1943 - 1945
By: Ezra A. Scott - CWO USA Retired - 7020 SE Division St - Portland, Oregon 97206
My first glimpse of Iran was from the deck of the SS Rohna, out of Bombay, India, arriving 3 March 1943 at Khorramashahr. I was a member of the 3410 Ord, Medium Automotive Maintenance Company, which was prepared to do third echelon maintenance on all vehicles working the Russian supply line from Khorramashahr to Tehran. It took some time to realize that I was standing on the ground of a very old, and holy land, and that here lived individuals from the old world. My personal experiences, in this country, are few and far between mostly because we were there to do a job and not to gather personal pleasures. The first move, for the 3410, was a break up of the company sending part to Teheran while the remainder stayed in Khorramashahr to service vehicles to keep them ready, at all times, to haul supplies. Our first encounter was, of course, the weather. After getting our camp set up the , so called, work shop area was established. This was merely a string of poles, set in ground with lights strung across for night work. We had to wait for another cargo ship, to arrive, that was carrying all of our vehicles, which included truck mounted shop equipment, wreckers and many tool sets. We carried some mechanics hand tool sets on board the Mauretania so there would be some thing to work with when we arrived in Iran. We finally discovered that it was just to hot for the mechanics to be working during the daylight hours. Those that remained,in Khorramashahr, were divided to make two separate sections for working the vehicle repair line. The first section was a skeleton crew that would do emergency jobs, or what ever needed to keep that particular vehicle moving. Any heavier work would be accomplished, by the second crew, after the sun dropped and it began to cool off. By cooling off, at this time of the year, it was not uncommon to see an egg fry on the hood of a truck hood. I am talking about 120 - 140 plus degrees. Trying to sleep in this heat was a never ending job in it's self. You tried to sleep, mostly in the bare, lying on your cot with your shelter half covering the cot. After about 30 minutes of uneasy sleep you would be forced to get up, go take a quick cold shower, and then back to the bunk, first turning your shelter half to a more dry side. How the local population put up with the heat, we were soon to find out. They were used to it - they were born into the heat - they learned to survive in some of the most sever heat situations one could imagine. They also learned how to deal with the heat. I never saw an Iranian hurry to do some thing or get somewhere. Nothing really bad, or good, happened while in Khorramashahr other than watching the local dig into our garbage pit for bits and pieces of any thing edible. It finally came to the point that every evening some one would douse the pit with gasoline, set it afire to keep the people out, especially the children. On our move, as mentioned above, we were taken by rail, "Iranian Rail" to Tehran.
The railroad cars were of two types. One with cloth covered seats and benches and the other was just plain old hard wood. Now in Iran any one could ride the train, and would also take their animals on board, such as sheep or any small animal., also what ever they carried. Our troops, the first ones to board the train opted to take the plus cars while the rest were forced to take the old hard wooden seats. Well, you can take good guess of who faired the best. Those who chose the plush cars, by the time we reached Tehran, were covered with fleas. These guys were doing the two step like they had never danced before. My next experience was having to go use the rest room at the rail road station. Here is one of the largest toilet areas I had ever laid eyes on, except there was not a single toilet to be seen. There was a long line of holes, with a foot print on each side, where the person stood. When I say person, I mean all both male and female at the same time doing there duty to nature, and without a glance to the person next to them. I just could not make myself use this facility as I was used to a little privacy. We were finally placed in a camp area near the railroad yards in a place called Camp Atterberry, near the British camp. My next experience came as I was doing walking guard duty, along with another member, inside our fenced in area. This area was higher than the area outside the fence. At about daybreak I noticed two Iranians coming from around .the side of one of the houses, pulling a donkey. I motioned to my fellow guard and we both watched while the two men killed the donkey, cut it's throat, and while they were skinning it, they would carve off small pieces of meat and eat. This went on for some time and then they loaded what was left of the animal, onto another cart and pulled it away. We moved from Camp Atterberry, across Tehran, to the Queens Stables where we set up a permanent camp area which was closer to our place of work shops. At the British camp we discovered they had a pet bear, and was most anxious to get rid of it. They never told us why. They persuaded us to take the bear and make a company mascot of it. It turned out the bear was a cub, or about two to three years old and a handful. At times would be extremely mean to anyone getting to close. One day we decided to fix ole Mr Bear. We chained him good, around the neck, bolted the chain to the wall and then piled dozens of truck tires around him to keep him contained. Lot good that did. It just made him more mean. He finally took all he could, let out with a loud roar and came charging through all the tires and was ready to take on any one who got in his way. Needless to say that was the beginning of the end for Mr Bear. Our CO told us to get rid of the bear. That night we loaded him in a weapons carrier and took him back to t he British railhead and turned him loose. What ever happened to him, we never found out, nor did we ask any questions. From Camp Atterberry, I was moved along with a detached group, to Hamadan where we set up another maintenance shop area. Here, once again, we set up poles with lights for night crew work. At this time, I am assigned as detachment clerk in charge of all correspondence to and from our headquarters unit, still in Tehran. This location was probably one of the best locations on the route. We were right close to the PGC main road , and could service vehicles in short order. Wreckers were constantly dispatched out to pull in those who were stranded. At this time we were, once again, housed in tents. Barracks were in the making, but would be nearly a month before we could move in. My tent was set up close to the maintenance area and that it where I worked and slept. At night I would pull the tent sides down close to the ground and cover the exposed bottom with a heavy coat of sand. This helped keep the wind from blowing sand through the tent area and deter any small animals from trying to get inside. Many wild animals roaming the plains and mountains. I had the pleasure of visiting the Red Cross chapter in Hamadan. They gave me instructions where to locate a local merchant, Isaac Urshan, who had a constant line open to the Polish refugee camp. The Polish were eager to do our laundry which we quickly agreed to a system. I would pick up the dirty laundry, deliver it to this merchant and he in turn would take it to the Polish. The next week I would repeat the run, pay for the clean laundry and drop of the dirty. I became very good friends with this merchant and, after we departed Iran, kept in contact with him for some years. He was the owner of a rug factory, in Hamadan, and sold his rugs in the US through a distribution in New York. My one real time of joy, and fun, was helping take care of a little boy, we named Jimmy. His dad worked for us in the shops, who we called George. He had no one to leave his son with, so we kinda took him under our wings. My good buddy, Raymond E Thomas, from Texas, worked the tire shop and he too helped with Jimmy. Raymond recovered a packing crate, with once held a truck motor, converted it into a bed for Jimmy to nap in during the day. We took him to our mess hall fed him, sent home for clothing, and made a real nice little guy to play with and have fun. He was a joy. I am not sure of the camp, but I think it was Kurramabad. It was here that we received word to pack up, we were headed for home. I could go on an on, but I am limited to one page. I completed my Military Career - 4 yrs,6 mo, 24days WWII- 30 yrs with Oregon Army National Guard and retired 29 Aug 1979.