115 Degrees in the Shade

July 15, 1951 — Robert Hecox

The Mossadegh Project | February 24, 2023                

Reporting from Iran, roving journalist and newsreel photographer Robert A. Hecox (1914-2007) of Michigan wrote the following article for The Port Huron Times Herald newspaper (Port Huron, Michigan).


Stifling Heat, Hot Tempers Grip Abadan In Oil Impasse

(Editor’s note: Robert A. Hecox, former Bad Axe and St. Clair newspaperman, now a Paramount News Reel Cameraman, wrote the following bleating story on the explosive conditions in Iran).


Two subjects are the constant conversation and speculation pieces in these days in Abadan (Iran), one of the hottest points on the globe.

One is the temperature and the other is oil. The former is going up and the latter is going down.

AS THE thermometer registers 115 degrees in the shade and slowly upward, the oil production graph needles slowly drop as crude oil from the fields fills storage tanks in the refinery to capacity level.

The Iranians have forced on the Anglo-Iranian Oil company a dictum calling on all oil tanker captains to sign receipts in the name of the new Iranian National Oil company.

THIS THE captains have refused to do and, as a result, tankers are leaving the refinery jetties in the Shatt-el-Arab river with empty holds. This in turn is allowing storage to fill and bringing about a gradual shutting down of refining processes.

The British two years ago could have avoided the present impasse by offering the Iranians a fairer share of the oil company profits. Now the Iranians are being stupidly stubborn in their desire to take over the oil concession.

They know they cannot run the wells or the refinery themselves. But the Middle East mentality, when riled up by supranationalism, is pronouncedly shortsighted. The Iranians will take over the oil, even if they cannot run it, being ready to see production cease rather than have the British continue their ownership-operations of this 43 year-old concession.

BRITISH employes in the refinery and fields are fed up with the present situation. Following the evacuation of all wives and children from Abadan to England two weeks ago, these employes have been busy packing household goods to ship them out to Great Britain.

In this state of affairs, the employes don’t want to stop unpacking, call back their wives and children and begin all over again from the beginning. It is like a great mass. Once its inertia is translated into movement, that movement is difficult to stop. The ordinary British employe wants nothing but to follow his family home.

It is the opinion of many here that this will happen. The refinery operations were cut in half last week. When the other half is shut down, the British will leave and the problem will drop into the laps of the Persians.

Trouble at the present time is not expected. However, it is pointed out that, with the gradual shutting down of the refinery, Iranians are being thrown out of work. If they do not get paid, they will get hungry.

When they get hungry enough, the Tudeh (Communist) party, which is particularly strong in Abadan, will find fertile grounds for agitation. If the British are not gone by then, there may well be riots such as broke out in April. It is said that rioting, in case the British are gone, might well be country-wide against the Persian Government, which has foolishly promised the people the moon with a rope attached as soon as oil was nationalized.

THE PRESENCE of the British Navy cruiser, “Maritius”, lying at anchor in Iraqui waters, in the Shatt-el-Arab across the river from the refinery may have had a quietening effect so far. [sic—Mauritius]

During the day, tempers flare between Persians and British officials of the Anglo-Iranian and Iranian National Oil companies.

At night, the ever-burning waste gas flares in the refinery’s center flicker redly over the gray white sides of the Maritius and both sides sleep as tranquilly as possible under the overpowering, ever-present stifling heat that cools not a whit after the brass-bound sun has gone down over the yardarm.

I must return to Abadan (from Teheran) in a few days to wait for the end of the story. I don’t think the British will put in troops, at least I hope not, because that might be the beginning of the end.

Richard Stokes’ Second Thoughts on Iranian Oil (1951 Letter)
Richard Stokes' Letter to Clement Attlee, Aga Khan Concurs (1951)

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Related links:

They Wanted To Use Force In Persia | Ian Colvin, October 22, 1952

Where It’s Really Hot | August 4, 1953 editorial on Iran

U.S. Must Not Back War Risk in Iran | Philadelphia Inquirer, August 25, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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