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THEY HELPED- RUSSIA TO VICTORY.
By Paul Rugile, in the "Christian Science Monitor."
Russia's ability to supply and equip an army estimated at 3,000,000 men for the mightiest Red offensive of the war on the broad front from East Prussia to Slovakia has caused many
people to marvel. "How did they do it?" The issue of appearance of the article was 3/4/45. It is no secret that in recent years an ever-increasing flood of Lend- Lease fighting equipment from the United States went to Russia via the Allied supply corridor in Iran. To what degree this assistance has con- ributed to the current Russian suc- cess, no one can can say. But it is no reflection upon the bravery of the Russian people, nor the quality of its leadership to say that had not the tremendous quanti- ties of American supplies rolling across Iran been forthcoming, the great offensive now in progress would not have been possible. Marshal Stalin must have had this in mind when he made his impromptu toast : 'To American production!' at the United Nations conference in Te- heran. * * * The exploit of transforming the ill- equipped Trans-Iranian Railway, built by a former Shah so it could be of no practical use to either Rus- sia or Great Britain — 1200 miles of twisting track through desert waste lands and dizzying mountain peaks, with terminals that went from no- where to nowhere" — will rank as one of the United States Army's
proudest achievements in this war. With the help of American indus- try and a vast army of G. I. rail- roaders, the bottleneck presented by the quaint railway was broken and the line built into a one-way supply corridor through which passed 4,380, 440 tons of war goods for Russia up to January 2, 1945. This is how it was done : Answering an SOS from Washing- ton on September 3, 1942, officials of the American Locomotive Company sat down with State Department and Army men for a conference on how to break the bottleneck that was the Trans-Iranian Railway. Familiar with the problems created by Iran's peculiar climate and terrain, the ALCO men recommended that the road be powered with Diesel type locomotives. The Army's concention- al (sic) 2-8-0's did not have the power to haul much freight in addition to the huge quantities of coal and water needed to run the engines in the wide- ly divergent temperatures. Could ALCO, the Army wanted to know, supply some Diesels in a hurry ? Also, could they convert the Diesel axle arrangement so that the Iran road could stand the locomotives' 120-ton weight ? The ALCO people replied they could do both. Twenty days later the company re- ceived a contract from the War De- partment for the conversion of 13 Diesels to be equipped with six axles instead of four and with motors on each axle. The change was to step up the motor capacity required from the temperature operating standpoint, and a low, continuous output for the mountain grades. The order also called for 44 new Diesels of the same type. The 13 were to be delivered within 45 days of receipt of the loco- motives (to be requisitioned by the American railroads), and the new ones at the rate of four per week, beginning 45 to 60 days after receipt of the order and materials. By August, 1943, all the engines were in service on the Trans-Iranian Railway. Like most engines built for the Army, the new locomotives were made to conform to special internat- ional clearance diagrams. They have special end-plates to permit inter- change of standard automatic coup- lers or special draw hooks and buf- fers of the European type, so that they may be used practically any place where the gauge permits. * * * Arriving at the same time with the engines was a newly organised shop battalion, 632 strong, which had been sponsored by the American Locomo- tive Company to keep the fleet of 1000-horsepower giants in running order. It became the 762d Transpor- tation Corps Railway Shop Battalion, Persian Gulf Command. Its officer personnel was recom- mended by ALCO, and more than 50 per cent. of the key men came from that company and the General Elec- tric Company, its associate in the Diesel-Electric locomotive field. Oth- ers came from Westinghouse Air- Brake Company, Exide Battery Com- pany, and from railroads scattered across the country. The Battalion had been organised, outfitted, and sent overseas in less than 90 days. It was made up large ly of experienced mechanics. who had simply traded, civilian overalls for G.I. uniforms. Liuet. (sic) Col. W. C. Rogers, an ALCO man, has been in charge of the Bat- talion since it was organised. The first train under American op-
eration rode into Teheran on March 29, 1943. Before long, 3,000 American-made flat cars, box cars, tank cars, gon- dolas — and even cabooses— were high- balling through Persia behind 150 American locomotives. Col. J. A. Appleton, Chief of the Rail Division, Transportation Corps, reported that the shop battalions in Persia were setting up locomotives at the rate of 30 a day. Most of the locomotives and cars were shipped "knocked down," and reassembled when they reached port. * * * The Trans-Iranian Railway soon be- came a super "Burma Road" to Russia. By May, 1943, Russian require- ments in munitions and supplies were exceeded by 18 per cent. A few months later the traffic per month, moving over the Iranian route was estimated at eleven times more than was ever conveyed over the Burma Road itself in the same length of time. Col. Karl W. Detzer reported from Iran : American Diesel engines are haul- ing out 30- and 40-car trains at the rate of five or six a day. And we're kicking those cars over the hump so fast that even a division superintend- ent back home would be tickled. Less than a month later, Major General Charles P. Gross, Chief of Transportation was able to report that : In the Persian Gulf Corridor they (American Soldier trainmen, increas- ed railway capacity from practically nothing to some 130,000 tons a month, thereby getting to Russia half of the supplies which are covered in the protocol agreement for that trade. The goal set by the Army for Lend-Lease. supplies to Russia was said to be 6000 tons daily.