Bandar Shahpur (Now Bandar Khomeini) - World War II - Persian Gulf Command
By: Eugene Warren
I was drafted into the US Army in June, 1941, which was prior to our entry into the war after Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. After going through basic training I was assigned to an ordnance company. On the morning of December 7, 1941 my company was lined up to ship out on the SS Monterey. After standing on the road leading to the ship we received orders to return to our barracks. We then heard President Roosevelt declare war. Our Port of Embarkation was San Francisco. Instead of shipping out we were ordered to guard duty in the City of San Francisco to enforce blackout and maintain a sense of order.
Because of not going overseas I was able to apply for and be accepted to Officer Candidate School in Petersburg, VA. Upon completion of this training I was assigned to a Port Battalion in New Orleans. Next stop, Iran. This was in the winter of 1942. I was now a 2nd Lieutenant with the 482nd Port Battalion consisting of four companies and a medical detachment. Upon arrival at Khorramshahr I and a few other officers were sent to Bandar Shahpur to prepare for the arrival of our companies and to start unloading cargo ships with materiel for Russia. Here is where I spent most of my time in Iran with time out for leaves in Teheran, Baghdad and Israel.
Bandar Shahpur at that time was a saucer shape railhead consisting of a few warehouses and the terminus of a railroad that traversed Iran from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. As I recall no civilians lived there. The nearest civilian population lived in a tiny village - Sarbandar - a few miles away via railroad. There was no road connection between Bandar Shahpur and the mainland. The place was surrounded with an embankment that kept the 16 foot tides from inundating the buildings and railroad tracks.
Bandar Shahpur was not only a railhead but also a Port - The extent of this were two berths and a jetty. During my stay three additional berths were built. Cargo was unloaded directly onto railroad cars for shipment to the Caspian Sea where the Russians took over. By the way, I have a medal awarded by the Russians for the services rendered by the PGC. (Persian Gulf Command)
Bandar Shahpur was isolated from everything. The result was that my stay in Iran did not enable me to learn about a culture I would have appreciated. I did develop a liking for Middle East food, colors, rugs. I always thought that one day I would make a visit and see what I missed. This did not happen.
This is an abbreviated account of my Iran and Army experience. I served a total of almost five years. A full account would be much lengthier. My interest would be to locate a few men who served with me in Bandar Shahpur and exchange "army talk" with them. My efforts in this direction were very limited.
You can see what a desolate place Bandar Shahpur was when I was there. This shot shows the tracks leading out of the place. There was no roundhouse. In order to turn the locomotives around a Y track arrangement served the purpose. Cargo loaded onto the railroad cars were sent up north to be received by the Russian allies. This railroad was all of German, Krupp, construction. It was narrow gauge. The locomotives were all diesel. The engineers were US troops from an engineer battalion.
The foreground shows clay bricks drying out in the sun. The background shows the area from which the bricks were cut out. By looking carefully it is possible to see the section from which the mud bricks were cut. It was taken near Bandar Shahpur. These were the same kind of bricks that were used to construct the buildings in which we were housed in Bandar Shahpur.
Bandar Shahpur was an isolated outpost with no town or other facility to occupy the men during down time when no ship was tied up. As a result they were able to purchase terrible vodka from the Iranian stevedores. They paid a high price for this almost poisonous drink. The company officers decided that something had to be done. We obtained permission from higher authority to open a bar in the mess hall, purchase the whiskey and then sell it to the men at cost. The funding was done through the company fund and the sale proceeds were used to restock the supply.
The name Uncle Al was the name of a popular place that the men visited in New Orleans so we decided that it would be appropriate. The Company carpenters used the rough dunnage lumber from the ships to fashion the bar interior.