Bandar Shahpur - World War II - Persian Gulf Command

Photos By: Eugene Warren

single track railroad line to bandar shahpur  Entrance to Bandar Shahpur 

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.

low tide new jetty bandar shahpur  low tide  One for the road  673rd port company on duty 

All these show activity on the docks at Bandar Shahpur....Note the absence of trucks and that the rails are at the level of the dock. Cargo was unloaded using ship gear and loaded directly onto railroad cars situated at each hatch. When the rail cars were filled they were withdrawn by a locomotive and empty cars replaced. If it became necessary to shift a car it was done manually by inserting a very long crowbar at the junction of the car wheel and rail to get the car to start moving, after which it could be pushed by the men working the hatch.

Before starting a shift I worked with the engineers to provide railroad cars at the various hatches of the type needed to handle the cargo. The cars loaded by the previous shift were pulled out and the empty cars put in according to what I ordered. It was also necessary to unload all the dunnage before "working the hatch". This required flatbed cars to accept the loads before positioning cars to accept cargo. There was no provision to pull cars individually. What I tried to do was to try to arrange things so that all or most of the cars would get loaded at about the same time so that an entire line could be pulled and new cars installed with least loss of time. Whenever cars had to be shifted the hatch had to be shut down.

Each ship being unloaded had five hatches. If we were unloading more than one ship at time, which was the case most of the times, arranging the railroad cars involved careful planning. To do this we studied the ship manifest and figured out what was needed from the content shown. I preceded the crews so that I could look into each hatch and estimate what would be needed on my shift. Cargo consisted of large items that were lashed to the deck with cables and turnbuckles. Before starting to unload the hatches the booms had to be raised and set in place and the deck cargo had to be unloaded. The deck cargo was the heavy stuff. The standard booms could handle up to five tons. The mid ship hatch had jumbo booms that could handle up to 20(?) tons For the most part deck cargo consisted of truck chassis and bodies in wood containers. Below deck cargo consisted of everything else. This cargo was stowed in layers. The dunnage, consisting of poor quality wood, was used to create a floor between the layers of cargo. The tide varied twice a day by 16 feet. We could go to work by climbing ladders to board ship. At the end of the shift we had to step up to the dock from the deck of the ship which was now below dock level.

overview # 2  Overview from top of warehouse  looking towards the jettie 

When I obtained a camera and some film I climbed a tower in order to get a panoramic view of Bandar Shahpur. The buildings seen were constructed of the bricks seen in another photo. We lived in tents during the time construction was going on to build these barracks. Each company fit into one row of buildings - At one end was the orderly room or headquarters of the company. At the other end was the mess hall and latrine buildings. The land consisted of sand that turned to mud when the rainy season hit. Notice no trees or vegetation of any sort.

Permanent Stage bandar Shahpur 

This theatre was built to provide a place for USO shows to perform. My memory recalls only two such visits. One was a Russian circus group and the other a group that sang some of the popular tunes of the day. From time to time we received movies that were screened on the side of a warehouse after sundown. And then of course we had what could be done by ourselves.

Sewage Disposal Bandar Shahpur 

Since Bandar Shahpur was a below sea level piece of land it was necessary to build building with water sinks and latrines with sinks and disposal lines high enough to create gravity flow to the sea. What you see in this image are men whose job it was to empty these lines. Note that the lines are well above ground level.

The temperatures at Bandar Shahpur were well documented by official weather reports. As for the water, eventually the engineers built a water tank and we had running water that was supplied from a source about 30 miles distant from BS. This was not drinking water. We had lister bags that were suspended from poles into which chemicals were added for purification purposes. Before the advent of running water we had a ration of one helmet full per day that was acquired early in the morning. It was amazing how we learned to function with this limited amount. Lister bags were semiporous so that the water sweated through the fabric. As the water evaporated it cooled the water in the bag. We learned how to get along with all the limitations. As an alternative to the fabric lister bags we used clay urns made that were supported in an iron stand. The clay was not given a finish so that it was porous and worked the same way as the lister bag.

On the heat item, the high temperatures were accompanied by high humidity at night. In the daylight hours we placed our cots out in the sun to dry out. We had to sleep under netting to avoid being bitten by the "no see um insects" Each cot had a T bar at each end that supported the netting.

The sea water was so salty that we could not use it for swimming. The ships were unable to use the sea water to desalinate so that it could be used aboard ship.

back of mess_hall

Behind each mess hall was a set up of a place to wash the mess kits. It consisted of a garbage pail for uneaten food, hot soapy water for the first dip, second pail for rinsing off the soap and a final hot water dip for the last cleaning before the next meal. A note regarding feeding of the men. Because of having night and day shift it was necessary to provide meals in accordance with the shifts worked. Meal designation was determined in accordance with the hours the men went to work.

My quarters with volley ball court  officer's mess hall bandar_shahpur  Officer's mess hall at bandar sahpur xmas 
672-3-4 company officers Boxing Day  volleyball beer between ships arrival 

The officers' quarters consisted of a U shaped building open on one side facing the embankment surrounding the island. The open side had a latrine building with sinks, showers and lavatories. The latrine was built high off the ground so that drainage could take place by gravity. Company commanders had a room to themselves whereas company officers were assigned two to a room. The construction was the usual mud brick and the rooms were very comfortable. In the cold weather, 50-60 degrees, we used small kerosene stoves to warm the room at night. We had electricity. Floors were hard tile floors. Generally the quarters had the appearance of the early small motels we see here at home. The center area was open and was used for volley ball, drying bedding in the sun, barbecues and exercising. We had electric lights. The officers' mess hall was in the same line as the quarters and was very nice. The cooks and servers were troops who volunteered for the assignment and were paid by the officers. We paid a monthly fee and it was well worth it.

The officers had a beer and whiskey ration. I think the whiskey ration was courtesy of the British who had a small contingent stationed in Bandar Shahpur. I used to use my whiskey ration as barter with the ships commissary in exchange for food supplies for my company such as frozen meat, milk and other items not available from the Quartermaster. One other goody provided by the British was their version of our PX. Once a month a railroad car arrived with things to purchase. I bought excellent leather dress shoes, cotton pajamas, sun helmet, bush jackets and shorts and other miscellany.

Company officers were assigned to the job of handling cargo and unloading ships. The Company Commander was responsible for company administration. Prior to becoming Company Commander I worked on the docks and in the barge unloading area.

The photo of the dining room shows Christmas decorations. This is a clue as to the time at which most of these photos were taken. The lack of film explains why there are not more pictures.

company orderly  

Each company had one man who served on a volunteer basis to be an orderly to the officers. He was paid by the officers. His job, make beds, shine shoes, clean billet and other housekeeping chores. It was a nice job and usually went to a man for whom dock duty was a problem.

1st sgt dennis bernard mail call company clerk hands out mail  Non Coms of 673rd port company at bandar shapur 
thmb_non_coms_ 673rd_port_co  top_kick_dennis_bernard_broussard  wild boar for barbecue bandar shahpur 

This group shows photos of some of the non coms who worked the ships and were responsible for the tonnage discharged at Bandar Shahpur. There were three companies - A - B - C. Originally they were part of the 482nd Port Battalion which consisted of four companies and a medical detachment. During our stay in Iran the 482nd Port Battalion was discarded in name and the companies were renamed. My company, formerly Company B of the 482nd Port Battalion, became the 673rd Port Company. The photos shown are solely of members of my company. These are typical of the company personnel which consisted of approximately 200 troops and four company officers. The troops were black troops and the officers were white. This is mentioned as part of a record since no meaning can be attributed to this. We had three companies posted in Bandar Shahpur and all of us did the same kind of work. Once the men were on the docks they were working under the direction of the officer assigned to duty and no significance was attached to the company affiliation of the men. The army troops were the winch operators, signal men, record keepers and supervisors. The cargo handling was done by hired hands of Iranians who lived in a small town, Sarbandar, a few miles from Bandar Shahpur. Each morning they would arrive by train that picked them up and delivered them home. These hired hands were commonly referred to as "coolies". They consisted of men and young boys. The boys were used to unload the barges and were able to handle loads of up to 100 pounds. These consisted usually of sack goods and small arms ammunition and were carried out of the barge on their backs while traversing narrow planks that were adjusted as the cargo became depleted. I wish I had a photo showing this. The workers were employed by the army and their services were obtained through contractors who were paid to supply the labor force. When the men came to work on the docks they were frisked by MP's who were part of the army personnel. They were frisked a second time when the shift was over.

When no berth space was available it was necessary to prepare for unloading ships while they were anchored offshore a short distance from the docks. This preparation usually consisted of removing lashings, preparing booms and testing winches. On one occasion Company A was sent to a ship anchored offshore. Something occurred and the captain of the ship decided to bring mutiny charges against the men sent to work on the ship. Ed Dunn, CO of Company A and I were ordered to investigate. We started to question ship crew members and the non coms of Company A. It developed that these charges were spurious and were not supported by events. The ship captain decided to drop all charges and was glad that he was not being ountercharged.

captain_warren  Yours Truly in bandar shahpur  winter in bandar shahpur taking a swim at the british officers club abadan 
at war on duty abadan  from the paris of the middle east  basra family 

These photos all are of me doing anything but unloading ships. Abadan photos were taken after Bandar Shahpur closed down and my company was ordered to Khorramshahr. K was only a short drive from Abadan where the British had an officer's club that could have been a country club with all the facilities of an upscale country club - pool, tennis courts, bar, lounge, dining room, landscaped grounds and I do not remember if there was a golf course. I had a jeep at my disposal and could make use of the club whenever I had free time. This did not last longer than the closing down of the entire PGC with the end of the war in Europe. Behind the scenes preparations were being made for transfer to the Pacific Theatre after an interim leave in the states. This never happened thanks to the atomic bomb and Japan's surrender.

Since there were very few ships arriving at this time it meant creating activities for the troops. Aside from policing the area (this meant keeping it clean and in mint condition) a program of teaching was started. As one of the teachers I explained to the men that it was important for life after the army to be able to read, write and do some arithmetic. We were given workbooks and material to teach with and I tried to explain that our army careers would soon be finished and we would have to go back into the world from which we were taken. This included me, The world we were to reinhabit was not the same world from which we were drafted.

When I was drafted in June, 1941 our nation was in a depression. There were breadlines, tarpaper shacks in which families were living, men selling apples on street corners, long lines of men looking for non existent jobs, failed banks and many other hardships. Before being drafted I was fortunate to have a job working for an accounting firm for $5.00 per six day week.

When we returned it was to a nation in the midst of prosperity.

My army career spanned four and one half years at a time I should have been learning how to make a living and getting my CPA certificate. All this took place after being discharged. I was fortunate to be able to return uninjured and able to pick up where I left off. However, the time spent in the service had its advantage in learning about myself. Returning to civil life was not easy. Instead of giving orders in my role as an officer I was now taking orders as low man on the totem pole of an accounting firm. This was a difficult adjustment. It also was responsible for the resolve not to work for anyone. Being self employed was my goal.

Looking back on the years 1941-1945 they are just a small piece of a life.

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