The Railway

The Anglo-Soviet occupation of Iran in 1941 would have been less essential to Allied war purposes had the Iranian State Railway not existed. For unwittingly Reza Shah Pahlevi, who opened the $140,000,000 line on 26 August 1939 after more than seven years of construction, had forged in the ISR a powerful weapon against the very Germans whose accepted friendship hastened the wartime occupation and his abdication. As a ready-made link between Western Hemisphere sources of supply and the Soviet battle lines, the railway hauled three out of every five tons of supplies delivered through the Corridor to Soviet receiving points by combined British and American effort. Virtually all of those three tons were delivered to the Russians during the period of American operation. The figures are 5,149,376 long tons, 2,989,079 long tons, and 2,'737,677 long tons.1

The railway operation was impressive; but the totals do not make real its sheer mass of steel, manpower, and planning. Other figures indicate the extraordinary rate of increase. Before the Anglo-Soviet occupation the railway could haul 200 tons a day. During the period of all-British operation for which figures are available the daily average haul of Russian-aid freight was 661 long tons. The daily average haul in the peak month of British operation ( September 1942 ) was 790 long tons of Russian-aid cargoes. In the period of interim Anglo-American operation ( January .through March 1943 ) the daily average of Russian-aid cargo hauled climbed to 921 long tons. The daily average for the whole period of American operation (April 1943 through May 1945 ) was 3,397 long tons of Russian-aid freight. Nor was this the full measure of the capacity to which the ISR was brought. In the last five months of British operation, August through December 1942, the daily average of all freight hauled was approximately 1,530 long tons, a notable improvement over the capacity inherited by the British in 1941. For the whole period of American operation this figure


rose to 5,336, an average which reflects not only the limited accomplishments at the beginning, but also the peak performance of 1944. The daily average for that year was 6,489 long tons, and for July, the top month of 1944, 7,520.2

A comparable increase in capacity, achieved in peacetime by a well-equipped modern railway under the blessings of a management beholden to none but its own judgment, would be hard to find in the annals of railroading. Yet the performance wrung from the ISR between 1941 and 1945 was marked up on the record in the face of the usual Persian Corridor headaches: a kitchenful of cooks stirring the broth to the loud accompaniment of arguments on precedence, proper handling of the ladle, the ingredients, and determination of the appropriate rental owed to the owner of the pot and of the cook or cooks liable for its payment.

For this reason the tangle of agreements and arrangements, not to speak of tensions, that existed among the authorities is as important a part of the railway story as the record of day-to-day operations. Neither aspect of the story sufficiently explains the secret of the prodigies of performance that, among them, the Americans, the British, the Iranians, and the Russians extracted from the ISR. Certainly the prodigal expenditure of American material resources in expansion of rolling stock and improvement of maintenance of way, operating facilities, and methods greased the wheels; while on the other side multiple authority and differing national aims and temperaments operated as a brake. From the moment of the Anglo-Soviet occupation the ISR was destined to carry the main burden of Russian-aid traffic. When, after a year of British operation, the Combined Chiefs turned the job over to the United States Army and coolly raised .the target to 6,000 long tons daily for all cargoes, the grim fact was that, from then on, the ISR would have to live up to expectations, would have to carry loads undreamed of. It is perhaps because of this necessity that all other factors appear as secondary explanations of the ultimate feat. The necessity itself provided the key to the result. The ability of the railway to carry so much of the burden of Russian-aid tonnage was essential to the success of the supply program. The railway had to succeed.

And it did, but not without dust and heat: the dust of minutes and memoranda; the heat of the day's work on the line and in the yards. The peculiar nature of the railway operation, involving as it did complicated adjustments at the diplomatic as well as the military


level, overshadowed all merely operational problems. These adjustments, whether they concerned military command, or whether they involved national pride or prerogatives, in essence were adjustments of authority.

One should not give a man a job to do without clothing him with the requisite power and discretion to do it. Normally there is no separation between authority and responsibility. But the four-power partnership in the Corridor posed abnormal conditions which affected the railway task no less than other parts of the supply program. In September 1942 the Combined Chiefs, as told in Chapter X, gave to the Americans responsibility for transport operations while leaving undisturbed the primary British authority over security and movements. In the interest of efficient operation it became necessary for the commanders in the field to effect, by delegation of authority and other adjustments, as close an identity of authority and responsibility as the abnormal Corridor situation permitted. How this was done for the transport task as a whole (trucks, ports, railway) was told in Chapter XI. The effort to harness authority and responsibility into one team is a main thread in the story of the railway.

Authority and Responsibility

The basic charter under which all wartime activity on the ISR was carried on was the Tri-Partite Treaty; but as a guide to railway matters its grants of authority to the British and Soviet Armies were general. It did not specify how their control of Iranian communications would apply to the specific business of running the railway. Moreover, as the treaty was not signed until January 1942 and as the railway problem pressed for action if not for solution from the moment of occupation the previous August, there was no time for dispassionate consideration of ways and means. The British and Soviets proceeded, under the preliminary terms accepted by Iran in September 1941, to exercise control of communications within their respective zones. It cannot be said that this was a deliberately chosen policy, although the separate assumption of operating and supervisory responsibility for a railway thus arbitrarily divided into two segments at Tehran established a precedent which had the full force of chosen policy, and which, as time went on, proved the fixed and never altered basic operating plan for the railroad. In the remaining months of 1941 this basic decision-which-was-notdecided was taken, as it were, by default.

The alternatives, as they appeared from time to time in the endless discussions among the Corridor partners, were two: operation of the


line as a whole from Gulf to Caspian by a single responsible authority with power to take decisions; or a division of the line at Tehran with co-ordination to be provided by a joint operating commission representing Iran, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. The first, the logical solution, failed of adoption whenever it was proposed because it was incompatible with the basic Corridor situation-a partnership of expediency without unified local command. The second was a compromise whose experimental execution dwindled into early oblivion.

From the beginning the United States was drawn into both alternatives as well as the de facto Anglo-Soviet arrangement. Churchill's appeal a few days after the occupation for American locomotives, rolling stock, and technical advice bulked large in the War Department's decision to establish the Iranian Mission, the selection as its first chief of General Wheeler, a railroad expert, his choice as civilian contractor of Foley Brothers, Inc., an engineering firm experienced in railroad construction and, above all, the designation of the ISR as an approved lend-lease project months before the designation of Iran as a nation eligible for lend-lease aid. When in September 1941 the lend-lease authorities were unable to find a suitable top railroad man to advise Harry Hopkins on the equipment needed to meet the ChurchillBeaverbrook requests, the matter of strengthening the ISR was handed over to the War Department and by it referred to General Wheeler and his new Iranian Mission. The commissioning of John A. Gillies, General Manager of the Santa Fe Railway, as a lieutenant colonel and his dispatch to Iran in October to investigate and report followed.3

The United States thus assumed from the beginning responsibilities in the railway task without receiving authority for their execution. It undertook to supply equipment and technical advice to be used at the discretion of the Anglo-Soviet Armies whose authority was not only split-each in its zone of Iran-but was in turn derived from the Iranian Government as owner of the ISR. It was some time before the ambiguities of the situation resolved themselves into a series of understandings, some definite, some no more definite than an absence of objection by one party to the actions of another. In September 1941 the Soviet Ambassador at Tehran proposed that each occupying power operate the rail lines within its respective zone of occupation. There was no formal agreement to that effect, but separate operations proceeded as if there were. The British commissioned Sir Godfrey Rhodes, General Manager of the Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbors, a brigadier and flew him early in October to Tehran to become director


of transportation; but when the Russians established a Soviet railway headquarters at Tehran it was reported to Washington that the British in Iran viewed the act with some dismay and feared that divided operating control would make for reduced railway capacity and would cause complications with the Iranian railway administration.4

Before the end of 1941 both alternatives to divided operating control appeared on the scene. The suggestion was made for a .joint operating commission; and, early in November, Lord Beaverbrook expressed the hope that the United States would operate the ISR. The reactions to the latter differed. General Wheeler reported that informal conversations with the Iranian Prime Minister, the Iranian Foreign Minister, and the Soviet Ambassador at Tehran indicated a favorable attitude, but that the British transportation directorate in Iran was opposed. On the other hand, the British War Office in London, in a message in January 1942 requesting India's views, noted that operation of the railroad by Americans as allies was a different proposition from operation by Americans as nonbelligerents, the American status at the time of the Beaverbrook proposal. London requested Indian headquarters to consider the matter from the point of view of (1) the use that could be made elsewhere of British personnel released by American operation, and ( 2 ) the psychological effect on the British forces in Iran who were developing the railway of having it handed over to Americans. When India referred the proposal to Baghdad for an opinion, the response was favorable to American operation of the ISR. Baghdad said, "Psychological effect on our transportation personnel should not be taken into account. Operation Persian Railway by Americans extremely desirable every point of view. We should discard all stipulations and give Americans complete control."5

This opinion might have carried more weight in British councils had it been advanced as a matter of general principle; but the Baghdad message, by asserting that British transportation personnel in Iran replaced by Americans would be "invaluable for employment in Iraq," showed that its advocacy of American operation was colored by the pressing need of the British forces in Iraq for increased strength, and was not necessarily a considered opinion as to the best way of solving the railway problem in Iran.

At Washington caution marked discussions between the State and War Departments, and pessimism a memorandum by War Plans Divi-


sion which, while accurately assessing present difficulties, can hardly be blamed for not achieving equal accuracy regarding the future. Noting that the "Southern area served by the railroad is unhealthful," the paper went on to state:

U.S. civilian or military personnel, not acclimated, would not be efficient or effective .... Bad living conditions, shortage of water, unsatisfactory legal status and difficult working conditions make it questionable if competent U.S. Civilian railroad technicians could be retained . . . . Should U.S. Railroad units operate Trans-Iranian Railroad, the next logical step would be for U.S. Quartermaster units to operate the docks and U.S. Quartermaster truck companies to do the trucking. This could only be justified if it were contemplated that U.S. combat troops were later going to operate in this area. Since this is not the current plan, U.S. Army service troops should not be provided for this duty.6

Both American chiefs of missions in the Middle East saw the logic behind the proposed American operation. General Maxwell told his staff at Cairo that, to obtain maximum efficiency uncomplicated by rivalries over controls, the ultimate objective was American operation. General Wheeler, after conference at New Delhi with the Acting Commander-in-Chief, India, and his staff, reported that he shared British apprehension over divided (Anglo-Soviet) control of the ISR. He urged American operation by an American staff, or, as an alternative, a variant of the proposal for a joint supervisory committee which would entrust supervision to a small American headquarters staff, an arrangement which would require a high degree of co-operation by the British, Soviet, and Iranian authorities. Along the lines expressed by the WPD memorandum, Wheeler stated that the United States should come in only if the ISR were to be used for delivery of large quantities of supplies for the USSR, or for maintaining lame British

or American forces m northern Iran against Axis invasion. If these were not to be the proposed uses of the railroad, then he recommended that the British and Russians should work out their problems alone. Wheeler advised caution in making big plans because he had been told by the Soviet Ambassador that Moscow demanded only 2,000 motor trucks per month and 100 aircraft to be delivered by the Persian Gulf route, and this did not place too heavy a strain upon the railroad's capacities. Nevertheless, he concluded, because it might be necessary for British and American troops to operate in northern Iran and the Caucasus against Axis forces, some state of readiness of the railroad should be provided. He. therefore recommended that if it should be


considered politically expedient to attempt to harmonize all interests, the United States should offer to Britain and Russia to provide American management with a small headquarters staff.7

Neither the Wheeler suggestion, designed to fit into the Corridor situation so long as no extraordinary demands were to be made of the railroad, nor the Beaverbrook suggestion, which would have required a radical alteration in the basic Corridor situation, attracted sufficient strength to come into effect. In both British and American camps, arguments pro and con canceled one another out. But early in 1942, acting by request of the Tri-Partite powers, the United States designated Colonel Gillies to act as "mediator" on a joint board of representatives of Iran, Great Britain, and the USSR. Gillies served until his death in line of duty on 28 February 1942. No successor was appointed.8

Early in 1942 a detailed document was negotiated upon a foundation of Iranian proposals modified and extended by British and Soviet suggestions. Entitled "Regarding the Affairs of the Ministry of Ways and Communications," it was designed to establish a contractual relationship to govern British operation of the ISR. As the agreement was never approved by top authorities, the British proceeded under a simpler plan which they submitted to Iran but not to the USSR. Meanwhile the Russians had been going their separate way in their zone.9

Thus matters rocked along until mounting tonnages and global pressures produced the crisis of midsummer 1942, one of whose resolutions, as told in Chapter X, was the assignment of the operation of the British sector of the ISR to the U.S. Army. It is recorded that when all the preliminaries were over and Averell Harriman at Cairo told Prime Minister Churchill that the U.S. Army was ready to undertake the assignment, some British officers once again expressed alarm at putting control of an essential line of empire communications into foreign (i. e., American) hands; whereat Churchill dismissed the objection with the words, "And in what better hands could it be?"10


American control, however, was at that time not contemplated, since the Combined Chiefs' directive studiously avoided any modification of British authority over movements and security. Operation and control were .to be in different hands. American responsibilities had been enormously enlarged, but once again it was responsibility without authority, an anomaly from every point of view and one whose adverse effects upon operations called for the prompt attention and vigorous negotiation which General Connolly gave to the problem as soon as he arrived. If there had been in anybody's mind the thought that the new American command was to be integrated with the British, or subordinated to it, it soon become clear that the meshing of the two forces would be much subtler than .that. Connolly wrote candidly in December 1942 to Somervell:

. . . we are setting up our show on the Pershing pattern. This naturally does not, and cannot be expected to, arouse any great degree of enthusiasm on the part of our British cousins. They have been dominating the situation south of Tehran and competing with the Russians in Tehran. It is understandable that they want to keep a grip on all facilities and resources both for use during the war and for afterward. Up to date our arguments with them on labor, covered storage, supplies, etc., have been on a very friendly and cooperative basis. The idea is gradually percolating that this is a part of the U.S. Army-not part of the British Army.11

When, a few days after this letter was written, the first five thousand American service troops reached Khorramshahr, the relation between the American and British forces appeared to the Russians and Iranians to call for explanation. As is told hereafter in Chapter XX, they inquired whether the Americans, coming to Iran at British invitation, were to be considered as a part of the British command, and whether, if they were not, their presence prejudiced Iranian sovereignty and the rights enjoyed by the signatories to the Tri-Partite Treaty. The prolonged diplomatic exchange which followed provided the background against which negotiations to reconcile operational responsibility and authority were carried on. "The next big argument," General Connolly wrote in the letter just quoted, "is going to be over control of the railroad." Its culmination was the "Joint Agreement between Persia and Iraq Forces and the Persian Gulf Service Command for the Control of Movements in Persia," signed 7 April 1943.12


By this agreement, which gave the American command effective control over movements, the gap which separated responsibility and authority was considerably narrowed and operational problems proportionately simplified. In the course of the negotiations the old question of a unified rather than divided operation of the railway line again made its appearance when the American Ambassador at Moscow, Admiral William H. Standley, informed the Department of State that he possessed information that Iran wished the United States to take over not only the British sector but the Soviet sector as well. The information, while indicative of a trend in Iranian thinking and maneuvering, was, as General Connolly advised Washington, not accurate as to official Iranian policy. The question was settled, at least for the time being, by the decision of the Departments of State and War that, even should the offer to entrust to the U.S. Army operation of the ISR from Gulf to Caspian be forthcoming, it would be declined.13

The agreement on movements control made it possible for an independent American command to work, by means of delegated authority, with rather than under the British command. Since control of movements was essential to the carrying out of American operational responsibility, the agreement with the British proved, as Connolly reported after seven months' trial, "extremely satisfactory."14 Yet it was little more than a detailed working arrangement in the all-important field of allocations, priorities, and movements. Efforts were therefore made to supplement it with other agreements defining the status of the American command in the Corridor, and, more specifically, the degree to which British responsibilities regarding the ISR were assumed by the U.S. Army when it took over operation of the British sector of the line. Although the negotiations to these ends were inconclusive they illustrate further some problems inherent in a situation which by its nature precluded either unified command or the exact definition of responsibilities.

The Power o f the Purse

As the Combined Chiefs' directive said nothing about railway finances, the power of the purse figured prominently in the effort of the American command to control effectively the operations it had undertaken. The basic and thorny question focused upon British obligations


to the ISR. By agreement with the Iranian Government, the British had guaranteed to it an annual net sum, or profit, equivalent to that earned by the ISR between 21 March 1940 and 20 March 1941. The net revenue to Iran was accordingly fixed at 103 million rials per annum (equivalent to $3,218,750) . British Army freight was to receive a 50-percent concession in rates to be agreed, and transit freight, which meant goods destined for the USSR, would receive a 20-percent concession for all over 500,000 tons monthly. Capital expenditures beyond normal expansion were to be borne by the Ally, British or Soviet, making the demand for them; and the Allies contracted not to interfere more than necessary with Iranian civilian needs.15

The guaranteed annual net profit was to be calculated after a balancing of receipts and expenditures, with war-caused expenditures to be excluded from the ISR's operating budget. The crux of the financing problem was freight charges. At the beginning of the plan the UKCC was to pay freight charges incurred for the USSR, the funds coming from the War Office, London, while the British Army drew upon War Office funds paid out by PAI Force in Baghdad for their own charges. After September 1943 the British Army paid all charges except those for Iranian civil goods and USSR internal movements. In April 1944 this method was dropped and the British resorted to cash advances on the tenth of each month to cover the difference between ISR civil earnings and the amount needed for current operating expenses, such as wages. Very substantial payments, totaling $14,782,727 as of 1 June 1945, were made by the ISR for stores of British, U.S. lend-lease, and U.S. Army non-lend-lease origin.16

When the American command took over operations from the British in 1943, along with the rolling stock came a complex of bookkeeping between the British Army and the Iranian railway directorate

cash advances, expenditures, book credits, and adjustments-all involved in the general financial arrangements under which British operations were conducted. Exchanges of views as to American financial responsibilities were promptly begun and continued until the lend-lease settlement with Great Britain in March 1946. Throughout, British pressure was doggedly exerted to prevail upon the United States to assume, as of 1 April 1943, "sole responsibility for making


advances or meeting bills in the first instance" on the ISR.17 The British felt moreover that this liability should be supplemented by American agreement to pay the cost of all British as well as American internal traffic after 1 April in return for the British paying for their own and American traffic before that date. The United States would thus find itself saddled with liability for everybody's expenses plus the guarantee to Iran, and all this in addition to the ever mounting costs of maintaining and operating the American command in the Persian Corridor, which was already a heavy contribution toward the joint war effort in that area.

But the cardinal consideration from the point of view of the American command was not the cost involved in accepting the British proposal, for cost was not reckoned in the American effort to bring aid to Russia. Acceptance of the British financial liabilities toward the ISR would mean that American money would go directly into American operations instead of being siphoned into them via lend-lease to Britain. It was felt in the American command that taking over the British financial responsibility would increase American operational efficiency and authority by reducing the number of voices to be consulted over policy. The power of the purse gave the British ultimate control over operational matters whose cost (in American dollars) they could approve or disapprove when it was chargeable to the British share in lend-lease. In short, the Americans reasoned, if the money were to be spent anyhow, it was simpler for it to pass directly from American hands to the ISR instead of from Washington to Tehran via London.18 The American command therefore proceeded for some time to negotiate with the British upon the basis of the Americans taking over the British working agreement with the ISR. This involved not only an American guarantee of a minimum annual sum to Iran, as proposed by General Connolly on 21 July 1943, but American assumption of all costs, including USSR transit freight, which exceeded ISR revenues. Tentative agreement was reached along these lines, to be effective on 1 August. But on 19 July the Americans informed Brigadier Rhodes that there would be a delay. As it turned out the delay proved permanent.19

The crux of the opposition which Washington soon expressed was the Combined Chiefs' directive (CCS 109/1) . This provided only


that the U.S. Army should serve in the place of the British Army in certain undertakings in the Persian Corridor. It did not alter basic British responsibilities or mention finance. Since financial matters lay at the heart of control, General Marshall advised General Connolly that any alteration of the financial arrangements existing at the assumption of American operational responsibility would require the Combined Chiefs of Staff to reopen "the entire question of responsibility for and control of the transport routes."20 General Connolly was therefore committed to continuing negotiations in the financial field within the prescribed limits of the status quo as of the date of CCS 109/1, as modified by the working agreement over movements signed with the British in April 1943. And there were the other arrangements to be made to define American relations with the Corridor partners. Respecting these negotiations, opinion at Washington was divided as to whether they should proceed at the military level or the diplomatic level, and whether unilateral agreements or a general pact would be desirable. In time all talks merged with the negotiations over final settlement when the Americans, their mission over, returned the ISR to the British.

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Sa'ed directed a stream of inquiries, expostulations, and expressions of indignation at United States Minister Dreyfus, who in due course transmitted some of them to General Connolly. In April 1943 Mr. Sa'ed wanted to know whether the new working agreement between the Americans and the British had been consented to by the Russians; in May he deplored the chaos resulting from ill-defined operational control of the ISR; in July he demanded a direct Iranian-American agreement; in August he complained that the American railway director, Colonel Yount, without negotiation had presented to the railway administration for signature an operating agreement; and he ventured to point out that no matter how eager the government of Iran was to co-operate in friendship with its Allies, the ISR was the property of Iran and nothing, no action, should take place save under "the stipulations of a general agreement to be signed by the Governments of Iran and the United States."21

Mr. Sa'ed was reassured: that the United States was merely sub-


stituting for Great Britain in the matter of the railway, and that, as the British had informed the government of Iran, nothing had affected British obligations under the Tri-Partite Treaty; that, instead of chaos, General Connolly was able to report ( 21 June) improving tonnages for the USSR and for the Iranian civilian economy as well and harmonious relations between Colonel Yount and Hossain Nafisi, DirectorGeneral of the ISR, and to explain ( 23 August) that the administrative agreement referred to in one of the diplomatic communications was actually a bulletin on personnel procedure, adopted after long conferences, and in agreement, with Nafisi; and finally, that Nafisi had been informed on 3 August that the working agreement with the British "will be subordinate to the final covenant between the U.S. Army and the ISR."

The files abound in drafts and counterdrafts for such a covenant, and the summer of 1943 witnessed simultaneous discussions of three sorts: between the Americans and the British, on the military level, to determine financial obligations; between the Americans and the Iranians, on the political level, to discuss a bilateral railway agreement (perhaps as a part of a larger agreement as to American status in Iran) ; and four-power discussions toward a railway agreement.22 While Connolly was thus attempting to be, like "Mr. Cerberus, three gentlemen at once," in Mrs. Malaprop's phrase, the War Department in August 1943 reached a conclusion and advised him as follows:

First, the Anglo-Iranian arrangements were so complex the United States could not hope to do them justice if the British should withdraw altogether in the matter of the railway. Second, since the United States was not a party to the Tri-Partite Treaty, it was inappropriate for it to join in a four-power railway agreement. Third, Connolly should negotiate an operating contract with the ISR, obtaining therefor the concurrence of the governments of the United Kingdom, USSR, and Iran. Fourth, the British should continue, as in 1941-1942, to bear the ultimate financial responsibility.23

To some extent the War Department's policy decisions were helpful, for they cleared the air with regard to what financial liabilities the United States would assume. Thenceforth, General Connolly and his fiscal adviser, Col. John B. Stetson, Jr., could be as adamant in their assertion that the U.S. Army was agent only, and not financially liable, as were the British in insisting that as of 1 April 1943 a new deal in finances ought to take place. General Connolly may have been reluc-


tant to proceed with the delicate palavers prerequisite to an operating contract signed with the ISR and blessed by Britain and the USSR, for, as already noted, he was satisfied with the working agreement with PAI Force. Meanwhile, it appears that the British desired settlement of railway matters at the political level, and Minister Dreyfus concurred.24 It must be supposed that the British took this position, not because they were dissatisfied with the successful movements agreement which had been worked out at the military level, but because of the financial stand now being taken by the Americans. The view of the Department of State was therefore communicated by Dreyfus to Stetson at American military headquarters, through quotation of a telegram from the Acting Secretary of State to Dreyfus, as follows:

If it is necessary to conclude an agreement on a political level covering the operation of the trans-Iranian Railway, you are authorized to initiate and negotiate such an agreement satisfactory to the American military authorities. While War Department orally concurs in this, it nevertheless has expressed a preference for an agreement by the military authorities concerned.

To this Stetson replied in part as follows:

Understand, of course, that it was the view of PGSC to negotiate this agreement on the military level and not on the political level. The War Department, however, refused to PGSC authority to make any financial commitments binding the United States with respect the railroad.

In view of this decision, I informed the British that the entire financial responsibility was theirs, and that we as operators of the railroad are acting for them in the position of agent. They have elected, therefore, to make the agreement with respect to the railroad on the diplomatic level.25

Actually the situation was not essentially changed. The British maintained their financial convictions, but in March 1944 the War Department indicated that it would be willing to credit the cost of U.S. Army freight by entering it on the books as reverse lend-lease, provided the British paid it in the first instance.26

But when on 31 May 1945 representatives of the British and American Armies sat down together to discuss the return of the ISR to the British, it was found not only that the British still expected the Americans to pay for everything after 1 April 1943 but that the British proposed stopping their interim payments to the ISR after 30 June 1945 and that they would regard any subsequent breakdown as a point Allied responsibility.27


Up to 1 July 1945 the cash advanced by the British to the ISR was more than ,twenty million dollars less than the ISR claimed the British owed for payment of USSR transit freight charges. If the ISR would agree to a reduction of the rates, as proposed but never settled, to three tenths of a rial per ton kilometer, then .the British had overpaid by more than three and one half million dollars. As such overpayment did not cover costs of delivered stores and all operating expenses, there was a considerable gap to be made up to reach the guarantee of one hundred and three million rials net annual income. These matters were adjusted on paper by discovering and agreeing upon a freight rate that would even matters up pretty much as they were. So much for the British obligation to the ISR. After 1 July 1945 the British proposed that .the United States, the USSR, and themselves pay the ISR separately for bills incurred; but the Americans pointed out that unless the British gave the ISR sufficient funds to settle its accounts with the United States for heavy purchases of supplies, stores, and equipment, against which account the United States had withheld payments to the ISR for command internal freight charges, then the United States, while paying off the ISR account, might not be paid in return.28

In view of the difficulties which beset a financial settlement limited to the railway, the American command felt that the total effort of the United States Army in the Persian Corridor was relevant. Such a factor as American improvement and maintenance of highways over and above its obligations under the Combined Chiefs of Staff directive should offset British claims for compensation for freight charges on the railway.29 Since the question appeared incapable of solution in the field, it passed to higher authority and was ultimately swallowed up in the over-all lend-lease settlement between the British and American Governments. In this final settlement a notation appears that a British claim for compensation from the United States for twenty-five million dollars for USSR transit freight carried over the ISR was disallowed by the United States.30

There is a bright side to the tedious record of all these negotiations in which the Americans, for the sake of efficient operations, strove to attain as close an identity between responsibility and authority as the Corridor situation permitted. If that situation could have been altered


by negotiation to provide unified operation of the ISR from Gulf to Caspian or even to invest the American command with primary authority as well as responsibility, the operational problem would have been noticeably eased and the results achieved even more striking than those summarized at the beginning of this chapter. But it is a commentary upon Anglo-American temperaments that, during the years when American and British officialdom strove in paper after paper and talk after talk to determine who could properly do what and who should pay for what, their colleagues were running the trains, doing the job, delivering the goods to the Russians. Nevertheless, as that part of the story now unfolds, the murmur of innumerable conferences and the rustle of carbon copies will still be heard above the clang of freight cars in the assembly yards and the deep-throated whistle of the diesels echoing in the high mountains of Iran.

The Americans Take Over

The railway itself is a notable engineering accomplishment.31 Its single-track, standard-gauge main line extends 865 miles from the southern terminus of Bandar Shahpur, a tidewater port at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, to Bandar Shah on the southeastern shore of the Caspian Sea. (See Map 4 ) Within its span many phases of engineering and railroad construction are combined in somewhat unusual concentration.

Soon after completion of the main line, construction began on two branches. In 1939 the railway extended a branch northwest from Tehran toward Tabriz; in 1941 this line had passed Zenjan and was carried on to Mianeh in 1942, a total distance of 272 miles. Some work was done west of Mianeh, but the plans based on the former Shah's insistence upon driving the line from there straight through, rather than around large hill masses, proved too costly and the project withered. The other branch, running eastward from Garmsar through Samnan to Shahrud for a distance of 196 miles, was placed in service in 1940. In 1942 the British, purely as a military measure, constructed two more branches. One 77 miles in length, extended from Ahwaz to Khorramshahr; the other was a 27-mile extension from this line to Cheybassi, lighterage port up-river from Tanuma and opposite Margil, in the port area of Basra.


From Bandar Shahpur the line runs northward for 69 miles, across marshland and the Khuzistan Desert, to Ahwaz, crossing a 3,512-foot bridge over the Karun River at that point. Following the course of the Ab-i-Diz River, the railroad continues northwest for 87 miles across the desert to Andimeshk in the Zagros foothills, where it embarks on the first of two of the most dramatic railroad sections in the world.

The Zagros Mountains are forbiddingly devoid of vegetation, their lonely, rocky facades utterly bleak, the ravines between the profusion of their peaks sheer and desolate. North of Andimeshk as far as Dorud, 130 miles distant, the railroad hugs the course of the Ab-i-Diz, crossing it many times in that section, high in the mountains. The railroad plunges through tunnel after tunnel-135 of them in one stretch of 165 miles-and permits glimpse:; of breathtaking sweep as it emerges time after time to skirt the brinks of deep and precipitous canyons. The first American soldiers traveling north to their station in Tehran, in January 1943, found no comfort in the fact that the locomotives hauling them over the single-track railroad were without headlights in this succession of tunnels. There are many bridges and there are miles of retaining walls of massive design and galleried sheds to protect the track from snow and landslides. North of Dorud the line ascends to an altitude of 7,272 feet and, emerging upon a high plateau, reaches Sultanabad, 91 miles away, and Qum, 87 miles beyond Sultanabad. From there it is 111 miles to the capital city, Tehran.

From Tehran, the main line turns abruptly southeast for 71 miles to Garmsar, skirting the high wall of the Elburz Mountains. At Garmsar, the line veers northeast again, entering a lofty pass in the Elburz and climbing to a height of 6,927 feet. In this 65-mile section the railroad performs veritable gymnastics, with spiraled switchbacks, tunnels which burrow through the rock in sweeping curves, and, at one point, a corkscrew climb in which four elevations of track lift the railway with a grade of one in 36. One hundred and fifty-three miles from the summit in the Elburz lies Bandar Shah, which is 85 feet below sea level.

Beginning at Tehran, the Soviet sector of the ISR comprised 757 miles of line running east from the capital to Bandar Shah and Shahrud, and west to Mianeh. The British sector extended for 680 miles of main and branch line southward from Tehran, through the mountains and across the desert to the Gulf. Over this route the first American railroad troops rode to Tehran on a train drawn by a little prewar Ferrostaal locomotive with copper firebox and brightly trimmed wheels. Their journey was enlivened when, in the wilds of the Zagros Mountains, they had to get out and push the train up the more difficult grades. That ludicrous first experience was to fade into the incredible


past as the great diesels from beyond the Atlantic took over the rails in Iran and the trains lengthened and the tonnages grew.

One year before, while the newly arrived British were working to increase the prewar capacity of the ISR from its 200-ton daily level, General Wheeler had estimated that, using existing inadequate equipment, American operation might raise capacity for all types of cargo to 600 tons daily, capable of increase to 1,800 tons by the addition of American rolling stock. The British had set themselves a goal of 2,000 tons daily to be reached by April 1942.32

With a military operating and supervisory staff which reached a maximum of 120 officers and 3,900 engineer (sapper) troops and using the existing ISR civilian administrative and operating staff, the British Army had brought the railway in the last five months of 1942 to a daily average for all cargoes of some 1,500 tons. To do so they had doubled the trackage in the yards at Andimeshk, Ahwaz, and Tehran, and had constructed over one hundred miles of new line. They doubled the area of the erecting shops at Tehran and put up new sheds, storehouses, workshops, and offices in various localities, as well as new wire installations for telephone and telegraph up and down the line. They doubled rolling stock, including motive power. Their achievement was not to be underrated; but it fell far short of the 6,000-ton target now set by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.33

General Connolly soon found that the inability of the railway to take away landed cargoes from the ports was the key problem to be solved in the new transport task facing him. The prospect was hardly pleasing. He wrote in December:

My biggest mistake in estimating the situation before leaving Washington was in thinking that the ports were the bottleneck. I find that at present the rate of removing cargo from shipside determines the rate of unloading ships. There is no storage at the docks. There are not sufficient trucks and railroad rolling stock available, and what they do have they do not operate efficiently. If I had known the above before leaving Washington, I would have arranged my priorities of men and equipment differently.34

As told in Chapter X, rail operating units which had received top priority for overseas shipment in early SOS planning shared equal priorities with port and trucking troops in the revised arrangements.


Next after troop shipments came port unloading equipment, with diesels in third place. The transition from British to American operation of the railway was therefore prolonged over several months during which the American railway troops were arriving, learning their jobs, and gradually taking over the line.

To command them General Connolly had selected Colonel Yount who had come to the area in 1941 as a transportation expert with General Wheeler's Iranian Mission and had then gone with Wheeler to India. Recalled from India, Yount reached Basra on 5 October 1942, where, with a small forward echelon which arrived later from the United States, he established a temporary railway headquarters. In December, with its headquarters now moved to Ahwaz, the Military Railway Service was established as one of the operating services of the American command.35

A survey tour of the line conducted by Colonel Yount and conferences with Iranian, Soviet, and British officials laid the groundwork for the gradual process of take-over. This took place as fast as trained troops became available. The first outfit to arrive was the 711 th Engineer Railway Operating Battalion. Unlike other units which were sponsored by American railways and later incorporated into the MRS, the 711th was all Army. Activated in June 1941, it was ready for work when it reached Khorramshahr in December 1942. Starting on 1 January 1943 by taking over from the British operation of the line from that port to Ahwaz, by the 16th it was running the trains from Dorud to both Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur.36

To provide headquarters staff personnel for administration of the MRS, the 702d Railway Grand Division arrived in January. Recently activated in October 1942, this group was sponsored by the Union Pacific Railroad and was largely staffed by ex-civilian railroaders with a minimum of military training and indoctrination. On 9 February, with his headquarters moved from Ahwaz to Tehran, Colonel Yount formally assumed command as director and general manager of MRS and of the 702d Railway Grand Division. An organization chart for March shows a staff division of functions, into sections for Administration, Transportation, Water, Equipment, Engineering, and Supply, with operating functions centralized in two railway divisions-the


Northern, extending from Tehran to Dorud; and the Southern, from there to the ports. The operating battalions derived their authority directly from the director. Among the more important accomplishments of this headquarters group, during the period of joint BritishAmerican operations, was the taking over by its Equipment Section in February of responsibility for all railway rolling stock and equipment. The Transportation Section, as a preliminary to the assumption of full American operating responsibilities, found it necessary to prepare a book of rules-the railroad man's bible-which would establish uniform procedures based upon explicit instructions. The ISR possessed no automatic signals, no interlocking or multiple tracks, and few grade crossings. Existing ISR rules had to be co-ordinated with such American methods as could be modified to local conditions. After protracted discussion with Soviet and Iranian railway people, a standard book of rules was promulgated by common consent on 1 April.

Meanwhile other operating units were arriving from the United States. In January the 730th Engineer Railway Operating Battalion, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Railroad, joined the 7 11th, which was already in charge of the Southern Division. By the end of March, the 730th was ready to operate the Northern Division. A few days previously, the 754th Railway Shop Battalion, just arrived, took over the ISR's principal locomotive and car repair shops at Tehran.

These four organizations, the administrative unit, two operating battalions, and the shop battalion, totaled 3,067 officers and men, a number slightly greater than the strength allotted to the American railway service by the first estimates under the SOS Plan. Revised Tables of Organization provided for an additional shop battalion to handle the American diesel engines which were to take over the heaviest work from the steam locomotives.37 Accordingly, the 762d Railway Diesel Shop Battalion added 632 officers and men to available manpower upon its arrival in March. During April and the first week of May it took over the shops at Ahwaz, consisting of back shop, the freight car assembly shops, and the powerhouse.

By that time the MRS was already running, the railway from Tehran to the Gulf. As of 1 April 1943 "responsibility for control of operations and maintenance of the Iranian State Railway between Tehran and Persian Gulf Ports formerly exercised by the Transportation Directorate (Persia) of PAI Force" devolved upon the MRS. On 1 May, when the Anglo-American agreement for control of movements came into


effect, railway movements, including allocation, scheduling of trains, and distribution of rolling stock passed also to the Americans.38

At the beginning of May there were about 3,700 officers and men of the MRS working on the railroad. Their numbers and the types of units assigned had been determined at the War Department. The resulting Tables of Organization, compiled far from the scene of activity, were not entirely adapted to field conditions. In War Department theory an Qperating battalion was to have jurisdiction over a stretch of 60 to 120 miles of single-track railway, including one terminal. A railway grand division would direct two operating battalions and one shop battalion, or a maximum of 240 miles of single-track line and two terminals. In actual practice the 702d Railway Grand Division was supervising two operating. battalions and two shop battalions, spread over 677 miles, as well as eight terminals; the 711th Railway Operating Battalion operated 388 miles, and the 730th, 289 miles. An attack upon the problem of thinly spread manpower was made when on 1 May the MRS activated the 1st Provisional Railway Operating Battalion, later designated the 791st Railway Operating Battalion. Men for the new outfit were drawn from those battalions already in the area plus personnel from other units in the command with prewar railroad experience. The new unit was assigned the 221-mile stretch of mountainous country between Andimeshk and Sultanabad. Since this rearrangement left the 711th with 258 miles and the 730th with 198, the theoretical limit of 120 miles was still far from attained. At the same time the two railway divisions were divided into three: the Northern, from Tehran to Sulfanabad; the Central, from Sultanabad to Andimeshk; and the Southern, from there to the ports.

The conclusion of these arrangements in May 1943 gave the MRS organization a form which remained essentially unaltered throughout its existence. This structural stability was important to the success of the railway task. MRS strength rose slightly after this date, but at its peak of about 4,000 it was almost identical with the maximum strength of the British military railroaders who preceded it.

One administrative change did occur, but this was largely a matter of redesignation to make practice conform to theory. The 702d Railway Grand Division, the administrative dynamo which powered the organization of MRS, was intended by the War Department to be comparable to a civilian railway regional headquarters; but it found itself actually serving as a military railway service headquarters to which


grand divisions were intended by the Tables of Organization to be subordinate. Although the MRS had been designated by PGSC as a military railway service, it was not so recognized by the War Department, whose Military Railway Service, up to November 1942 an organization within the Corps of Engineers, was that month transferred to the new Transportation Corps and assigned the duty of operating and maintaining all military railways in theaters of operation.39

By the summer of 1943 the headquarters staff of about one hundred, including forty-three officers, was hard put to it to supervise the activities of 4,000 men in five battalions, and of approximately 15,000 ISR native employees. The Tables of Organization made up at Washington did not recognize the comprehensive functions of the staff under actual conditions. They provided, for example, eighteen stationmasters with the rank of captain, but these were not needed because ISR employees filled those positions. On the other hand .the T/O made no provision for specialists in labor relations and left heavily undermanned the administrative control of supply and accounting. In the latter field, particularly, it was necessary to keep accurate financial records against the day of final reckoning with the British and Iranians. Accordingly, on 20 July Colonel Yount requested that the War Department authorize establishment of an approved Headquarters, MRS, to replace the 702d Railway Grand Division. General Connolly, in forwarding his recommendation, asked also for officers to fill important functional gaps. After a delay of many months, during which time the MRS reached the first of its two great peaks in tonnage performance, approval came through from Washington, and on 10 April 1944 Headquarters, 3d MRS, PGC, was activated.40

Colonel Yount remained only a few weeks longer, for in May he was ordered to the CBI theater to face fresh railway problems. His long period of service had seen not only establishment of a pattern of organizational structure and procedure which withstood time and vicissitude but also the achievement, through increasing efficiency, of tonnages to which, to put it mildly, the ISR was not previously


accustomed. He was succeeded as director by Col. Frank S. Besson, Jr., who served until May 1945 when as a brigadier general he left Iran for a new assignment. Under Colonel Besson the MRS met the test of the peak loads of the latter part of 1944. Besson's two successors, Col. Aubrey M. Bruce and Lt. Col. L. D. Curtis, carried on to the end of operations.

MRS organization charts show, in the latter period, little change from the beginnings. In November 1943 the headquarters staff had five instead of six sections, that for Water being eliminated, and the Supply Section being redesignated Stores and Purchase. Five instead of four operating battalions came under the director's command. The chart for October 1944 shows no change from the preceding year. That for March 1945 indicates a distinction between staff functions, still administered through five sections, now called Administration, Operations, Transportation, Equipment, and Stores, and line functions. The last, with line of command extending back to the director's office, consisted of the running of trains-functioning through the Northern, Central, and Southern Divisions-operation of the six railroad camps scattered along the line, and maintenance operations at the shops at Tehran and Ahwaz.

Men at Work

When General Connolly observed in December 1942 that moving cargo inland was at that time a tougher problem than unloading ships, he was indicating that until port and rail capacities could be brought into balance the logistic pipeline would tend to choke up altogether or feed its transit tonnage spasmodically. Rail and port performance, though they must be recorded as distinct enterprises, are nevertheless to be considered as intimately affecting one another. In evaluating the ups and downs of tonnages hauled by the ISR it is obvious that maximum rail haulage was possible only when maximum cargoes were available at the ports. Table 3 and Charts 8, 9, and 10 help to tell the rail story. When the statistical record shows rising ship discharge accompanied by rising rail tonnage, it reveals ability of the railroad to keep pace with demand. On the other hand, low rail tonnages may indicate either inability of the railroad to carry cargoes away from the ports, or, as was the more usual case after the apprentice period, diminution of incoming cargoes.

Although the entire transport operation was affected by administrative and policy controls at the highest levels, their primary point of contact at the operating level was at the ports. Here was the first test of co-ordinating various functions which touched so closely that,


without clear-cut definition of what belonged to ports operation and what to rail, confusion was inevitable. The two services, Ports and MRS, took over their new responsibilities in alternating steps. On 1 January 1943 MRS began to operate trains out of Khorramshahr. On the seventh, port operation of Khorramshahr by Americans began, although British units remained to help. By 18 January MRS was running all the trains from Khorramshahr and Bandar Shahpur to Dorud; and in mid-February American units assumed interim operation of the port of Bandar Shahpur, with continuing British help. On 1 April both ports and railroad commenced all-American operation, and on 1 May began effective American control of movements in the British zone. But even before the first American assumption of operating responsibilities, Colonel Booth for Ports and Colonel Yount for MRS had, in December 1942, agreed on a division of labor at dockside, where their jurisdictions met and were likely to become operationally entangled. The ports organization would control the rail yards including car loading, and storage operations, while MRS would control switching engines, and would maintain technical supervision over rolling stock in the rail yards.41

Car switching at the ports was a crucial part of the process of making up trains and speeding removal of landed cargoes inland. This was particularly so at Bandar Shahpur, where the only means of inland clearance from the island was by rail. By February 1943 nearly 20 percent of the total available strength of the 711th Railway Operating Battalion were switching cars at the two ports. Charts 9 and 10 show that at both ports, but especially at Khorramshahr, ship discharge outran rail clearance during the early months of 1943. To obtain closer co-ordination of rail and port functions Booth and Yount agreed in May to put all railway terminal operations at Khorramshahr under port operating command. This settlement left the railway free for its single task of running trains and placed all strictly port functions under port control. By simplifying the MRS task, it contributed in no small measure to the stability of that organization's functional pattern and soon bore fruit in rising efficiency.

The Americans were active in many other ways during those early months of 1943. Locomotives here assigned to districts according to power requirements; American and Iranian personnel made studies of track construction, sidings, tunnels, and bridges, and improved trackage at Ahwaz and Khorramshahr to expedite car handling. Distribution of air-brake equipment and hand brakes in trains was standardized. Studies were begun for improvement of water facilities, for


the installation of diesel fuel oil storage tanks, and for storing "dead" engines at Tehran. New engine sheds at Ahwaz were projected. Damage to the communications system by thieves, electrical and snow storms, and the March floods was inspected and repairs begun. All along the line from January through March there was intense activity as the date neared for complete American take-over. American soldiers observed British and Iranian operations to familiarize themselves with procedure, the nature of available equipment, and the railway line itself. American mechanics studied at the British shops in Tehran the peculiarities of the locomotives they were to inherit. Tests were made of air sanders on British locomotives, and of hand brakes on American flatcars and tank cars. As fast as they arrived the new diesels were erected. The first diesel-hauled train moved from Ahwaz to Andimeshk in March. In another month all freight trains and mixed trains from ports to Andimeshk were powered by these 126-ton, 1,000-horsepower engines.

The heavy March rains that flooded the newly built road out of Khorramshahr also caused a serious traffic delay on the railroad. Several thousand feet of track and one bridge were washed out on the Khorramshahr-Ahwaz line, suspending train movements for ten days except for one train each way on alternate days. Track gangs worked in driving rain to prevent spreading of the damage. Though Soviet haulage fell off in March as a result of the floods and of several accidents, the total of all cargoes showed a slight increase over February.42

In spite of such troubles, the interim period of joint Anglo-American operations achieved in March two encouraging records. On the third the 711th Battalion moved 6,402 long tons up to Andimeshk in. seven trains, eclipsing any previous single day's record in ISR history. Thus, even before the Americans came into full control of operations, it was demonstrated that the ISR could be made to meet and to exceed the new target set for it by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. On 29 March a speed record was set when a special diesel-powered passenger train bearing Her Majesty Taj-ol-Moluk, the Queen Mother of Iran, covered the eighty-seven miles between Ahwaz and Andimeshk in two hours and thirty-eight minutes.

The setting of targets was a matter of concern to all operating authorities. One American consideration during the negotiations which led to American assumption of movements control was the feeling that if targets could be more accurately estimated than hitherto there would be less chance of disappointing the Russians. It was desirable


to reduce complaints by reducing the errors of optimism. The policies and methods by which tonnage targets for the railway were established were determined during the first half of 1943. Each monthly target for MRS was set after the capacity of the railroad had been determined, the potential capacity being based on the number of cars and locomotives available in serviceable condition. A preliminary monthly target meeting was then held by American and British representatives to estimate the amount of essential internal tonnage-American and British military freight and Iranian civil freight-which could be moved in the following month. The internal tonnage thus determined was then deducted from the potential capacity, itself a species of over-all target. The difference was the Russian-aid target or estimated cargo tonnage for delivery to the Russians at Tehran.

Although Table 5 shows rising Russian-aid haulage for each of the months of April through July 1943, the target was not always reached. Tonnage for April, for example, fell short by 10 percent, but nevertheless represented the most the Russians had got in any one month up to that time. August, when tonnages fell off sharply, was the last month during the period of MRS operations in Iran in which performance fell below the target level. And thereby hangs a tale in which the Russians figure prominently.43

The division of labor in May 1943 between .the Ports Service and MRS made for closer co-ordination of loading at the ports. The trouble lay not only in some confusion resulting from divided responsibility for what was determined to be a strictly port function but also in a problem much more difficult to control, namely, the availability of cars for loading. Here the necessity existed for more efficient use of cars within MRS; but the availability of cars was even more importantly related to Soviet operations north of Tehran. If the Soviet railway organization could not take away loads as fast as they were delivered, or if they did not return empty cars from their zone to the MRS with sufficient regularity, congestion was bound to occur in the south. It was clear from the first that MRS had to provide adequate numbers of cars at the ports. To that end, beginning in March 1943, adjustments were made to facilitate car turnaround from the Soviet zone. Delays north of Tehran arose in the first instance from heavy rains and snowstorms which cut off train movements for a day or two at a time. At a meeting of Soviet and American representatives in March the Americans agreed to assign cars temporarily to the Russians


to haul track ballasting material to repair and strengthen damaged portions of their line. The Americans also agreed to furnish locomotives when needed to assist the Russians' train movement. In all, seventy-six American locomotives were so lent during 1943. It was further agreed that as fast as the MRS could repair worn-out or damaged locomotives belonging to the ISR they would be delivered for use by the Russians. Eventually MRS repaired nearly all locomotives and cars used by MRS and the Russians.44

The provision of emergency aid to the Soviet railroaders was the first task of the March meeting; but agreement as to car allocations up and down the ISR from Caspian to Gulf was equally important if traffic was to move smoothly. The Americans proposed allocations for different sectors, for different types of cars-such as ballast and service cars and oil tankers-and for different kinds of cargoes. But the Russians would not commit themselves. They expressed general satisfaction with the assignments proposed but needed time for analysis. They questioned the necessity for the allotment of cars provided between the ports and Tehran to meet Iranian civilian, and British and American military, needs, suggesting that these be reduced in favor of Russianaid traffic. And they blandly pointed out the fact that no formal operating agreement existed. The Anglo-American discussions as to authority were still going on and feelers were being actively put out in the direction of both bilateral agreements and a general four-power agreement. Under the circumstances the Russians would not recognize American authority to allocate cars, and they were unimpressed by the Americans' suggestion that, since the only business in hand was to speed aid-to-Russia traffic, it was best to make all necessary arrangements for operating whether or not the formal paper agreements had yet been concluded.

The next month, after the movements agreement with the British was signed, the Americans tried again. At a meeting in Colonel Yount's office on 19 April further car allocation proposals were made to the Russians, who countered with a request for increasing the target for tonnages to be carried north of Andimeshk. The Americans replied that the present target was based upon a 22-day car turnaround between the ports and destinations in the Soviet zone and that, since the turnaround


was currently greater than that, the target figure would have to stand. Although Russian-aid freight hauled by the Americans increased steadily from April through July, it was necessary to bolster the Soviet sector of the ISR by constant loans of locomotives and air-braked cars, essential for train operation in the mountainous country north of Tehran. MRS, by careful planning, gradually raised the percentage of air-braked cars available for Soviet-operated trains from fifteen to forty. To reduce the job of reclassification in the Tehran yards otherwise needed to provide these air-braked cars, MRS began to make "blocked" trains at Andimeshk composed of cars with a common through destination.

Even with such help, the Soviet trainmen continued to falter in the race to carry away from Tehran what the MRS brought to them. In July 1943 tank cars for high-octane gasoline were making a 30-day turnaround between Khorramshahr and Bandar Shah on the Caspian, and this was twice as long as American calculations provided for. During July and August such a congestion of traffic occurred in the Soviet zone between Tehran and Bandar Shah as to choke the yards at Tehran with loaded cars waiting to go on and to leave the Gulf ports almost void of empty cars for loading at shipside. The pipeline, clogged at its northern end, was unable to take in cargo at the south, and an embargo resulted. From 8 to 13 August the Americans at the Gulf ports stopped loading cars for Bandar Shah to give the Russians time to catch up. Russian haulage fell off from July to August by 12,000 long tons.

The summer crisis forced General Connolly to inform General Korolyev, Chief of the Soviet Transportation Department in Iran, that it might be necessary to go even further, and to stop all shipments into Iran if the Russians could not tighten their operations procedures enough to put Soviet and MRS haulage into balance. As a result the Russians promised to make improvements, and kept their promises; but at the end of the year Tehran saw a new transportation chief for the Russians, Maj. Gen. Ivan V. Kargin.

Except for a hesitation in November, Russian-aid tonnages carried by MRS to Tehran rose steadily for the rest of 1943; but not without periods of serious congestion when it was necessary to store loads at stations south of Tehran because of Soviet inability to accept anything more at the capital. The vigorous efforts of MRS management gradually improved car turnaround. A backlog of 906 cars of USSRbound cargo at Andimeshk early in September was reduced in three weeks to 281 loads by shifting extra enlisted men of the 762d Battalion to detached service at the Andimeshk yards to speed the work. Even more spectacular improvement was achieved in the matter of the tank


cars whose Gulf to Caspian turnaround in July had been thirty days. By increasing the loading facilities at the Gulf end and the unloading facilities at the Caspian, by improving train schedules, by blocking such cars into special trains rather than mixing them with other types of car, by giving priority to all Soviet-destined gasoline, and by time saving resulting from improved communications, the average tank car turnaround fell in 1944 to ten days and in 1945 to eight.

The banner year, the year in which the ingenuity and resourcefulness of MRS management and the hard work of its men paid off in tons, was 1944. That is not to say that 1944 was all plain sailing. Persistent attack on the problem of car turnaround continued, the outstanding innovation being the blocking of trains at the ports instead of at Andimeshk, thus reducing switching time at Ahwaz and Andimeshk and causing a speed-up in the total running time of given cargoes.

Three accidents, two on the Soviet sector of the ISR, interrupted the flow of traffic but failed to dent the statistical record. In February trains were backed up for a time while track, torn up by an accident, was repaired; and in May a washout on the line east of Tehran stopped operations for two days. In the second case, MRS rushed forty-two men to the scene and repaired the damage, and the Russians who, under the circumstances, offered no objections to the penetration of their zone by the Americans, came through with official commendations. On the American part of the line the summer saw the destruction by fire in the mountains southwest of Sultanabad of a train of twenty-five cars, most of them carrying high-octane gasoline to the Russians.45

On 28 July the delivery of the one-and-a-half millionth ton to the Russians called for a celebration. A 48-car train which stopped for flourishes at all the main stations along the northbound route was the center of culminating ceremonies at Tehran on that date. Fanfare, speeches, and a souvenir pamphlet took their due places in history and, as the American soldier railroaders handed over the trainload of tanks and war materiel to their Soviet opposites, one of them gave a cigarette to the burly Russian girl who was fireman on the northbound engine. Cameras clicked. There were cheers.46 The American command eventually overcame the objections of the British and Soviet commands to public announcement of the extent of American aid-to-Russia


operations in the Corridor. In the United States the public in time came to know something of the American achievement.

While internal traffic maintained a fairly steady level through 1944, Russian-aid tonnages fluctuated with the rates of ship discharge. The charts show that Khorramshahr experienced two sharp recessions in cargo arrivals, Bandar Shahpur three, while both ports were equally affected by the sudden and precipitate upsurge in midsummer. At Khorramshahr the MRS kept ahead of the game in handling Sovietbound tonnages except for the peak month of landings, July; that month produced the railroad's all-time top for total cargoes, but it did not achieve its highest Russian-aid haulage until September. Similarly, at Bandar Shahpur there was only the briefest period at year's end when MRS fell temporarily behind landings. The year proved that MRS could absorb everything that was thrown at it and come back for more.

Problems and Solutions

Many of the most pressing problems which confronted the MRS arose from activities not directly connected with the running of trains. Upon their solution the success of operations hung no less than upon such matters as car allocations. There were questions of security and safety, of public relations and personnel administration. There were maintenance and repair and the development of adequate communications facilities; and there were matters of procedure and practice in the fields of purchasing, procurement, and accounting.

Security and Safety

The 702d Railway Grand Division, which was later merged into the 3d MRS headquarters, found itself plunged into many unfamiliar and unexpected responsibilities. Among these was security of train operations against sabotage, banditry, and pilferage. The SOS Plan provided only two military police battalions for the American command on the presumption that security was a British obligation. When it became clear that railroad security required supplementary American surveillance, MRS established at its headquarters in February 1943 a Security Section to work under the American provost marshal's office and in collaboration with British and Soviet field security forces in Iran.47

Scattered up and down the line these attempted to curtail pilferage. Small tools, sugar, tires, arms, and ammunition were particularly


vulnerable to theft. Copper wire and brass were welcomed on the black market, as were all manner of American post exchange supplies and lend-lease materials intended for Russia. Some Americans trafficked in items that found their way into the black market and when possible they were apprehended and court-martialed.48

they spite of the posting of guards along the railway, by the end of 1943 pilferage of cargo had reached alarming proportions and monthly conferences were held to discuss solutions for the problem. As a result, in January 1944 Russian guards were placed on trains from Andimeshk to Tehran. Only those persons, exclusive of American and Iranian crews, possessing temporary passes were permitted by Russian guards to ride freight trains. Furthermore, self-locking American car seals were installed on cars to minimize car pilferage.

To curtail pilferage among Iranian laborers in the shops and camps and to prevent entry of natives who were not ISR or MRS employees, systems of button and card identification were instituted. Too many of the natives employed by the railway could not resist the temptation to purloin whatever could be concealed beneath their garments and it became necessary to search their persons before permitting their exit from their posts. Natives found guilty of thefts were turned over to the Iranian Gendarmerie for prosecution.

As new measures to alleviate a current situation became effective, fresh problems arose. The overlapping of British arid American responsibilities had been handled for a year on a day-to-day basis of mutual convenience. Some Americans felt some British lacking in a proper realization of the importance of policing the line adequately; but in this respect American complaints of British indifference or worse diminished as American responsibilities and experience in the field increased. The American command, in a circular published in February 1944, recognized the working responsibility of MRS for protection of command supplies in transit.49

Two months later, looting of northbound trains was resumed on the line south of Andimeshk. Indian guard detachments were reinforced and, as the raiding parties suffered numerous fatalities, pilferage declined once more. Particular emphasis was placed on guarding com-


mand cargo and in April, for the first time in MRS operation, there was a report of no pilferage of that class of cargo along the railway. Three months later, at a joint conference held on 7 August 1944, the Russians were able to report that pilferage was currently at the lowest point since supplies started moving over the ISR to Russia. Nevertheless, during August 1944 it was reported that the Desert and Mountain Districts recovered $23,317.16 worth of pilfered command and Russian-aid goods.50

Security measures in Iran extended beyond precautions against pilferage and black market activities. Nazi interest in Iran for purposes of securing access to Iran's oil fields and India was undeniable. A proGerman attitude was prevalent in many quarters and there was an undercurrent of resentment toward Allied intrusion in Iran. The arrest because of active Axis sympathy, in August 1943, of fifty ISR employees attested to these facts. Those arrested included chiefs of many ISR departments. On the Sultanabad division of the ISR so thorough a purge was made that no one in authority remained to administer the division which employed 3,000 men. Papers found in the possession of many of the accused proved that they were members of an Axis spy ring which had definite plans for sabotaging the ISR. Their arrests coincided with that of the chief of German intelligence in Iran, Franz Mayer, whose main interest was in disrupting Allied aid to Russia by brigandage directed against the railroad and highway routes.51

A safety program was established concurrently with the security program, but it suffered an indifferent existence until the MRS had operated for many months in Iran. One of the earliest safety measures-the issuance of a book of rules-was prompted by an accident which occurred at the outset of MRS operations. The trains which moved the men of the 711th Battalion to their various posts were manned by enlisted members of that battalion, in company with Iranian crews and under British control. On 24 December 1942 a group of U.S. Army men left Khorramshahr for Andimeshk. The derailment of a boxcar in Khorramshahr yard delayed the train's scheduled departure that evening and the train actually left Khorramshahr shortly after midnight. Early Christmas morning, when the passengers were asleep, the train crashed head on into a southbound freight train. Both trains were running without lights. One soldier was killed and fifteen were injured and, though none of the crew was held


responsible for this first wreck, preventive measures were immediately taken.52

Following the accident regulations were tightened. One American conductor and, when possible, one American engineer were to be on each train, the latter to supervise the work of the Iranian engineer. The conductor was to be in charge of the train, supervise the work of the Iranian crew, and assume responsibility for the safe movement of the train. Before departure from each station the conductor was to notify the American dispatcher at the next station and also check with the Iranian conductor to make certain of clearance.

An intensive study was made of the operating conditions in the Tehran yards where delivery was made to the Russians of cargo destined for the Soviet front. Standard procedure provided that the "consist" of each train leaving Andimeshk be teletyped to Tehran. This was a kind of manifest which showed the number of each car in the train, its contents, and its destination. The yardmaster in Tehran, informed in advance of the arrival of each train, assigned a track. On the train's arrival in the yards each car was inspected for mechanical defects and the condition of its seals, proper reports were rendered, and any defective cars were segregated for repair. Thereafter the train was split up; cars destined for Bandar Shah were placed on one track, those for Shahrud on another, and those for Mianeh on still another. Cars containing civil Iranian freight billed to Tehran also were placed on a different track, to be moved later to proper destination-the customs yard, the Tehran Silo, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the Goods Shed, or the Russian Dump. After trains were separated for movement west or east of Tehran, all cars were again checked as on arrival, especially those loaded with explosives or inflammables. All air brakes were rechecked. The increase in the number of cars equipped with air brakes from 12.5 percent to 70 percent in two years of American operation was an important factor in the safety record established on the ISR, as was the rigid mechanical inspection of each train at each terminal.53

In 1944 a comprehensive safety program was inaugurated; posters were produced monthly for distribution at all installations under MRS jurisdiction and safety was made part of the training program. Awards in the form of certificates were given those whose records showed that, for six or twelve months, they had observed safety rules.54 During the winter of 1944-45 train schedules were revised to restrict operations to


daylight hours. It was hoped in this way to decrease hazards along the tunnel sector between Andimeshk and Dorud.

Public Relations

Americans have learned slowly and with bewilderment to defend themselves against charges flung at them by those whom they have attempted to help. It always proves puzzling to learn how readily the beneficiary perceives in a disinterested action some Machiavellian design. Iran was no exception, and those elements in the community that chose to blame their country's war-born difficulties upon the Americans easily fitted the railway into their patterns. The ISR was mercilessly attacked in Tehran newspapers for losses of shipments and alleged graft, and two successive ministers of roads were reported to believe conditions as bad as some papers alleged. The Americans, as mentors of the ISR, came in for blame. Students of American soldier-instructors in English classes-instituted by the Labor Section of MRS and attended by Iranian Army officers, businessmen, and employees of the railroad and of other government agencies-when asked their opinions of the ISR seldom spoke well of it. Most of them had no idea what the ISR was doing. And perhaps the most unfortunate circumstance of all was that no one in Iran seemed aware that, under American operation, the railroad in 1944 was transporting twice as much Iranian civilian tonnage as had been hauled before 1943. There was even a general expectation that the Allies would pay Iran heavy damages for disrupting its internal economy by appropriating the ISR for the purposes of the war. After the war, "Prince" Mozaffer Firouz, when he was briefly serving as Iranian Ambassador at Moscow, claimed, in a bold sally into statistics, that half a billion dollars' worth of unspecified damage had been done to the ISR during the war.55

Elements in the Iranian Government itself, unhappy over the cooperation given by Hossain Nafisi, civilian director-general, sought his dismissal. After obtaining the prior approval of the British and Soviet Embassies, General Connolly authorized the director of the MRS on 18 October 1944 to issue a memorandum which stated that neither the American nor the Soviet transportation authorities recognized any change in Nafisi's status, and this stand was vigorously backed three days later by the commander of PAI Force.56


Though the immediate issue of administrative procedure and authority was thus settled, by the end of 1944 the Iranian press had grown so voluble against American management that on Colonel Besson's initiative special efforts were launched to inform the public. Press tours of line and installations had been held from 1943 on. One was arranged in December 1944, followed in May 1945 by another arranged for the Shah, the (queen, members of the Majlis, and other government officials. On this latter occasion the presentation by the Shah to Mr. Nafisi of the Iranian Medal of Merit marked the distance traveled toward public enlightenment.57

Personnel Administration

MRS operated through its own military personnel and the existing staff of the ISR, a total force averaging some 19,000 persons. The standardization implicit in Tables of Organization posed numerous problems. Some positions these established were found unnecessary, as in the case of the stationmasters already cited. One instance of snafu occurred in which several Pullman porters arrived to join a railway operating battalion.

Hurried recruitment and training of professional railroaders showed up significant differences between a good railroad man and a good military railroad man. An Army officer is responsible for his men, day and night, and under all circumstances. Officers commissioned directly from successful professional experience in railroad operation brought with them no such special competence. The consequent assignment of some men to positions for which they were not qualified, and the lack of men for specific needs led, for a while, to acute dissatisfaction throughout the organization. In time, as men were trained and commissioned in the field, and as rotation and new assignment altered conditions, the situation was improved.58

The problems which went along with MRS dependence upon Iranian labor were varied. The war had upset the Iranian economy and a crop failure had induced widespread hunger. Wages had not kept pace with prices, which had skyrocketed 800 percent in three years. Bread riots were rife in Tehran. Furthermore, bound by its instructions to comply with Iranian laws and regulations, the MRS inherited conditions under which the vague and inadequately codified regulations of the ISR had long encouraged administrative looseness. The MRS


Labor Section undertook to introduce a western consistency not altogether welcome to the eastern mind.59

The first serious labor problem was presented in March 1943 by the floods which damaged some nine miles of line on the desert below Ahwaz. Not a single laborer could be procured to work on the washedout section because of the competition for Iranian labor among various American Army services in the area and because at the time the ISR could employ none to work in that locality. The Army was then extending to native labor, in addition to regular wages, a daily allowance of two rials with which to purchase a ration of tea, sugar, and flour. The MRS determined to extend the same privilege to ISR employees south of Ahwaz, and when a large group of natives had been convinced of the availability of food in that section a trainload of them was dispatched to the scene. Later, railroad labor was accorded the same ration as skilled labor in Ahwaz, and an average of 4,500 employees per month received that ration.

There were early labor troubles at Tehran. In April 1943 native train and engine crews began absenting themselves from duty because food was too hard to get on the lines out of Tehran. Since regular train service had to be maintained to move the freight destined for Russia, conferences were held with the American adviser to the Iranian Ministry of Foods.60 A contract resulted whereby the ISR would distribute government-rationed bread to its employees in Tehran. A rationing system was developed, ration cards were distributed, two Army trucks were secured for transportation, and five stores were opened in the Tehran yards on 12 April 1943, when 7,000 of the flat, native loaves of bread were sold. Within a few weeks, sales on peak days reached 12,500 loaves. The Americans somehow contrived to fulfill their promise of daily bread sales; when the supply threatened to be exhausted, the bakery was pressed to speed its production, and distribution continued. It became necessary to provide Americans to maintain order at the stores to ensure first-come, first-served treatment. The Labor Section was proud that no employee who applied was denied bread. Within the ISR, the Food Department, which was charged with the responsibility of buying food for resale to native employees, required westernization. In January 1943, for instance, dried beans mixed with pebbles were being sold to the natives. Wheat contained so much foreign matter that its consumers suffered severe headaches and digestive ills. The MRS took control, placed an American officer in charge,


and improved the situation. By June 1943 monthly sales of all food had reached 500 tons.

In April 1943 there also occurred a wage crisis which was attributed to inequities in government regulations and to indifference among ISR officials. Approximately one third of the skilled and semiskilled roundhouse employees at Sultanabad had quit in one month. The MRS studied the situation and found that wages of some employees with seniority were extremely low and that new employees were being hired to do the same work for more pay. There were no accurate lists of employees and no personnel data. Falsification and guesses existed in the ISR lists. The names of Armenians and Turks were omitted; friends were tabulated at higher wages than those to which their duties entitled them. Eventually, personnel lists were revised and reclassification and wage adjustments accomplished, so that a measure of seniority and equity was accomplished in the wage conditions of ISR personnel.

During the summer of 1943 it had become apparent that the ISR was effecting discharges adverse to the interests of the MRS. Political in essence, this situation entailed lengthy controversies with the ISR and with the Ministry of Roads. The MRS finally developed a system of transferring to its payrolls any employee whom the ISR elected to discharge but whom the MRS considered necessary to keep.

In December 1943 strikes threatened the ISR and the success of MRS's mission. There were various causes, one of which stemmed from the ISR's failure to make the so-called "high cost of living allowance" authorized for all government employees. Actually, a technicality which had required action by the Council of Ministers was responsible for the ISR's failure. Agitators spread rumors to the effect that ISR had refused to make the payment, and many of the employees, easily inflamed against any form of real or imagined tyranny, were quickly aroused. The MRS counteracted the threat by guaranteeing that the bonus would be paid. The first monthly installment was made in December and ISR labor was quieted. Other trouble developed because a few enginemen failed to receive wage increases and because of irregularities in the distribution of free uniforms. It was soon learned that ISR men were being formed into organized unions. The Railway Workers' Union, however, professed to be opposed to strikes, and various intercepted communications sent by it to its local committees were found to demand that there be no union interference with the movement of war goods to Russia. Occasional meetings were held between MRS personnel and union leaders and a number of the union's recommendations were acted upon. It was reported that very few unreasonable requests were presented.


Twice in 1944 the strikes threatened in 1943 occurred. In March, government employees at the Tehran Silo struck for higher wages and obtained a wage increase for unloading laborers who were railway employees. In August 1944, 500 unloading natives in the Goods Shed in Tehran went on strike. The reason was that ISR employees under Russian supervision had been granted a wage increase of ten rials per day. Since labor working under Russian supervision represented about 3 percent of all such labor employed in the Goods Shed, it was finally determined that the daily wage would remain at thirty rials. An increase in the wage for that class of employee would have resulted in increases for 10,000 on the ISR payrolls, and elsewhere there was adequate labor willing to work for 30 rials daily.

American supervision of the Iranian labor force on the railroad provided an interesting experiment in the introduction of western ideas. The willingness and adaptability of the ISR civilian administrative staff were important factors in the, experiment's success. A minor illustration points to the small revolution in ideas which accompanied the war effort on the ISR. Although in the offices of the chief of police and chief of secretariat Moslem custom still forbade approval of the employment of women, by January 1945, 150 women were working in the offices of the ISR.

Maintenance and Repair

Maintenance of way and rolling stock, as well as continued operation on an increasing tonnage scale, required as routine measures steady improvement to physical plant. New trackage installed included passing sidings, freight and sorting yards, and rail-to-truck transfer tracks at Andimeshk and Tehran. Engine sheds were built at Ahwaz, warehouses at several points, and sandhouses were spaced from Andimeshk north to provide adequate supplies of screened sand in the mountains. Tanks for storage of water and others for diesel fuel oil were placed where needed. Perhaps the strangest work of all was the virtually new construction required through the mountains where the light rails, laid to carry only the mild and infrequent little trainloads of prewar times, "crept" under the weight of war tonnages. Reballasting and elaborate rail anchorage solved this serious problem.61

Water facilities on the ISR became one of the first problems for the MRS. In Iran, water comes from wells, springs, and streams, but there is little water reserve because there is little moisture. There is a great diminution of water supply in the hot autumn months, before the wet season replenishes it, and consideration had to be given to the


need for uninterrupted water supply. At one point water was pumped twenty-five miles to the place of consumption from a river which has been known to rise as much as thirty feet in one night during the rainy season. Existing ISR water facilities were improved by installation of additional pumps, settling basins, and storage tanks. To utilize every possible agency by which to increase water supply, the MRS in four places tapped the ancient Persian qanat system of distributing water underground by gravity. The ISR then contracted with village owners for the use of this water.62

It is easy to understand why diesel locomotives were assembled in Iran as rapidly as they arrived. After two years of service, the diesels used only twenty gallons of water per trip from the Gulf to Tehran. They did not have to draw upon the various water stations along the line. Moreover, their slight exhaust created none of the distress suffered by the men on steam trains in the long unventilated tunnels. By 1 July 1943, 57 of these diesels had been erected and put into service on the line. Ninety-one American mikado locomotives, as well as 8 reconditioned Hong Kong engines, were in use. In addition, there were the 240 locomotives already operating in March; 143 locomotives of the 2-8-0 class furnished by Great Britain, and 57 Ferrostaals of the 2-8-0 and 2-10-0 classes and 40 steam locomotives of miscellaneous types which belonged to the ISR. The coming of the diesels dramatized the face lifting of the line, and the augmented numbers of locomotives contrasted with the 110 steam engines, mostly unserviceable, which the British took over in 1941.63 Of nonpassenger cars, the British found 1,998, divided among 924 boxcars, 457 low-side gondolas, 87 freight cars, 295 tank cars, 170 ballast cars and 65 rail cars. Of the total, far too many lacked brakes of any sort, and such hand brakes as were in use were inadequate for heavy loads on steep grades. In their first year the British imported 891 additional cars and 1,990 were shipped in from the United States, to bring the total to 4,779 freight cars, still a number considered altogether insufficient to handle the Russian-aid target. By 1 May 1943 there were 5,088 cars of all classes on the line, most of them hand braked and all having screw couplings. As of midJune 1945, after 2,906 cars had been brought to Iran by the MRS, the total of working cars was 7,994. Sixty-five percent of the new arrivals


 were air braked, and, with the diesels, they bore the brunt of the heavy war traffic.

One very important aspect of MRS operations was the business of the 762d and 754th Shop Battalions. Responsible for the repair of a great variety of locomotives and cars of British, German, and American origin and, at the same time, faced in early 1943 with a critical shortage of locomotive and car parts, the shop battalions did a remarkable job. Many mechanical items were not procurable in Iran and those which could be found were exorbitantly costly. It became obvious, therefore, that parts would have to be manufactured by .the men in order to repair equipment and keep it serviceable. Both foreign and obsolete tools had to be used until American tools arrived.

Methods of tool and parts manufacture were crude. For instance, there was an acute need for quantities of brake shoes. They could not be procured in Iran, nor was the ISR, which before the war had -ordered them from the German manufacturers of its equipment, equipped to manufacture its own. The 754th Battalion established a foundry at the Tehran shops. Molds for the brake shoes were fashioned in the hard earth, which was the floor of the foundry, and the molten iron poured in. Although the process was primitive, production by native workers under American soldier supervision was substantial. In the month of August 1944, 2,450 brake shoes were manufactured. The total for two years of operation was somewhere near 50,000.

No less useful, though of less heroic proportions, was the foundry's contribution to the art of dentistry. The 19th Station Hospital at Tehran needed castings for a great number of dentures for command personnel and the 754th was requested to furnish .them, which it did, all in the day's work.64

One of the first tasks of the 762d Battalion was the erection of diesels and rail cars as they arrived in Persian Gulf ports. Tools to be used for this purpose had to be devised from the scant material at hand and methods had to be improvised, but the battalion carried out the demands made upon it. By the end of 1943, 2,210 cars and the fifty-seven 1,000-horsepower diesel locomotives previously mentioned had been assembled.65 A total of 1,076 freight cars had been equipped with heavy couplings and friction draft gear. The month of December 1943 saw virtual completion of the programs for car erection and installation of air brakes. During 1943, 854 cars were equipped with


air brakes. Mikado-type locomotives were modified by installing improved sanders with enlarged boxes. The slipping of locomotives on grades was thus reduced to a minimum and more rapid turnaround resulted. The use of grease rather than oil lubrication for rod bearings reduced the incidence of overheated bearings and consequent engine deterioration. The increase in demand made upon the shop battalions is best illustrated by a comparison of the number of cars repaired during certain specific months. In June 1943, 144 cars were repaired; in December of the same year 2,704 cars were repaired; the number increased to 6,985 cars repaired during the month of December 1944.

A further contribution of the shop battalions was their supervision and training of ISR employees in modern methods of locomotive and car repair and modification. The assembly line replaced the Iranian system of bunching workers to repair a single locomotive or car. Schools were set up to teach natives the reconditioning and salvaging of usable spare parts. They also taught the repair, improvisation, and maintenance of machine-tool equipment. There was some difficulty at first since those who made drawings for modification had to work in millimeters, inches, kilograms, British and American tons-and in four languages. The language difficulty was partly overcome by publication of a booklet on locomotive parts printed in English, French, Russian, and Persian. Copies of the booklet were distributed to all points on the ISR. In its many schools for ISR employees, MRS was conspicuously successful in developing large numbers of skilled workers.66

The dependence of the shop battalions upon an uncertain flow of supplies, whether from the local market or from the United States, called for ingenuity in improvising in frequent periods of dearth. In April 1943 the Stores Section of the ISR was transferred to the jurisdiction of the MRS to cut down stealing by substituting disciplined supervision. This was part of a general arrangement with Millspaugh whereby MRS kept an eye on ISR finances. Americans had previously been assigned to familiarize themselves with Iranian and British stocks and a small British cadre was retained temporarily to advise. The ISR system of classification of supplies was cumbersome and impractical; their three types of supplies were subdivided into fifty or more. MRS simplified the classification system and set up records which would indicate what supplies were available.

Acute shortages existed in small tools, spare parts for locomotives, freight car wheels, and axles. Arrivals of railroad supplies from the United States between May and August 1943 alleviated the situation


to a considerable degree, but the shortage of freight car wheels and axles created a serious problem again in June 1944. Shipments finally arrived in July and August and these parts were installed immediately on cars which had been held up for some time for lack of them. Shortages in specific items continued to exist so that by February 1945, 6,266 items had been on requisition for twelve months.67

Railway Communications

Communications facilities directly required in railway operations were regarded by the American command as a part of its signals responsibilities. Although the Americans had engaged in both construction and operation of signals facilities on a small scale before 1943, British signal troops, for lack of American, had operated, maintained, or, through their control of the ISR, had supervised railway communications facilities even after the MRS took over the line. In March 1943, after the arrival in the field of the 95th Signal Battalion, the Signal Communication Service of the American command was directed to operate and maintain such signals facilities as were required by the MRS. From 31 May responsibility fell upon that service for wire circuits and railway signals installations, whether Iranian, British, or American, along the line from Tehran south to Khorramshahr, Tanuma, and Bandar Shahpur. The service therefore organized a Railway Sector to parallel the regional sectors already set up to cover administrative requirements within the command districts. The Railway Sector handled not only MRS business, but also provided a through service for administrative traffic common to the command districts.68

The year 1943 saw the most substantial addition to railway signals facilities. Wires in railway operational use in late 1942 had consisted of a galvanized iron ground return circuit. This was reserved for ISR use, but British signal units operated over it a net of teletype machines with printers at Tehran, Dorud, and Andimeshk, and a physical relay at Dorud. The circuit provided both a telegraph line and a block-toblock telephone service for train control. There was also a copper dispatch circuit, under British control, reserved for ISR operations. Both these circuits were carried on steel poles.

In the spring, as American responsibilities for railway communications increased, selective ringing equipment was installed on the


dispatch circuit. Additional voice lines were constructed to carry Persian-language railway traffic and by year's end two grounded telegraph circuits, with drops at intermediate stations, provided additional facilities for train dispatching. Two complete circuits, built through the tunnel sector from Andimeshk to Dorud, were extended to Tehran. Whereas in early 1943 the teletype taken over from the British constituted virtually all the teletype then in use by American agencies in the command, the end of the year found teletype, thanks to increased wire facilities, carrying the burden of communication within the command.

The theft of wire by tribesmen or roving independents with an eye for quick profits became critical. Arrangements were concluded in May 1943 for patrol of railway wire lines by Indian infantry under British command. A supplementary force of Iranian gendarmes was assigned to help patrol the wires, but even this was not sufficient to curb thefts. In the spring of 1944 the situation became so critical that arrangements were made to have units of the Iranian Army help guard certain sections of the line. Thefts continued in spite of increased precautions and, though the extent of impairment to MRS operations as a whole does not show in available records, theft of railway wire must have composed a substantial portion of the total of 219,033 feet of army wire reported stolen in the period from 1 October 1943 to 30 September 1944.69 Installation of electrical shock devices to discourage thieves failed when the natives began to use ropes to break t1fle wire. Next tried, and more effective, was the "tattle-tale" system which gave instant warning of interrupted circuits.

Local Procurement

The Purchasing Section established in the MRS effected many improvements in local procurement methods employed by the ISR. Some time-consuming routines which grew out of the formality of Iranian business practice were eliminated, and a purchase order form was introduced that cut down the number of weeks required to handle documents. Commodity price charts were made and price trends of important commodities reported weekly; these records were used as guides in awarding large orders and preventing overpayment. Several ISR employees were arrested for thieving.

Procedure in procuring railway maintenance supplies was a problem early in 1944. At that time the War Department suggested that such supplies be procured from American lend-lease goods delivered to the Iranian Government. That is, the Iranian Government would


request needed supplies through American lend-lease; then they would be made available to the MRS for use on the railway. The command had already established a steady, dependable source for railway maintenance supplies which involved passing requisitions through Army channels in the United States. The cost of the supplies was in turn paid by the ISR. This repayment procedure was already quite complicated since it involved dealing with both ISR officials and the British Army. General Connolly protested the new War Department proposal, insisting that to change the procedure of procuring supplies and to require the Army to procure them via lend-lease to the Iranian Government would threaten the success of his mission. He added that the officials in Washington could not realize the consequences of introducing Iranian politics and local customs of trade, barter, and ethics into procurement. Connolly described his efforts to obtain railroad ties locally as the equivalent of a nightmare. First, there was the railroad, which of course was government owned; then, there was the Iranian Minister of Communications, under whom the railroad nominally operated; and finally, there was the Minister of Agriculture, from whom permits to cut lumber were obtained. The effort to purchase the ties had begun in September 1943; no deliveries had been made by February 1944, largely because certain individuals in each of the three agencies were interested in obtaining what were called their perquisites. The delay caused the procurement officer of the command to buy ties on the open market, turn them over to the railroad, and request reimbursement. Had it not been for the red tape involved, American lend-lease could have been used to supply the ISR. General Connolly's plea, "Without the railroad the mission of the PGC fails," was heeded and he was allowed to continue procuring railway maintenance supplies from his normal source in the United States, the Charleston Port of Embarkation.70


Examination of the ISR accounts revealed practices which struck the Americans as both unfamiliar and unconventional. As no reconciliation of bank statements with the railway's books had been made in two years, the ISR's true bank balance was unknown. Deposits were taken to the bank about once every three months. The monthly summarized cash statement consumed twenty days in preparation; errors were numerous; the accounts were about a year in arrears.71


This situation was of concern to those in MRS who had to keep the record straight. Four railroad accounting officers were therefore requisitioned from the United States and accountants transferred from headquarters. To remedy chaotic accounting for materials and supplies, the MRS Accounting Section in August 1943 introduced centralized material accounting at Tehran. It also introduced a new timekeeping system in the ISR Traction Department by which employees were paid only for time worked.

An innovation which paid off in increased efficiency was the introduction of American waybills for freight carried over the ISR system, Tehran and south. These ensured trustworthy delivery records for goods and provided for accurate accounting of both cargoes and cars. Delivery was expedited and pilferage reduced by eliminating the possibility of cars containing valuable merchandise going astray. In anticipation of final accounting, a project undertook to abstract all waybills prepared at ISR stations since the beginning of the movement of Allied traffic.

Banking procedures were improved by reconciliation of ISR books (in both the Bookkeeping Department and the Cash Office) with the Bank Melli statements. Deposits were made three times a week and, through better methods, the time required for the preparation of the monthly summarized cash statement was reduced from twenty to five days per month and its accuracy increased. Likewise, the system of clearing cashiers, which had formerly taken two to three months, was reduced to five days.

The Last Months

The third year of American operation opened with rather large tonnages; but February and the succeeding three months saw the reduction of Russian-aid cargoes to minor proportions. After March 1945 petroleum products furnished the principal freight. Shop operations decreased proportionately with freight curtailment, though car and engine repair continued until American operations ceased. Effective 10 April the monthly aid-to-Russia target for the MRS was reduced to 60,000 long tons of dry cargo and 40,000 long tons of POL. In addition, internal cargo was lowered to 50,000 long tons.72

On 25 May the commanding general of the PGC was authorized to announce that, as of 1 June 1945, the mission of his command would be accomplished. That meant an early end to MRS. After some weeks


of special training of railway personnel, chiefly Iranian, the physical return of control to Headquarters, PAI Force, Baghdad, was accomplished as of 25 June. The British lost little time after receiving the railway from the MRS in handing it over to the Iranian Government. From the time of handover, all northbound freight for the USSR and PGC was carried under Iranian operation. On 15 July the 3d Military Railway Service was discontinued. Its remaining dutiesdirection of details of handover and disposal of locomotives and rolling stock-were assigned to a new Military Railway Division of the general staff at headquarters.73

Numerous documents covering the transfer both of the railway as a whole and of constituent parts and embodying detailed exhibits of fixed assets were duly signed. These documents reflected the complicated nature of the financial problems involved in American operation and return to British control. The instruments of transfer stated that the United States, having received the railway properties from the British on 1 April 1943, returned them plus additions ( regardless of the nation or agency making them or paying for them). They further stated that the British agreed that improvements made by them were returned by the United States in good order; that improvements made by the U.S. Army were received on a temporary loan with permission to transfer them to Iran on a care, use, and maintenance basis until final disposal; and that handover of operational responsibilities in no way prejudiced the rights of the U.S. Government relative to fixed assets or equipment "and that final settlement therefor will be made as agreed upon by the parties hereto in the future."74

Additions to the capital structure of tile ISR subsequent to 1 April 1943 fell into three categories: those financed through the ISR's own capital budget, those financed by the British through the medium of MRS work orders, and those financed by the United States by means of construction directives issued by the command. The first of these categories comprised projects required by the normal expansion of the railway. The others were projects essential to furtherance of the Allied war effort.75 Instances arose where it was difficult to draw the line. In many, improvements needed to carry cargoes to the Russians remained with the ISR.


The railway had responded well to the demands the war laid upon it; and, while fulfilling the Anglo-American commitment to the USSR, it did not fail as the essential artery of Iran's economy. In the year before the occupation the ISR had carried 460,000 passengers and 205,000,000 ton miles of freight. In 1943, under MRS operation, it carried, wholly additional to its work for the Allies, 710,000 Iranian passengers and 625,000,000 ton miles of Iranian civil freight.76

During the last months of MRS operations effort was made to bring the ISR and its equipment to the highest possible pitch of fitness for postwar use. Concern for the Iranian economy after the war was not lacking in the consultations which preceded the handover. The Secretary of State notified Ambassador Wallace Murray at Tehran in June 1945 that the British desired that the railway be left capable of handling 50,000 long tons a month. Murray replied that, with its own property and what he understood the American command planned to leave behind, capacity would exceed 87,000 long tons per month. By letter of 11 July the Acting Secretary of State reminded the Secretary of War of the commitment on economic assistance subscribed to by the United States in the Declaration of Tehran. Action subsequently taken provided the ISR with rolling stock sufficient to accommodate 50,000 long tons per month.77

Many factors were responsible for the success of the American railway operation. Among them the availability in ample supply of the finest equipment and rolling stock, as used by ingenious and resourceful men who gained valuable experience on the spot, must rank foremost. Improvement in operative and administrative methods, the help extended to the Russians in tightening car turnaround, and, by no means least, the success achieved in winning the indispensable support of native workmen through patient instruction and fair labor administration-these, too, rate high. But when all is added up, the sum spells an intangible: a rugged will to see the job through.

If a single thread can be discerned running through the complicated story, it is the determination to achieve efficient operations at almost any cost of effort and treasure. Handicapped throughout by the indeterminate status of the American force in Iran, the Americans sought consistently to cut through knotty questions of financial and command authority and responsibility. In several instances efforts made in the


field to obtain or to assert a larger degree of direct control over their operations than seemed intended by the Combined Chiefs' directive were restrained by Washington. Notable among these were Connolly's arrangement with Wilson to assume entire responsibility for railway security; his willingness to take on additional financial burdens in order to simplify operating controls; and his readiness to carry the whole railway burden from Gulf to Caspian.

On the other hand, when the long-drawn-out negotiations over status and prerogatives proved fruitless, General Connolly, .though he joined with Iranians, British, and Russians in conversations to clarify these matters, preferred, so far as the railway was concerned, to rock along with no more exact definition of his powers than was contained in the April 1943 movements agreement with the British. Though cooperation rather than unified command was the hard way, the results proved that it was enough.



Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

page created 17 January 2002

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online