The Army Takes Over the
General Connolly's primary mission, movement of supplies through the Persian Corridor to Soviet receiving points, did not preclude his continuing unfinished tasks in British or Russian aid undertaken by predecessor American commands. Assembly of partly knocked-down vehicles at some point in their journey to destination was unfinished business of this sort; but it was also a part of the transportation process. After the Army took over the truck assembly plants on 1 July 1943, there was no change in the pattern of assembly and delivery set during the contractor period. The vehicles were processed as before, and driven away, as before, by Soviet drivers over the road to Khurramabad and Malayer, east to Sultanabad, and north to Tehran. There were changes, though, in quantity and tempo. More trucks by far arrived from overseas than during the earlier period, and there were more Americans, more natives, and more machines to deal with them. Working 59 percent of the period of truck assembly operation, the Army assembled for all purposes 82 percent of the vehicles. Because there was so much more to do, it was done faster. The figures measure increased work load and increased capacity. They do not imply less efficiency for the contractor period.1
In July 1943 four TAP's with which the American command was concerned were in service. TAP I at Andimeshk and TAP II at Khorramshahr were American staffed and operated. TAP III at
Bushire, run by the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation with some American supervision and advice, ceased work in which there was American interest that month. At TAP IV, the British-operated plant at Rafadiyah, an American officer was stationed for purposes of liaison, collection of statistical data, comparison of methods, target, and output, and exchange of information. TAP IV's production affected that of the plants at Andimeshk and Khorramshahr-as when in August and September 1944 a stoppage at Rafadiyah, caused by change-over from Studebakers to Chevrolets, produced a production deficit which had to be made up by TAP's I and II to meet theater targets. In October 1944 TAP IV was closed down and TAP's I and II assumed the entire truck assembly load for the Persian Gulf.
Under the structural organization of the American command, Plants Branch, Operations Division, was responsible for the direction, co-ordination, and operation of the TAP's. In this capacity, Plants Branch functioned like any headquarters staff agency. It computed and reported plant capacities, co-ordinated operations so that supply and output would be in balance and in accordance with headquarters policy, and established a statistical reporting system to serve the needs of over-all control and co-ordination of all agencies in the logistical process. Responsibility for administration, supply, training, security, and operation of the plants was decentralized and handed over to the local district commanders set up in December 1942 for the Gulf, Desert, and Mountain Districts. Between May and August 1943, the district commanders for the Gulf and Desert Districts, in their capacities as deputies of the commanding general, set up procedures for operating the TAP's under technical instructions and directives proceeding from GHQ. Officers were assigned in charge of the plant. They transmitted statistical information to Plants Branch. At Khorramshahr a Plants Branch suboffice was established by the Gulf District commander to provide more direct control.2
At Khorramshahr were detachments of the 3474th and the 506th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Companies, as well as the 3455th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company; at Andimeshk, the 3467th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company.3 The group at Khorramshahr had to contend with an initial hospitalization of 20 percent of its strength on account of the heat, as well as a heavy labor turnover among the native workmen.
At Andimeshk the newly arrived service troops went to work only four days after reaching Iran. A report treats with some bitterness of conditions at the take-over. The chief complaint was that General Motors, in striving to attain record production in its last month, had neglected the important duty of keeping the flow of incoming cased vehicles going, so that when the Army assumed responsibility on 1 July it found 280 freight cars of cased trucks standing unloaded in the yards. Furthermore, a drastic shortage of nuts, bolts, and spare parts meant that July production would have to wait for local manufacture of some parts and requisitioning of others. Finally, it was charged that the Army had to cope with claims by native laborers for pay increases and leaves of absence promised them by General Motors. The report stated that the Army had instituted three shifts a day and hoped by ironing out difficulties to get production on both assembly lines up to between sixty and a hundred trucks a day.4
It is not remarkable that the first month of operation under Army management failed to reach target levels. August brought a greater familiarity with the job and TAP I produced 923 vehicles above its target of 2,500 while TAP II bettered its target of 3,500 by 261. All hands received the commendation of General Connolly for fine August performance.
Problems connected with adapting American factory techniques to local conditions, problems growing out of ever present wearing out or shortages of tools and parts, production problems arising from necessary change-overs from time to time from Chevrolets to Fords to Studebakers to Mack trucks to Bren gun carriers to jeeps, very difficult problems relating to batteries, and, above all, the eternal problem of the weather, ranging from half a foot of mud and water underfoot to unendurable heat overhead-these were routine at Andimeshk and Khorramshahr. With the essential pattern of assembly already established before it assumed operating responsibility, the Army settled down to routine production, improvement of methods, and the introduction of refinements in efficiency. Since the voluminous records of the activities were not kept according to a uniform plan, they provide no basis for statistical comparisons of periods. Some figures for TAP II indicate, however, the decided improvement in efficiency of operations in general at that plant. Tables for February 1945 show total assemblies 155 percent greater than for February 1944, accomplished with an average daily employee roster only 68 percent of the
earlier date. Man-hours worked per vehicle were more than halved, and the labor cost per assembly, exclusive of the pay of military personnel, was reduced in the year to 58 percent of similarly computed costs in the earlier month.5
The Army's performance represents the routine solution of many problems, four in particular. These were fitting truck assembly to the over-all logistical process within the theater, native labor, Russian checkup stations, and the question of damage and sabotage.
The assembly in Iran of vehicles manufactured in the United States, to be delivered by highway or rail or both, was so closely related to other links in the logistic chain as to require, for its smooth functioning, the most detailed co-ordination. Ideally, the port would be forewarned of the arrival of crated vehicles and thus be prepared to off-load cargoes promptly; ideally, rolling stock would be at hand at the ports to convey the crates to the assembly plants where their arrival, known in advance, would be met by sufficient forces to unload, uncrate, denail, stack, store, or move them to the assembly line. All this meant planning at each step, from shipside in the United States onward, in accordance with totals and allocations agreed at the highest levels. As the logistic chain grew in length and distance from the United States, these broad strategic allocations narrowed and were transmitted into monthly, weekly, and daily plant targets, feverishly worked for by assembly-line crews. In the end those strategic quotas, set in Washington, Moscow, and London, were met by the sweating soldier-workman and his native helpers.
Then, at the line's end, after an ideally smooth passage facilitated by a plenitude of tools and parts and accessories, the finished vehicle, having come up to manufacturers' specifications and having survived rigorous American and Soviet inspections, passed on in the logistic chain, northward toward the Soviet Union. Failure of any link, even lack of accurate statistical data, would be reflected immediately in operations. At the TAP's, daily tallies, accounting, and record-keeping were corrected by monthly inventories. If, for instance, a chalked tally written by a checker on a case being unloaded at the docks were rubbed off by contact with another case, a discrepancy in tallies would get into the records all along the line until caught by monthly inventory totals.
The even flow of vehicles was interrupted seriously when a cargo ship ran aground off port in the Persian Gulf in 1944. The results were a seven-day stoppage in September at TAP I, a monthly target missed, and insistent calls from the Soviets for the trucks they had planned for.
The mechanism which regulated the machine was supplied by the Control and Plants Branches at headquarters in Tehran. By May 1943 Control Branch was responsible for conducting monthly capacity arid joint target meetings while Plants Branch was charged with collecting from the assembly plants statistics for use at those meetings, a development which coincided with the taking over by the PGSC from the British of cargo movements control for the Corridor.
At the monthly joint target meetings, Plants Branch furnished an analysis of the USSR and PGSC cargo manifests, giving a detailed list, by make and model, of vehicles to arrive between the twenty-first of the current month and the twenty-first of the ensuing month, with a 5-percent allowance for damaged or short-shipped vehicles. In computing the targets, district commanders submitted recommendations indicating the minimum and maximum production estimates for the coming month. In addition, a plant inventory was submitted estimating the production for the remaining part of the month so that the approximate number of vehicles on hand for the next month's assembly could be determined. Plants Branch maintained liaison with the Russians concerning truck assembly and with Control Branch concerning berthing schedules, arrival dates, and future scheduled arrivals of vessels carrying cased vehicles. After final agreement with the Soviets the monthly quota was fixed and all data forwarded to the district commander and to the commanding officers of the TAP's.6
Generally speaking, the native labor problem diminished as time went by and experience increased. When the TAP's came under Army operation the Andimeshk plant employed about 1,700 workmen; Khorramshahr, about 2,200. These natives worked as foremen, group leaders, mechanics, truck conditioners, material handlers, unloaders, and crane operators. Being unskilled, they had to be taught as they worked, to the detriment of efficient operations. Initial turnover was as high as twenty to thirty daily separations for absenteeism, malingering, inaptitude, or resignation. During the winter of 1943-44 there was some suffering by natives, who shivered in inadequate clothing on the night shifts. Work schedules varied: sometimes there were two shifts of 8 hours; sometimes, a 10-hour day shift and a 9-hour night shift; and in March 1944 the night shift was dropped.7
From then on, due to an increase in the local labor supply which enabled better men to be selected, a greater stability in labor conditions brought plant operations nearer to the techniques familiar in the United States. Improvement in native housing and messing, or rationing for those not housed at the site, plus introduction, in August 1943, of a wage incentive system rewarding production above a standard minimum, brought improvement in plant capacity. Workmen's compensation, however, introduced by General Motors, was modified by the Army, and the worker who had received pay for job-incurred injuries and pay while hospitalized now found his wage stopped when he entered the hospital. Furthermore, after recovery he had to file a claim and only after it was approved did he receive his lost wages. In most cases this worked a hardship upon natives who lived from hand to mouth and had no accumulated reserves to call upon in time of need.
Traditionally suspicious of one another as well as of foreigners, the native workmen found American timecard systems used for pay-off difficult to cope with. Identity badges were forged, timecards stolen or sold, and the paymaster's life generally made miserable. Countermeasures and new devices were employed to ensure, in so far as possible, honest and fair pay-offs. Theft, both petty and large scale, posed problems of discipline and these were not always fairly solved-the Iranian police frequently releasing suspects arrested on American complaint, and the Americans, on their part, sometimes carrying search of native quarters to lengths of severity not countenanced in the States.8
Production figures, however, testify to the establishment of generally smooth relations with an efficient labor force.9 The brightest aspect of the labor picture was the adaptability of the native workmen to American assembly-line industrial techniques, and here, as time went on, the patience of Americans as teachers was rewarded by the eager willingness of the learners. Greater progress in this respect was made after the Army took over and could mingle large numbers of American soldier-instructors through the lines. The TAP's distinguished themselves by their ability to take mutually distrustful racial groups, ignorant, slow-moving, underfed laborers, camel drivers, and desert nomads, and make of many of them skilled factory hands and even supervisors. It may be that American machines do not, after all, require supermen to operate them, and that sociologists and statesmen have
something startling to learn from the speed with which Khorramshahr scaled, if not the heights, at least the foothills of Detroit.10
When the Army took over truck assembly, Plants Branch assumed responsibility for the checkup station at Tehran, operated by an ordnance medium automotive maintenance company detachment and some two hundred and twenty native workmen, as well as a small checkup station established, at Russian suggestion, at Khurramabad on the highway north of Andimeshk. The Khurramabad station, manned by a handful of American soldiers, was from time to time the object of Soviet criticism. A demand that the Americans change the oil of Soviet vehicles there was refused after a thorough test of the condition of oil in vehicles after arrival at Tehran, which showed an oil change en route unnecessary. The Soviets moved in some Red Army men, but further complaints were registered against the condition of vehicles serviced there. After an inspection trip by Soviet and American officers these complaints were admitted to be groundless. Next, in June 1944, the Soviets requested expansion of the station, but after thorough study of the proposal by the Americans it was refused. Meanwhile, the Russians assigned 6 officers and 40 men to Khurramabad and began to service their own vehicles. In September 1944, 10 American soldiers were removed, leaving 4 until January 1945 when the Soviets took over full control of the station.
At the big Tehran checkup station rigid inspection, lubrication, tightening, and maintenance were the final operations of the Americans before handing over the vehicles to the Soviets. In spite of the very large numbers of vehicles which passed through the routine, Russian complaints against the quality of the work were numerous and could be met only by willingness to correct defects. It was suggested, after a complaint of April 1944, that the Soviets set up an inspection system outside the American plant in order to eliminate the interference with American operations by Russian inspectors in the plant. In April 1945 the Russians took over the Tehran checkup station.
Among the most serious problems was that of damage to parts and vehicles. Often defective packing in the United States or rough unloading at the ports resulted in damage which showed up in poor performance of assembled trucks. Not only did many crates arrive in damaged
condition, but boxes would slide off trucks into the highway to be descended upon by eager natives who, before the military police could arrive, would carry off parts, tear away the crating lumber, and expose equipment to sun and dust.
Beginning in June 1943 a rising tide of complaints from the Soviets called attention to persistent breakdown of Studebakers, Fords, and Chevrolets assembled at Andimeshk and Khorramshahr, breakdowns not attributable to the rough overland journey northward after assembly or to the sometimes reckless operation by native drivers. From G-2 at USAFIME headquarters, Cairo, went a report of the situation with a request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a study of factories in the United States to determine whether sabotage was taking place there or in Iran. Investigation which followed at the Studebaker Hercules plant at Canton, Ohio, and at the assembly point at South Bend, Indiana, revealed some defective materials going into pistons, but no sabotage, and a report in May 1944 tossed the ball back to the Persian Gulf with the suggestion that if there was sabotage it must be occurring in Iran. The upshot of all this was that the Army tightened up processing of waybills and improved handling methods from the docks to keep damage of cased vehicles to a minimum. All material was recorded as to condition at arrival, and widespread breakdowns of delivered vehicles declined.11
The End of Operations
By November 1944 the American plants at Andimeshk and Khorramshahr were the only TAP's left operating. As the Eastern Front had receded westward farther and farther from the Persian Gulf line of communication, and as the Mediterranean was again open for Allied shipping, plans went forward in high places to develop a supply route to the USSR through the Black Sea. On 28 November it was recommended by the Munitions Assignments Board at Washington that either TAP I or TAP II be turned over to the USSR to be re-established for use in assembling trucks to be shipped to Russia via the Black Sea route.12 Meanwhile, on 19 November the War Department had instructed the Persian Gulf Command that plant operations were to be adjusted to permit the prompt dismantling of TAP I for shipment to the USSR, and orders to dismantle the Andimeshk plant came through on 7 December on the heels of the authorization by the Munitions Assignments Committee (Ground) on 30 November to transfer one
plant to the Soviets. A formal communication was sent to Col. Leonid I. Zorin, Deputy Chief of Iransovtrans, and on 10 December a Russian Acceptance Committee arrived at Andimeshk. The entire plant, stacking yard, and salvage area were divided into smaller sections with a Russian officer, an American officer, and an interpreter assigned to each group. While this was going on native workmen were discharged in daily batches. December output of 550 vehicles brought to 79,370 Andimeshk's assembly for all consignees. By 17 January 1945 the entire TAP had been dismantled and shipped by rail to the Soviet Union. It was a considerable consignment, carried in 115 freight cars, two of them special low-bed cars for hauling the bulky cranes in the equipment through the narrow tunnels of the railway. The men of the 3467th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company, who had been at Andimeshk since June 1943, completed cleanup of records and were relieved on 4 February 1945. After that Khorramshahr carried on alone.
It is a curious thing how trucks kept pouring toward the Persian Gulf even at this late date, with the Russian front nearly two thousand miles from Tehran. But the long pipeline from the United States kept filling in the west and discharging in the Persian Gulf, and upon TAP II fell the task of keeping things moving as before. Personnel came down from Andimeshk, two shifts were worked, and in January the TAP produced 5,582 trucks.
Matters were drawing to an end, however, for in February the two main assembly lines at TAP II were authorized for transfer to the USSR and actually stopped work in mid-March, leaving only the Mack line to carry on until 20 April, when it, too, was dismantled. By 24 April the entire plant had been dismantled and moved toward Russia in 146 rail cars plus another 114 cars carrying cased vehicles and salvage. Two ordnance units remained behind amidst what must have seemed to them, after former activity, the desolation of the desert. There were also three large cranes awaiting low-bed cars to get them through the tunnels on their journey north. When the 3556th and 3455th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Companies were relieved before 1 May the American truck assembly mission in the Persian Corridor was completed.
From March 1942 through April 1945 the four TAP's in Iraq and Iran assembled 191,075 units for all consignees. Of this total the two American plants turned out 88 percent, or 168,021 units.13 During the fifteen months of the contractor period, Andimeshk and Khorramshahr produced 29,751 units, 98 percent of which were for the USSR.
The Army, in its twenty-two months of operation assembled 137,671 units. Of these 96 percent went to the Russians, reflecting the increased amount of work done in the later period for consignees other than the Russians, notably the U. S. Army. In comparing the performances of the two periods it must be borne in mind that, by the time the Army took over, the assembly buildings except for Khorramshahr were virtually complete. Adequate machinery and equipment had been installed. Military manpower was sufficient and could be shifted to meet sudden demands, as the labor force of the contractor could not. Moreover, the heaviest flow of vehicles coincided roughly with the development of capacity.
In this respect the truck assembly program was fortunate. Unlike the aircraft assembly operation, it did not have to struggle for most of its existence to meet targets while sometimes hopelessly handicapped by shortages of manpower, materials, and equipment. Then, too, in contrast with the experience at the ports, truck assembly did not develop capacity significantly in excess of the load it was actually called upon to bear. The variables and uncertainties which beset so many other activities of the American command afflicted the TAP's to a lesser degree. Whether by design or by fortuitous circumstance, production proceeded, except for the early 1942 period, as the statistical tables show, according to a reasonable rising and falling curve. When demand accelerated, capacity was ready; when the progress of the war removed the demand, no time was lost in closing out the project. How the King of Hearts would have applauded the TAP's for following his advice to Alice: "Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
page created 17 January 2002
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