FIRST G.I. REPORT FROM IRAN: IT’S COLD, EXPENSIVE AND STRANGE

By Sgt. Al Hine

YANK Staff Correspondent

SOMEWHERE IN IRAN —If there’s any truth to the old proverb, “Early to bed, early to rise,” G.I.s in Iran (Persian to you) are going to be mighty healthy, wealthy and wise. Reason: there’s an 8 o’clock curfew that sends the sidewalks scurrying out of sight, closes the bistros and cabarets, and drives the dogfaces to bed.



Only catch in the formula is that one about getting wealthy. Prices here are high, and wealthy is one thing you’re not likely to be after even a short spell in this self-styled “Little Paris of the East.” Food is high, board is high, cigarettes are high, feminine companionship is high; and drinks are so high that the average U.S. soldier below the rank of a brigadier general has a hell of a job getting high himself.

A pack of any one of the leading U.S. brands of cigarettes costs 80 cents on the black market. And the black market is about the only place where American cigarettes may be bought.

Customs and living conditions, trying to approximate the European or American, are strange. The curfew is only one example. Language is another. Iranian is the local lingo. French and, in some instances, Polish and Russian are spoken. English is rarely used except by G.I.s and graduates of the Presbyterian American University.

iran british soviet troops

Soviet and British troops prepare for a joint Russo-British parade in Tehran

Currency is in Iranian rials and is complicated bt a division into technically nonexistent units known as toumains. A rial is roughly 3 cents and a toumain is 10 rials. Most Yanks master the system after a few days of costly experimentation. The trouble with the rial as a unit is that the G.I. is used to thinking in terms of 1 cent. Suddenly faced with a 3-cent basis for his folding money, extravagance becomes rife. By the time he wises up nothing is rife.

Folding money is the proper term here, for all values except the half rial are issued in banknotes scaling from 5 to 10 to 20 to 50 to 100 and so on up. The half rials are coins and are used mostly for change-making or tipping. If a G.I. produces a 1000-rial note in public he is in danger of being swamped by solicitous citizens anxious to advise him how best to get rid of it.

There is no girl shortage, and the girls like the G.I.s. The language difficulty is a slight barrier, but love laughs at linguists as well as locksmiths.



Transportation is by droshky and the droshky driver is far and away the least cooperative citizen. He seldoms attempts to understand the G.I. To “how much?” he responds with an agonizingly sad roll of his eyes. And whatever note is given him as payment, he reacts in the same sad way. A guy susceptible to this dramatic acting would part with the greater portion of his base pay.

Streets are wide and traffic menaces include American cars as well as droshkies and goats and camels. Parking is in the center of the street, leaving plenty of room on either side for the Iranian Army which is strong on marching.

The Iranian soldier ears a very classy yellow uniform; the higher the rank the classier the duds. Officers carry swords. Iranians are good horsemen and a body of Iranian cavalry passing by is quite a sight. They’ve got swords and rifles. The infantry marches to the tune of a flute.

Billets for Americans range from Army barracks to hotels. Most of them have taught the G.I.s that the old familiar straddle-trench was a luxury. A simple hole punched in the floor is considered ample here. The latrine rumor is dying out as a result. No one wants to hang around long enough to start one.

There is skiing available less than an hour away from the city—but there’s a catch to it. They don’t rent skis and what skis there are for sale are prohibitive.

Entertainment isn’t too bad in spite of the early curfew. The cabarets simply run their dancing and floor shows earlier to conform. There are five-year-old American movies, and softball and basketball. There are occasional soccer matches between British and Iranian teams. These are well attended by Iranian, British and U.S. soldiers ranging in the rank from buck private to the Iranian King of Kings. Feeling runs high and all that is needed to create a reasonable facsimile of an American football game is a sextette of co-ed cheerleaders.

Iran is cold and expensive and strange. But at that it’s far from being the worst place in the world to soldier.



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