noted that this plan envisaged supplying the USSR after the defeat of Germany. What actually happened was that on 12 May, after the capitulation of Germany, the Fourth Protocol ceased to be operative and was replaced by other arrangements for continuing supply to the USSR.

It was concluded in the January study that, if the Pacific route should remain open, all PGC activities could be discontinued by April except those required to ensure the movement of petroleum products, and these, it was suggested, might well be taken over by the British. The paper therefore recommended stopping motor vehicle assembly operations at the Khorramshahr plant by 1 April, by which time it was estimated that unassembled vehicles on hand in January, plus those to be delivered through March, would be disposed of with the aid of the British plant at Rafadiyah.

The ASF transmitted its study to the Operations Division on 16 January with recommendations to accept and, in case the decision was to discontinue PGC, to arrange with the British to continue petroleum deliveries from Abadan to the Soviet Union. On 24 January OPD notified the ASF that PGC would have to be continued as assurance against the closure of the Pacific route, at least until deliveries via the Corridor, added to those that could be achieved via the Baltic and Black Seas, reached 269,000 long tons monthly. But any excess above that figure was to be subtracted from the PGC target and the PGC's operations and strength reduced accordingly. The Commanding General, ASF, was instructed that when in his opinion PGC could be eliminated he was to recommend its closing to the general staff.4

On 3 February General Scott, formerly Chief of Staff, PGC, and now Director of the Planning Division, ASF, wrote to General Booth that planning for the PGC in the field would be affected by the imminent removal of the Khorramshahr assembly plant for shipment to the Soviet Union and by the limit of the capabilities of the Black Sea ports. From then until the surrender of Germany in May, PGC planning strove to provide for progressive reduction of operations within a flexible range of diminishing targets. The reduction of the target to zero by 1 June, and Washington's desire that transport operations be handed over by 1 July, put subsequent planning on a less uncertain basis. Henceforth not slowdown, but close-out, was the goal; the only uncertain element was the time limit to be applied.5


By the time word came that the command's mission was accomplished and its target zero, reduction plans (KARO Plans A and C) had been approved and put to work. Plan A, effective 5 January 1945, was adjusted to a monthly capacity of 194,000 long tons. Though nearly 100,000 tons under the 1944 peak load, the Plan A figure exceeded anything actually attained in 1945. The precipitate drop in tonnages which came with the new year was not even faintly suspected in the year-end planning. (Chart 8, Appendix B) KARO Plan C, prepared in readiness for lowered targets, became effective in April after receipt of a War Department message drastically reducing monthly POL requirements to 40,000 long tons and shaving dry cargo down to a mere 10,000 long tons monthly. Staff and operating agencies were busy applying the pattern of Plan C to their own jurisdictions-the plan called for a reduction of command troop strength to about 8,000-when the message of 24 May arrived slashing target all the way down to zero. The subsequent KARO Plan E, adopted in June, concentrated therefore on evacuation and redeployment; but it did not go into effect until the PGC had been structurally absorbed into the American command at Cairo.6

This development was sparked by a War Department message in July to Cairo and Tehran that PGC might be reincorporated into AMET ( USAFIME was redesignated the Africa-Middle East Theater on 1 March). General Giles of AMET dispatched a plane load of officers to Tehran to study the problems involved in consolidation.7 A report for the Chief of Staff, PGC, presented by Operations Division, reviewed the effect of consolidation upon the organization and work of that division. While the tasks of. the petroleum adviser, and the Control, Documentation, and Plants Branches could be closed out, and air services improved, the duties of Movements and Engineering Branches, it was concluded, would be hampered by subordination of PGC to AMET. In the case of Movements Branch, direct relations with WSA at Khorramshahr and with Washington and the local British command in obtaining shipping space for personnel and supplies would be subjected to additional channels of command with resultant delay and loss of efficiency. The work of the Engineering Branch in preparing construction cost data and final property records would be embarrassed by the necessity of adjusting to AMET's dif-


ferent procedures and rules as to fixed assets, agreements with the British, and declarations of surpluses.8

On 3 August .the War Department ordered consolidation of PGC under AMET, effective on 1 October. The conditions were to be agreed upon in accordance with the recommendations to be made by PGC. General Booth was ordered back to the United States as of 15 August, and was succeeded by Colonel Anderson. A further message late in August confined the responsibilities of the headquarters at Cairo and Tehran to support of the Air Transport Command, general supervision of remaining lend-lease activities, disposal of salvage, excess, and surplus properties, and the reduction of strength commensurate with these duties.9

Conferences and correspondence carried on by the authorities of PGC and AMET, in spite of producing the somewhat less than precise statement that PGC was to "continue operating more or less independently" of Cairo, settled the general basis of the approaching consolidation.10 V-J Day clarified, though it could not exactly fix, the time element, hitherto wholly uncertain, and left only administrative details to be agreed upon. PGC stipulated that it must continue to handle all movement matters as before, through direct communication with WSA, the British Ministry of War Transport, the British Army, and Washington, and must process its own excess personnel. PGC conceded that AMET was to have the last word in awards and promotions, except that promotions of enlisted personnel would remain the prerogative of the PGC. The terms of consolidation agreed between Cairo and Tehran were embodied in AMET's general order establishing a Persian Gulf Service Command as a subcommand of AMET and a Letter of Instructions later issued by General Giles to Colonel Anderson. These documents brought the American command in the Corridor one step nearer to the final dissolution which was officially recorded as effective 31 December 1945.11


Within the command itself the process of contraction, begun with the first KARO plan, became a long-drawn-out sequence of detailed actions, confusing and even disconnected if itemized, but coherent when viewed in perspective as a whole.12 The underlying pattern of the process was the gradual shift of functions from agencies to which they had been delegated back to the source of command authority and responsibility, the commanding general and his general staff. After the disbandment of the MTS at the end of 1944, the next part of the machinery to go was the scheme of territorial districts whose functions were absorbed by other agencies. The Mountain District disappeared in January 1945, its functions being taken over by Amirabad Post; Desert District folded its tents soon after, as Andimeshk Post took over; and in February Gulf District handed over to Ports Service at Khorramshahr.

The next step, which came in June, brought further consolidation of structure to reflect concentration of function. Amirabad Post took over housekeeping, administration, and supervision for all installations north of Andimeshk; Ports Service for all south of Andimeshk. Andimeshk itself continued those duties for the post and for what remained of the installations at that once important rail-to-truck transfer point which had embraced not only Camp Kramer, MTS Camp Number 4, and the great ordnance depot, but also the headquarters of Desert ISistrict and the Southern Division of MTS. After 25 June the Iranian Government, having taken over the operation of the ISR from the British, ran the trains south of Tehran, while MRS personnel assembled and prepared rolling stock for outward passage. Nearly 3,500 freight cars were knocked down at Ahwaz and fifty-seven diesel locomotives formerly used by the MRS were shipped out of the command before September.

By 1 July only Amirabad and Khorramshahr remained as important American posts. The road camps dotting the long route of the truck convoys were, with five exceptions, all closed and put under security guard early in 1945. The exceptions were lent for short periods to British or Soviet agencies. In October Iranian forces of the Army or Gendarmerie assumed guard responsibility for the closed road camps.


On 11 October the remaining functions of Ports Service were assumed by Transportation Branch, Operations Division, as Ports Service was disbanded.

With the command's last transport responsibilities focused at Khorramshahr and its other duties concentrated on evacuation and liquidation of property, the continuance of GHQ far to the north at Tehran, while the outward tide flowed southward, came seriously into question as early as July. In a message to General Marshall, then at the Potsdam Conference, General Booth stated that he would like to keep headquarters at Tehran until 1 November. He estimated that between 700 and 800 men would be required there to man ATC operations, headquarters, the liquidation office, and maintenance and security activities. He added that, if necessary, headquarters could be moved to Khorramshahr earlier, leaving liaison and liquidation groups at Amirabad, but that this would be done "at considerable handicap in efficiency and some delay in program."13

On 15 September GHQ was removed from Tehran to Khorramshahr, leaving within the city limits of Tehran the few officers and men of the U.S. Military Missions to the Iranian Army and Gendarmerie, and at Amirabad 53 officers and 402 men, a contingent which fell by 30 October to 51 officers and 286 men. Of this total, 254 were engaged in maintenance and security activities, while the rest were divided between liquidation duties and weather and communications units necessary to continuance of the movements of ATC and Headquarters Flight.14

At the time of the move the duration of the Americans' stay at Amirabad was uncertain. It was understood that the British expected to leave fewer than 60 soldiers at Tehran after 15 October and to evacuate to Iraq shortly after that all of their 18,000 troops then in Iran. The Russians evacuated Qaleh Morgeh airport at Tehran on 18 September and were expected to remove all their troops from Tehran soon after that.15 The Americans planned to stay on at Amirabad as long as liquidation and ATC activities continued, and, if the camp were turned back to the Iranian Government before these activities ceased, to transfer remaining personnel to the American Embassy compound. But events moved more swiftly than anticipated, for Amirabad was taken over by the Iranian Army on 9 December. Remaining American personnel-with the exception of a handful of Airways and Air Communi-


cations Service, weather, and liquidation people-were ordered out of Tehran on the 15th, and the handful followed on the 25th.16

That left only Khorramshahr. The camp there was taken over by the Iranian Army on 26 December, and from the next day outloading operations at the port were handled by the American-Iraqi Shipping Company assisted by 20 enlisted men discharged from service, working as civilians. An American civil airline, Transcontinental and Western Airways, accepted a contract to take over flights from ATC, aided by 150 discharged ATC personnel turned civilians and 15 technicians similarly discharged from the Airways and Air Communications Service and Army Air Forces Weather Service.17

Evacuation and Redeployment

Although the plans for evacuation were on a somewhat more leisurely scale than those which were actually carried into effect, the reason was not a reluctance on the part of the Americans to leave Iran.18 They were willing enough to go when the job was done. The question was, when could the job be considered done? Up to a late date some American planners reckoned on the terminal date for Allied evacuation, set by the Tri-Partite Treaty as six months from the cessation of hostilities between the Allies and Germany or Germany's associates. That date, which was later to figure in portentous international discussions because of the failure of the Russians to honor it, was 2 March 1946. Others, recognizing that the United States was not a signatory to the treaty and desiring to give Iran no possible grounds for resenting an overstay of its welcome to the Americans, determined that regardless of British and Russian evacuation plans the Americans should not stand upon the order of their going, but go. As early as 25 July a message


from Potsdam to Tehran warned, "There may be a decision to withdraw from Iran within sixty days the greater part or all U.S. forces except for essential ATC units." The message added that the Russians and British had agreed to withdraw from Tehran "in the near future, and PGC should be withdrawn from Tehran immediately except for the minimum essential to operations conducted in the area." General Booth was requested to submit alternative plans for withdrawal of all nonessential forces within sixty and a hundred and twenty days. The question of Allied withdrawal from Iran had been raised by the government of Iran soon after the end of the war in Europe when, on 30 May, it formally requested the three powers to restore a normal situation in Iran by removing their forces. General Booth reported to Potsdam on 26 ,July that the U.S. Ambassador at Tehran had informed him that, despite the Iranian Government's formal request for withdrawal, the Iranian Foreign Office continually urged the retention of American forces in Iran and reiterated its confidence in American intention to keep faith with the Declaration of Tehran regarding Iranian sovereignty. Later, as field plans indicated to Washington the time estimated to close out all commitments in orderly fashion, the War Department advised both Cairo and Tehran, "Political considerations make it important that U. S. not be subject to criticism for lagging in Tehran evacuation."

On 2 October a conference of Allied foreign ministers at London ended after legalistic wrangling over a date for troop withdrawal had produced no agreement. On 24 November the United States delivered a note to the Soviet Union proposing 1 January 1946 for departure of all Allied troops from the country. Disorders had broken out in October in the province of Azerbaijan which culminated on 12 December in the declaration of an autonomous republic by a national assembly convened at Tabriz. The American note and a parallel suggestion by the British were rejected by the USSR, which pointed out that its treaty of 1921 with Iran permitted the right to introduce troops into the territory of Iran. President Truman nevertheless desired to speed evacuation of Allied forces and thus contribute to a settlement of the difficulties in Azerbaijan. Word was passed that American troops should leave the country by 31 December. Secretary of War Patterson dispatched General Connolly to Iran to see that this was done.

The reduction of troop strength from the peak figure of midsummer 1944 to the 4,000 who sailed away on the General Richardson proceeded over a period of more than a year in accordance with estimates which necessarily altered as controlling factors decreed. The plans which were made and unmade are of less significance than the fact


of reduction. (Table 12 and Chart 2, Appendixes A and B) By V-E Day command strength had been reduced by approximately 16,000 troops, who had been redeployed to other theaters. By the end of July command strength was down to 40 percent of its peak. Estimates made at that time of probable strength at the end of the year came very close to the actual fact. As fast as functions ceased, the men thereby released were shipped out of the command. The departure of the last man two months before the treaty date of 2 March 1946 was in accordance with the spirit in which they had come: to do a job, and then be off.

Liquidation of Property

No aspect of the history of World War II is open to greater misunderstanding than the disposal of property no longer deemed necessary to be held for the government. It is a subject virtually impossible to explore in limited space with hope of reaching the ultimate truth. For good or ill, the disposal of unwanted property after the war became so entangled in red tape as to be incapable of being reduced, at least on the .theater level, to brief and reliable form. The problem was world wide, and this fact in itself made confusion worse confounded as field representatives of the military services, the Department of State, and the Foreign Economic Administration came into contact, at home and abroad, with representatives of the myriad agencies of government which had things to dispose of. In general, an article not required locally was declared "excess" to authorities next higher, and so on up to the top of the command, who could then certify the property as "excess" to the command. It was then available to be shipped elsewhere if it could be used elsewhere, or if not, a multiplicity of higher authorities were empowered to declare it "surplus." This made the property eligible for disposal. But there were numerous categories, and there was much hairsplitting and sharp definition, which resulted in complicating the process of disposal. Most of these were safeguards. Aircraft and items peculiar to aircraft, for instance, were to be disposed of through the Foreign Economic Administration; airfields could not be declared "surplus" without .the approval of the Department of State; contracts for disposal were subject to final approval by various agencies.

No reasonable person expects that, when wars are finished, their costs can be accurately estimated, or that materials built for war and not used can be exactly accounted for or usefully returned to the civilian economy. Who can say what was the cost of the Battle of Waterloo? Who, then, could cast up a balance sheet for the American


operations in the Persian Corridor? No one will ever know what it cost, though the British and Americans poured a hundred million dollars into construction of fixed installations, though the books show that more than forty millions of dollars were paid to American soldiers from 1 January 1943 to 30 June 1945.19 If it is impossible to determine costs, then it is equally impossible to determine losses, and, because the entire expense was a part of the war effort, losses can with equal logic be set down as part of the price of getting some millions of tons of war supplies through to the USSR in time to be useful against the Germans. Misunderstanding of war property disposal results from supposing that the United States had been running a shop, keeping an orderly inventory, and accounting to stockholders for the use made of their investment in the shop. But shopkeeping and waging war are not comparable. Nevertheless the end of war imposes the obligation not to waste what is still usable. The difficulty is to interpret action taken in any given area, where, for instance, local authorities may have made what they regarded as the most eminently satisfactory disposal arrangements only to have them upset by higher authority; or where local authorities, sensing improper conditions attaching to local offers to buy, may have been required by higher authority, applying world-wide policies, to go ahead anyhow.

In the Persian Corridor, the disposal of property no longer needed by the United States or impracticable to ship home was a job of complexity and delicacy-complex because of the variety of properties to be disposed of, delicate because a visitor who during the course of his visit has built some elaborate and expensive gadgets into his host's house is not in an advantageous bargaining position in offering to sell them to the host (who did not ask for them in the first place and had little or no use for some of them in the second). The first command agency established to deal with the matter was the Property Disposal Branch of the Fiscal Division.20 It was at about this time that General Connolly, relieved as Commanding General, PGC, was returned to Washington to become deputy commissioner of the joint Army-Navy Liquidation Commission established to co-ordinate and consolidate disposal of properties. The Property Disposal Branch, which came under the direction of Colonel Stetson, Director of the Fiscal Division, was charged with "formulating policies, supervising disposal operations and maintaining necessary liaison with other


agencies in matters pertaining to the disposition of fixed and movable property made surplus through the reduction of operations within this command."21 Establishment of the Property Disposal Branch followed a War Department request to the theater to examine the possibility of disposing property to the Iranian Government. It formalized the concern, already shown in the command, that the British and American forces would pursue parallel policies toward the Iranian Government in the matter of property disposal and that in the settlement of property matters between them, especially in cases of joint Anglo-American ownership or joint capital investment, common principles of cost and other accounting could be agreed upon.22

As the job grew greater, both actually and prospectively, the Property Disposal Branch was detached from the Fiscal Division on 23 February 1945 and set up directly under the chief of staff as the PGC Liquidation Commission, with Colonel Stetson at its head. The command had already been notified by Washington that, by one of those shifts of policy and realignments of responsibilities and redefinitions of categories which kept property disposal activities round the world in a turmoil for years, the responsibility of the Foreign Economic Administration for disposal of surplus Army and Navy properties, except aircraft and items peculiar to aircraft, would be taken over by the Army-Navy Liquidation Commission.23 Until April the PGC Liquidation Commission continued to gather data, co-ordinate local policies, and act as the bargaining agency in dealings with possible local purchasers. But in April the War Department authorized the liquidation commissioner to act for the Army-Navy Liquidation Commission, and the PGC commission was therefore dissolved and replaced by a field office of the Army-Navy commission, headed by Colonel Stetson.24 This office was to dispose of surplus property other than salvage, which remained the responsibility of the PGC. In December 1945, when General Connolly came on from Washington to speed the close-out, he brought along a group of experts, including Col. Hans Ottzenn of the Transportation Corps, Lt. Col. James W. Totten of OPD, and representatives of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the Air Forces, and Transcontinental and Western Airways.25

Surpluses fell roughly into three categories, each calling for different methods of settlement or disposal. The largest of these included fixed installations, real estate, and leases. From the outset of American


operations the British had handled the acquisition of real estate for the United States and were reimbursed through the machinery of reverse lend-lease or reciprocal aid. Toward the end of 1943 the British had desired to terminate these leases and leave to the American command their renegotiation directly with the Iranian Government or the individual owners of the properties affected.26 But early in 1944 the American command requested PAI Force that, in view of the fact that the United States enjoyed no treaty arrangements with Iran governing the presence of American forces in the country, the British should "continue to hold under present arrangements and in their name, all Iranian Government property now used by the U.S. Army." PGC would continue, "as in the past, to reimburse the British Government for expense incurred in its behalf." This was agreed to by the British command on 15 February.27 In consequence, after the declaration of completion of the American command's mission, its Engineering Branch became the agency whereby leases were terminated, troops allocated for caretaking and stand-by maintenance, and reports prepared relating to fixed assets, costs, and inventories. The British handled the conclusion of arrangements by which the United States had occupied buildings on Iranian land or buildings or land used rent free (as was the site of Amirabad, for example) under grants made to the British within the terms of the Tri-Partite Treaty.28

A second category of surpluses, and one most difficult to settle to everyone's satisfaction, was that of equipment held under lend-lease. It was not always possible to reach agreement as to adjustments of property rights or values within this category and, in the case of motor vehicles originally obtained from the United States under lend-lease by the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation, some heat was generated before a solution was reached. During the first half of 1945 a tug of war took place over possession of the fleet of trucks operated by UKCC. At one time it was to revert to the Foreign Economic Administration, at another to the British Army, and in March 1945 the War Department gave firm instructions that 567 vehicles were to be repossessed by the United States. A report sent to Washington from the American command in July stated that more than 2,900 Americanmade vehicles of all types were lend-leased to UKCC which used .them in its operations in western Iran between 25 April 1942 and 30 September 1944. It is impossible to discover from the files how many of


these vehicles were physically returned to the keeping of the U.S. Army and how many were credited to U. S. account under lend-lease bookkeeping. The impression is that not many returned to physical possession of the Americans.29 In matters less troublesome than motor vehicles proved to be, the British and Americans got together on agreed tables of costs for fixed installations in which there was joint interest and these were figured in the final lend-lease settlement reached after the war on a global basis.

The third category of surpluses consisted of all property, fixed or movable, in which the United States enjoyed an incontestably sole interest and which had been declared by all the requisite authorities as eligible for sale or disposal overseas. Negotiations with the Iranian authorities were channeled through Colonel Stetson and Wallace Murray, United States Ambassador at Tehran, and resulted in on-the-spot agreements which, by early November, covered nearly everything in this category that was disposable. Plans were modified when Iranian matters were mingled with global Anglo-American lend-lease settlements and the results were not always pleasing to some who had reached advantageous local settlements.30

From the point of view of a shopkeeper's report to stockholders, the return received for property disposed of in Iran was highly disappointing. Fixed installations, camps, and buildings which had cost thirty million dollars went for less than three millions. The highway, which was the largest single expense and which could not be rolled up and taken away if not sold, was not sold. Its cost was written off to the service it performed in aiding Russia. The Iranian Government paid over ten million dollars for equipment used by the MRS on the ISR. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration paid about six million dollars for movable property valued at about eight millions-boxcars, flatcars, and gondolas, oil-burning locomotives, and about two hundred motor vehicles, all shipped to China. A syndicate of Iranian merchants contracted to pay two and a half million dollars and a sum in rials approximating another four and a half millions for other property. All told, fixed and movable property roughly costing over $62,000,000 was disposed of for about $26,000,000.31

It is doubtful whether, under the circumstances, a much better bargain could have been struck. Soon after the end of the war numerous


stories circulated freely in the United States of waste and callousness in the disposal of government property in faraway places. Food was left to rot upon inaccessible islands; property in short supply in one part of the world went begging in another; and returned soldiers vividly described frantic villagers held back forcibly from piles of blazing army blankets which could be neither sold because of one set of regulations nor given away to shivering natives because of others. In the Persian Corridor no such incidents took place; and although there were heavy bookkeeping losses, there was no well-established instance of wanton waste.

Comparative Score

In the world-wide effort to deliver war supplies to Soviet Russia, how does the record of the Persian Corridor compare with that of the other routes from the Western Hemisphere? There were five routes: the Soviet Arctic, the Black Sea, the north Russian, the Persian Gulf, and the Soviet Far East.

The least important route, tonnage wise, was that which led from American Pacific ports to Siberian ports on the Arctic Ocean. Because the Arctic ports were ice free only during the summer months, sailings were restricted to those periods. The main military significance of the route was that aviation fuel was transported over it for an air ferry route across Siberia which, because of Soviet opposition, never materialized. Total tonnage was 452,393 long tons.32

Next in tonnage accomplishment was the Black Sea route, the last to be inaugurated. It was made possible by clearing the Axis from the Mediterranean and the Black Sea ports of Odessa, Constanta, and Novorossiysk. In 1944 the Andimeshk truck assembly plant and a number of PGC portal cranes were transferred to the USSR for installation at these ports. First ships arrived in January 1945. During the five months of operation of the route 680,723 long tons were delivered.

British convoys first sailed to the north Russian port of Murmansk in August 1941. Archangel served as an alternative port. This was the shortest route from American ports to the USSR, 4,500 miles, and required twenty-one days' running time and five weeks' convoy time. Inland clearance distance by rail from the ports to the battle front and industrial centers was satisfactorily short. During the last three months of 1941 and the first four months of 1942 the rate of shipments


to north Russian ports was greater than by any other route then in use from the Western Hemisphere to Soviet ports; but the increasing severity of Axis attacks upon shipping in northern waters reduced its use drastically until July 1944, by which time an improvement in its safety reopened it to year-round activity. It did not again become a main artery of Soviet supply, for by that time it had been rivaled by the Soviet Far East and Persian Gulf routes. Its total of 3,964,231 long tons was nearly equal to that of the Persian Gulf.

Longest in mileage and ship round-trip time, the Persian Gulf route was nevertheless desirable because of its relative safety, its all-year usefulness, and its accessibility to Soviet territory if other routes should be denied. The difficulties of providing and operating adequate port and inland clearance facilities were substantial handicaps in operation of the Gulf route; but so long as other routes were threatened either by military denial or, in the case of the Far Eastern route, by a sudden change in Japan's attitude toward its use, the Persian Gulf remained a necessity. In receiving 4,159,117 long tons of Soviet-aid cargo from the Western Hemisphere, the Gulf was excelled only by the Far Eastern route.

Almost half, or 47 percent, of Russian-aid supplies from the Western Hemisphere reached the Soviet Union via a sea lane which extended from American Pacific ports around to the north of Honshu to eastern Siberian ports. The total tonnage via this route came to 8,243,397 long tons; but, because of the peculiar situation by which Japan winked at the traffic to her ally's enemy, only supplies classified as nonmilitary were carried.

The significance of the Persian Gulf route is measured by its tonnage accomplishment and its fulfillment of strategic necessity. Its handicaps were less serious than those which at one time or another afflicted the other routes; its advantages more solid and continuous. Development of the Persian Gulf line of communications to the USSR was clearly basic to global planning.

Operations closed, as they opened, at the ports. Khorramshahr,, entrance for aid-to-Russia cargoes, served also as exit for the men and machines who had worked them. The tide of traffic turned about. Soldiers and baggage, once again packed aboard ship, headed for the open sea-the high-point men for home, the others for new assignment in Africa or Europe. Behind them, the once clamant wharves, the now empty storage yards, the roads no longer writhing with traffic, the hot shining rails, stilled after grinding and shrilling day and night under the weight of the long trains-these commenced imperceptibly to settle


back into the decay that comes so naturally to the region.33 In a few years it would be as though the Americans had never worked at Khorramshahr, as if all that effort were a desert mirage.

Only one thing will convert that effort into a mirage: neglect of its memory. It was real enough, for its own time, and for the future. This is the record of its reality.



Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

page created 17 January 2002

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online