Freedom Fighter in Service with Iran
The government of Iran during the 1940s and 1950s was officially a monarchy, with the Shah as head of state but with a legislature known as the Majlis and a prime minister as head of government.
During the early years of the Second World War, Iran was officially neutral. However, German agents were active in the area and the Allies urgently needed access to Iran to transport war material to the Soviet Union. To ensure that this route remained open, British and Soviet forces simultaneously invaded Iran on August 26, 1941. The ruler of Iran, Reza Shah, abdicated in favor of his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
Iran subsequently became a close ally of both the Soviet Union and Britain, and facilitated the movement of tons of war material across Iran to the Soviet Union. In September of 1943, Iran declared war on Germany. In November of 1943, a conference was held at Tehran, with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Prime Minister Josef Stalin in attendance. The Tehran Conference reaffirmed a commitment by all parties to Iranian independence and agreed to withdraw all of their troops from Iran 6 months after the war was over.
At the end of the war, Iran became a zone of contention between the West and the Soviet Union. American companies and the Soviet Union both wanted oil concessions in Iran. Under Soviet inspiration, the Azarbaijan Democratic Party declared an autonomous republic in December of 1945, and neighboring Kurdestan announced that it too would secede. All foreign troops were supposed to leave the country as per the Teheran Conference agreement, but Soviet troops remained in the country as the British and American troops left. In April of 1946, the government was pressured into signing an oil agreement with the Soviet Union. Under US, British, and UN pressure, Soviet troops did eventually withdraw from Iranian territory as well. The Iranian army sent troops to quell the Azarbaijan and Kurdish Republic insurrections, and the Soviet oil concession was voted down in the Majlis.
In 1947, Iran and the United States signed an agreement for military aid and for a US military advisory mission to help train the Iranian armed forces. In February of 1949, the Tudeh was blamed for a failed attempt on the Shah's life, and the party was banned and its leaders either arrested or forced to flee the country.
At the same time, a strong sentiment arose for the nationalization of Iran's oil industry, since the Majlis had approved an ambitious plan for economic and agricultural development which required extensive oil revenues to finance it. However, the British government derived more revenue from taxing the oil concession, known as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, than the Iranian government derived from royalties, and bitterly opposed this move. On March 15, 1951, pressured by Mommahed Mossadeq, the chairman of the oil committee, the Majlis voted to nationalize the oil industry. In April the Shah yielded to pressure from the Majlis as well as from street demonstrations and appointed Mossadeq as prime minister of the government.
The Iranian nationalization of their oil industry infuriated the British government, and most British oil technicians left the country. A worldwide embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil was imposed. The loss of the oil revenue led to a general worsening of the Iranian economy. Mossadeq became very popular with many elements in the general public, but his growing power and intransigence on the oil issue created friction between him and the Shah. As economic conditions worsened, Mossadeq became more and more autocratic, and he led an effort to dissolve the Majlis. In August of 1952, the Maglis acceded to his demand to rule by decree for a six month period, which was later extended for another six months. In August of 1953, Mossadeq organized a plebiscite calling for the dissolution of the Majlis. Mossadeq claimed a massive vote in favor of dissolution, and officially dissolved the legislative body.
The United States under President Harry S Truman had initially been rather sympathetic to Iran's nationalist sentiments, but the Eisenhower administration which came into office in January of 1953 saw things differently and believed that Mossadeq's intransigence made a compromise impossible and that the resulting unrest made a Communist takeover in Iran likely. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began making secret plans in collaboration with the British SIS, the Shah, and certain elements in the Iranian military (headed by General Fazlollah Zahedi) for the overthrow of Mossadeq.
According to previously arranged plans, on August 13, 1953, the Shah fired Mossadeq and appointed General Zahedi in his place. However, Mossadeq stubbornly refused to step down. The second part of the plan called for a military coup in case Mossadeq refused to leave. For a while, it looked as if the coup was going to fail, and the Shah panicked and fled the country. Zahedi went into hiding. However, after four days of rioting, the situation had been reversed, and by August 19, army units and street crowds had succeeded in overthrowing Mossadeq and the Shah returned to the country. Mossadeq was placed under house arrest, and hundreds of National Front leaders and Tudeh Party officers were arrested and sentenced to death. Zahedi became the new prime minister.
With the Shah back in Iran, the United States arranged for immediate economic assistance to Iran, and the Iranian government restored diplomatic relations with Britain in December of 1953. The Shah, fearing both Soviet influence and internal opposition, grew closer to both Britain and the United States. In October of 1955, Iran joined the Baghdad Pact (which had to be renamed the Central Treaty Organization or CENTO when Iraq withdrew in 1958). A period of repression followed the overthrow of Mossadeq, and the Shah concentrated more and more power into his hands. Parties deemed pro-Soviet or leftist were banned, the press was muzzled, and the power of the secret police (known as SAVAK, which stands for Sazman-e Ettelaat va Amniyat-e Keshvar) was strengthened. Elections to the Majlis were closely controlled. A series of weak prime ministers were named that could be counted on to do as they were told by the Shah.
Rising oil revenues allowed the government to launch bold new development plans, and several large-scale industrial and agricultural projects were initiated. However, economic recovery was slow, and the infusion of oil money led to rapid inflation and widespread discontent. Yielding to pressure, the government announced a series of land reform and profit-sharing measures, and extended the right to vote to women. These measures earned the government considerable support among certain sectors of the population, but they did not deal immediately with the sources of unrest. Economic conditions were still difficult for the poorer classes. Many Islamic clerical leaders opposed land reform and the extension of suffrage to women and were also concerned about the extension of government and royal authority that the reforms implied.
The oil wealth made it possible for the Shah to increase the power of his armed forces. Under the Shah, the Nirou Havai Shahanshaiye Iran (Imperial Iranian Air Force) become one of the largest and best-equipped air forces in the world, thanks largely to its immense oil wealth and the assistance of the United States. Air force headquarters was located at Doshan Tapeh Air Base, near Tehran. Iran's largest air base, Mehrabad, outside Tehran, was also the country's major civil airport. Other major operational air bases were at Tabriz, Bandar-e Abbas, Hamadan (Shahroki Air Base), Dezful (Vahdati Air Base), Shiraz, and Bushehr.
The IIAF became the first air force to receive the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter The IIAF put its initial squadron of 13 Freedom Fighters into service on February 1, 1965. On that date, 11 F-5As and 2 F-5Bs arrived at the 1st Fighter Air Base at Mehrabad to replace the F-84 Thunderjet in the strike role. The planes were declared operational in June of 1965.
Subsequently, the government of Iran purchased a total of 104 F-5As and 23 F-5Bs. Iranian F-5s were given IIAF serial numbers, at first in the 3-200 block and later in the 3-400 block, the prefix 3 designating "fighter". Some of the tie-ups between USAF serials and IIAF serials are known, but not all of them.
In 1972, Iran placed an even larger order for F-5Es, and most of the F-5As were sold to other countries such as Greece, Jordan, Turkey, and South Vietnam, although some F-5Bs were retained for training purposes. By the time of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-87, no F-5A/Bs still remained in Iran.
Last revised September 30, 2001