Posted on October 12th, 2017 by:

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By Cpl. Ray McGovern

YANK Staff Correspondent

IRAN—The four GIs who make up the total EM strength of the U.S. Military Mission with the Iranian Army probably would spend their careers in the service unhonored and unsung were it not for one thing: As far as we can find out, their organization is the smallest in the U.S. Army with a shoulder patch of its own.

general clarence self ridley wwii panama canal iran mission

General Clarence S. Ridley, circa 1940

Better known locally as the “Ridley Mission” because it is headed by Maj. Gen. Clarence S. Ridley, the group arrived in October, 1942 and was originally composed of four officers. Now it is a 24-man outfit with, in addition to Gen. Ridley, three colonels, seven lieutenant colonels, six majors and three captains.

The four lone GIs are M/Sgt. Walter W. Hallifield of Ellijay, Ga., M/Sgt. Otto H. Unser of Little Falls, N.Y., M/Sgt. George E. Weniger of Corvallis Ore., and S/Sgt. Elihu Schonfeld of Albany, N.Y. Hallifield and Unser are in the motor maintenance, Weniger is a radio man and Schonfeld handles administration.

The mission is in Iran “by agreement with and at the request of the Iranian government.” Its function is two-fold: To make the Service and Supply Forces of the Iranian Army “a more effective organization by looking over the Iranian Army system and making suggestions here and there and to screen demands against need in the Lend-Lease program.”

iran lend lease

Airplanes parked on Abadan Airfield in Iran before heading to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease

Headquarters for the mission is in the palatial Ministry of War building in Teheran, but some of the officers spend their time out in the provinces. When special instructors are needed to demonstrate American Army methods to the Iranian brass, they are borrowed on TD from the Persian Gulf Command.

The mission’s shoulder patch is distinctly Persian. The backfield is black (for convenience). On it, in gold, are a lion (for strength), a crown (for the kingdom), the sun (for the rising strength of the nation) and a sword (in attack). The Iranians are pleased with it and the GIs who wear it are proud of it.

The zebras are wondering how long the mission will live. “If they keep me here much longer,” said Schonfeld who has already sweated out 30 months, “I’ll have to take out citizenship papers.”

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