Editorial Note

At the request of an officer of the Historical Office, Department of State, a memorandum entitled “Events Relative to the Azarbaijan Issue—March 1946” was prepared on August 16, 1965, by Edwin M. Wright of the Foreign Service Institute, Department of State, who in 1946 was Special Assistant to Mr. Henderson. The memorandum stated in part:

“On the morning of March 6, 1946, a telegram came in from Rossow [No. 40, page 340] stating that unusually heavy troop movements of Soviet forces in Azarbaijan were taking place. Rossow had obtained [Page 347] the assistance of several merchants in various parts of Azarbaijan, through their Tabriz headquarters, to report any unusual Soviet activities. This telegram mentioned Bostanabad (found on no maps) and a series of other obscure places. Mr. Henderson asked me to prepare a large blown-up map of Azarbaijan which would indicate the movement of Soviet forces taking place. It was expected new information might confirm and add to this telegram by the 7th. But nothing came in the next morning. (Actually, Rossow had sent a second, more detailed telegram on the 6th, but it arrived the morning of the 8th.) [No. 41, page 342.] About 4:30 p.m. on the 7th, Mr. Henderson stated that he thought Mr. Byrnes ought to see the map as it was and he called the Secretary’s office for an appointment. Mr. Minor and I were told to report at 6:00 p.m., because Mr. Henderson had an appointment which he could not change. So Mr. Minor and I took the map up at 6:00 p.m. to Mr. Byrnes’ office. Once the Secretary had familiarized himself with the map, we pointed out the size and direction of each thrust. Mr. Byrnes asked the significance of each arrow and noted that they aimed at the Turkish border, the Iraqi border, a third was headed due south (possibly indicating a thrust toward the oilfields), and a drive toward the capital at Tehran.

“Mr. Byrnes, having gone over the telegram and verified the place names with the map, remarked that it now seemed clear the USSR was adding military invasion to political subversion in Iran, and, beating one fist into the other hand, he dismissed us with the remark: ‘Now we’ll give it to them with both barrels.’ He told us to be ready to present it at a meeting the next morning, March 8th.

“On the morning of March 8th, two more detailed telegrams came in [Nos. 41 and 42 from Tabriz, pages 342 and 344]. Mr. Minor and I added their information on the map showing that the USSR was moving fast toward their objectives. Mr. Henderson then took Mr. Minor and myself to a meeting in which Dean Acheson, Alger Hiss, Ben Cohen, Charles Bohlen, and possibly others, were present. It was near noon. We explained the map and the three attached telegrams.

“There was considerable discussion of the telegram of March 5th [No. 385 to Moscow, page 340] and the fact that the USSR seemed to ignore it completely. All agreed that these Soviet moves were clear violations of every agreement mentioned in the telegram of March 5th Only one conclusion could be drawn—the USSR seemed to be determined to face Iran and the rest of the world with a fait accompli. How strongly could the US react? We had no information from the U.K. as yet. Mr. Acheson stated that we ought to let the USSR know that we were aware of its moves, but ‘leave a graceful way out’ if it desired to avoid a showdown. With this in mind, Mr. Hiss had scribbled a draft statement and passed it to Mr. Henderson. Mr. Minor [Page 348] and I left the meeting at this point, but later in the afternoon, a second telegram was sent to Moscow (Niact #425 [infra]).” (File No. Pol 23–7–Iran)