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Armed Forces of World War II (Near East).

Introduction:

New: Decorations of PSP's Polish Personnel (1940-45) - NEW!!!!! - 15 March, 2001.

Updates: Polish WWII Fighter Aces Updated on 31 August, 2000!


The list of countries contained on that page is listed below (in alphabetical order). The countries (with their contemporary names) are listed consecutively from top to the bottom of the Web page, so please use the up-and-down scroll-bar or click on any one of the countries listed below. All dates are in a day / month / year format (for example 03/12/1944).


Regional Section: Near East.

Countries: Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey.


IRAQ, al-Djumhuriya al-'Irakiya.

Iraqi flag used from 1920s to 1959

Contemporary National Flag: Flag of Iraq used between 1924 and 1959.

Population: 3 700 000 (1938), ~ 4 500 000 (1945). Borders with (in 1945) Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Iran (Persia), and has a narrow access to the Persian Gulf.

Area: 444 442 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Bagdad

Overview: In 1932 U.K. formally recognized Iraq's independence, and a constitutional monarchy was established. However, the British political and economic influence remained paramount; the former League of Nations administrators were permitted lucrative oil extraction concessions as well as the unlimited use of military airfields at Habbaniya and Shuayba. On 03/04/1941, influenced by pan-Arab nationalism and resentment of continuous British control, elements of the Iraqi army staged an initially successful coup d'etat. The arrival of the Afrika Korps in Libya might have had an accelerating impact on the decision to start this revolt but it was of little use to the Axis, since British Commonwealth and Free French forces entered and occupied the country by 08/06/1941. Thus ultimately the Allies managed quickly to reassert and even increase their employment of Iraqi territory as a staging point for further redeployment, and as a valuable supply base. A few of the coup's key instigators were captured and promptly executed, and a new Allied-friendly government was appointed. In 1943 Iraq officially declared war on the Axis; however, Iraqi armed forces never participated in any operations against them. In 1945 Iraq was admitted to the U.N.; it is also a co-founding member of the League of Arab Countries.

Armed Forces: In the early 1930's the Iraqi armed forces were established and began to expand steadily thereafter (the first army division was raised in 1932). In June of 1935, the national parliament ratified a compulsory military service for all males capable of bearing arms, for a period of ten years (including 18-24 months of basic service). At the beginning the army was composed of two infantry divisions, one independent cavalry brigade, and one independent frontier guards brigade. In June of 1938 the two army divisions included the following units: three cavalry regiments, nine batteries of field artillery, six batteries of mountain artillery, one mechanized battery, 28 infantry battalions, one motorized machine-gun company, two signal battalions, one armoured car section, one light tank company, one engineer battalion, and a small coastal-river flotilla (one royal yacht and a tug on the Persian Gulf, and four motor patrol boats on Euphrates and Tigris). In 1939 the number of infantry divisions was doubled to four (the total number of army personnel increased to 20 000 soldiers and officers). By 1941 the armoured and motorized units were expanded while the army personnel reached the number of 41 000. The birth of the Iraqi air force took place already in 1931, when under the guidance and leadership of the British the very first Iraqi air force wing was created from equipment supplied by the U.K., a second one followed in 1934. In order to reduce the reliance on Britain, Iraqi government formed a third air wing in 1937 composed of Italian-manufactured aircraft. In 1939 the air force was made up of two army-air cooperation squadrons, one bomber-transport squadron, one fighter squadron, one communications squadron, one flying training school, one apprentices training school, and one aeroplane depot. By 1940 the Iraqi air force contained six air wings (planes were primarily of British and U.S. origin). In 1941, following the pro-Axis coup, the Iraqi armed forces faced an Allied intervention by predominantly British Commonwealth troops (mainly East Indians and Transjordanians); despite heavy numerical superiority and some meager assistance from the Vichy French in Syria as well as from a few German transport planes that supplied Iraq with some badly needed war materiel, the Iraqi armed forces were quickly routed. The Iraqi air force lost about 20 aircraft in the course of the brief struggle (out of a total of 56 that Iraq possessed at that time). A peace treaty very favourable to the Allies was immediately signed in the aftermath, granting the Allies many extensive concessions (such as the right to garrison the Iraqi territory, and transport troops across it, as well as to use many additional airfields). Subsequently, the entire country was occupied by British Commonwealth units (mostly East Indian, some from India's autonomous princely states). The size of the Iraqi armed forces was also drastically reduced.


IRAN (PERSIA), Empire of Iran, Keshwar-e Shahanshahi-ye Iran.

Contemporary National Flag: Not available.

Population: 15 000 000 (1938), ~ 16 800 000 (1945). Borders (during WWII) with British India (present-day Pakistan), Afghanistan, Soviet Union, Turkey and Iraq. It also has access to the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Caspian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.

Area: 1 648 000 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Tehran

Overview: In the first years of the conflict, despite of self-declared neutrality, Iran fell under a strong influence of Nazi Germany which aimed at transforming it into a powerbase for German penetration of Near and Middle East. Shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the strategic importance of Iran rose prominently; subsequently, British Commonwealth (East Indian) and Soviet troops entered the country (on 25/08/1941) in order to prevent Iran from falling into the Axis sphere of influence. A small U.S. contingent joined the already present Allied (British Commonwealth in the south of the country, and Soviet in the north) occupation forces in 1942. In September of 1941, following the abdication of Reza Shah, Iran declared war on Nazi Germany. Afterwards, the Iranian territory was used by the Allies as a transit route for shipments of supplies to the Soviet Union. Between 28/11/1943 and 01/12/1943, a conference of the heads of state of Great Britain, U.S., and Soviet Union took place in Tehran. Iran is one of the co-founding members of the U.N.

Armed Forces: By 1937 the Iranian standing army numbered 1 507 officers and 30 872 NCOs and men. By 1939 the army was composed of nine mixed divisions and five independent brigades. There was also one independent infantry regiment, as well as one heavy artillery regiment, one anti-aircraft battalion, one independent transportation squadron, and an air force component consisting of three air regiments (200 machines, mostly British-manufactured Hawkers and De Havillands). The Iranian navy possessed two sloops, five patrol vessels, and some thugs and motor patrol boats on the Persian Gulf / Gulf of Oman, in addition to an imperial yacht and some motor patrol boats for service on the Caspian Sea. Aside from the yacht all vessels were of Italian origin. The sloops suffered considerable damage during the Allied intervention in 1941, but were later repaired and returned to service. In 1940 an independent mechanized brigade made up of anti-aircraft, tank, and mechanized infantry regiments came into being. The number of active army personnel increased to 120 000. All of the armed forces were dispersed into six military districts. The armed police force fielded seven independent mixed regiments and 15 mixed battalions that formed a corps for internal and frontier security duties. During the Allied invasion in late summer of 1941, the Iranian armed forces offered only minimal resistance and the country was rapidly overrun and occupied. Afterwards the Iranian armed forces did not play any combat role during the remaining years of World War II. Major re-organization efforts of the armed forces started to be implemented in 1944.

Captured / Sunk Iranian Ships in 1941.


LEBANON, Republic of Lebanon, al-Djumhuriya al-Lubnaniya.

Contemporary National Flag: Not available.

Population: 855 000 (1938). Borders (in 1939) with Palestine and Syria. It also has access to the Mediterranean Sea.

Area: 10 450 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Beirut

Overview: Since 23/05/1926, Lebanon was transformed into a constitutional republic under a French protectorate. In 1936 France concluded with Lebanon a pact of friendship and alliance, according to which, the French League of Nations mandate was supposed to expire in 1939. However, France took advantage of the international situation that occurred in that year to illegally nullify this agreement. The French commissioner established martial law, abolished the constitution, and disbanded Lebanese parliament. The French military initiated the formation of Lebanese units that were incorporated into the "Levante" Army. Following the capitulation of France in June of 1940, the local colonial administration became completely subordinated to the puppet French Vichy regime. An Allied invasion encountered resistance from local colonial garrisons between June and July of 1941, but by 14/07/1941, the whole country was occupied by British and Free French forces. On 26/11/1941 the local Free French Commander-in-Chief, General R. Catroux, formally confirmed the recognition of Lebanese independence. On 08/11/1943 the revived Lebanese parliament passed a resolution that abolished the French protectorate over the country, a move that met with massive support from other Arab nations (due to this occurrences the Free French Committee was forced to officially acknowledge Lebanon's sovereignty on 22/11/1943). On 27/02/1945 Lebanon declared war on Germany and Japan. In 1945 it was one of the co-founding members of U.N. as well as of the League of Arab Countries. As a result of the intensifying movement for total independence of Lebanon, Great Britain and France signed (in December of 1945) a bilateral agreement according to which both parties pledged to evacuate all their armed forces from Lebanese soil by the end of 1946.

Armed Forces: At the start of the war Lebanon created two infantry battalions (Bataillons de Chasseurs Libanois) and one cavalry squadron (these units formed an integral part of the French "Levante" Army that was stationed in Lebanon and Syria); in 1941 these units participated in military operations against British and Free French forces while fighting on behalf of the Vichy army. In the aftermath of Vichy surrender in Lebanon, they were placed under Free French command by the victorious Allies. These units formed the nucleus of the future new Lebanese national army. Following the liberation of Lebanon from Vichy control, the combat role of Lebanese military formations had practically ended. Nevertheless, three additional infantry battalions were raised, and collectively with Syria a number of special detachments were also established along with a military school (located at the town of Hims in western Syria) which was jointly maintained and used (to train the officer cadre) by both countries. In 1944 all Lebanese military units were separated from their French counterparts.


SAUDI ARABIA, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, al-Mamlaka al-'Arabiyya as-Sa'udiyya.

Contemporary National Flag: Not yet available.

Population: 5 750 000 (in 1938). Borders with (during WWII) Kuweit, Iraq, Transjordania, (North) Yemen, Aden-Hadramaut, Muscat and 'Oman, Trucial States, and Qatar. It has also access to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.

Area: ~ 1 600 000 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Riyadh

Overview: Althought Saudi Arabia never actively participated in the conflict, it did sever diplomatic relations with Germany on 11/09/1939. In October of 1941, it did likewise with Japan. During the war, United States elevated its own influence in the country, especially after the petroleum Aramco consortium was granted a licence from the royal government that permitted it to extract petroleum on two-thirds of the kingdom's territory. In 1943 U.S. officially established diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and subsequently began construction of an air base there, in vicinity of Zahran (Dhahran). On 28/02/1945 the kingdom formally declared war on Germany and Japan. Saudi Arabia is a co-founding member of the League of Arab Countries (on 22/03/1945), and it was admitted to the U.N. on 24/10/1945.

Armed Forces: At the time of the Second World War, the armed forces of Saudi Arabia had changed little since the time of the First World War. The majority of troops were camel-raiding bedouin tribal levies, called-on in time of war or serious emergency. These troops were very experienced at desert warfare and survival, but their equipment was immensely outdated while their loyalty was also at times questionable. These desert warriors were employed frequently in the Saudi wars of aggression of the 1920's (against Hejaz and Asir) and 1930's (against North Yemen), but they were being increasingly more replaced by western-armed regular troops. In the 1940's, the total number of levies ready to go to war at the king's call was ~ 15 000. At the same time, the regulars numbered only a few thousand personnel and performed mostly policing and other security functions. These regular troops were much better armed than the levies and were garrisoned all over the country at forts and major cities and towns. The air force was in the embryonic phase of development. Since 1943 Saudi Arabia began receiving financial credits for the expansion and modernization of its arsenal, as part of the Lend - Lease military - economic assistance package granted by the U.S. government. The armed forces of Saudi Arabia did not participated in WWII.


SYRIA, Republic of Syria, al-Djumhuriya as-Suriya.

Contemporary national flag: Not yet available.

Population: 2 750 000 (in 1938), 3 068 000 (in 1947). Borders with (during WWII) Turkey, Iraq, Transjordania, Palestine, and Lebanon. It also has access to the Mediterranean Sea.

Area: 185 180 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Damascus

Overview: The movement for Syria's total independence grew stronger in the 1930's; consequently, a French - Syrian treaty of friendship and alliance was signed on 09/09/1936. The French government recognized Syrian independence but restrained itself from the ratification of the above-mentioned treaty. Following the French surrender in 1940, Syria was placed under Vichy administration. The Germans began to construct military airfields on Syrian soil with the silent approval from General Dentz (the regional French high commissioner), with the aim of supporting a pro-Axis coup in nearby Iraq. These airfields located at Damascus, Palmira, and Rayak (the latter in Lebanon) were already up-and-running by the first half of 1941. In response to these threats, the British forces of General Wilson occupied both Lebanon and Syria by 08/06/1941. On 28/09/1941 Syria's independence was proclaimed, however, British and French troops remained in the country until 1946. Syria is a co-founding member of the U.N.

Armed Forces: In late 1930's Syrian military units numbered around 8 000 personnel; the army was made up of seven battalions of infantry (Bataillons du Levant), two squadrons of line cavalry, 15 squadrons of light cavalry, three light mounted-mechanized desert warfare companies (Compagnies Legeres du Desert), three sapper companies, and a single unit of artillery. After the defeat of France in 1940, all Syrian troops were placed under strict Vichy control and the following year they took part in engagements against British forces that were stationed in the region. Subsequently, after the liberation from Vichy domination in mid-1941, all Syrian forces were placed under the jurisdiction of the Free French Committee. The combat contribution of Syrian armed forces at that time came to an end. Near the time of the conflict's termination Syria had a standing army composed of nine infantry battalions, one cavalry regiment, three units of shock troops, two artillery units, and one tank battalion. Syria and Lebanon also jointly owned / maintained dually shared communication and transportation units, and an officers' academy located at the town of Hims (in western Syria).


TURKEY, Republic of Turkey, Turkiye Cumhuriyeti.

Contemporary national flag: Not yet available.

Population: 17 100 000 (in 1938), 19 250 000 (in 1947). Borders with (during WWII) Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Soviet Union. It also has access to the Black and Mediterranean Seas.

Area: 767 100 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Ankara

Overview: Shortly before WWII, the internal and external policies of the Turkish government began to diverge from the progressive course undertaken by K. Ataturk; subsequently to Ataturk's death in 1938, under combined pressure from reactionary domestic elements and from imperialistic powers, Turkey halted the realization of social reforms while in foreign policy it adopted an anti-Soviet stance. After the eruption of World War II, it announced a declaration of neutrality, and on 19/10/1939 it signed a mutual assistance pact with Great Britain and France. Influenced by the early war triumphs of Nazi Germany, Turkey decided to initiate cooperation with the Axis; on 18/06/1941 it signed a pact of friendship with Third Reich. Subsequently, it provided considerable quantities of strategic raw materials to support the German war effort, including 30% of all chrome needed by Germany. Western powers fruitlessly attempted to persuade Turkey to abandon this Axis-friendly neutrality and to join the Allied cause. Not until 02/08/1944, did Turkey sever diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany; it did the same with Japan on 03/01/1945. On 01/03/1945 it formally declared war on both of these countries, althought, it never fought against them. Turkey is a co-founding member of U.N.

Armed Forces: In 1938 the Turkish standing army had 20 000 officers and 174 000 men. Military service lasted for three years. In 1939 the Turkish army was administrationally divided into three army inspectorates, nine corps, and one military governorship; the country's armed forces were composed of 20 infantry divisions, three brigades of mountain troops, one fortress brigade, and five cavalry divisions (including two reserve cavalry divisions) - altogether 132 regiments (60 infantry, six mountain troops, 21 cavalry, eight reserve cavalry, 20 field artillery, 10 heavy artillery, and seven fortress artillery). In early 1941 Turkey established 17 corps headquarters, 43 divisions and three independent infantry brigades, two divisions and one independent cavalry brigade, as well as two mechanized divisions. The armed forces were poorly equipped; weapons shipments from Germany, Great Britain, and U.S. did little to improve that condition. Just before the onset of hostilities the Turkish navy underwent a program of expansion and modernization; two submarines were ordered for construction in Germany, two submarines and four destroyers were ordered for construction in U.K. Lesser vessels were also constructed in home shipyards. After Germany delivered one submarine in 1939, the Turkish navy contained 19 naval vessels and they included one armoured ship, one line cruiser, two light cruisers, two torpedo-boats, four destroyers, five submarines, and four other lesser ships (most vessels were obsolete); with a total displacement of 55 775 tonnes (the number of naval personnel stood at 9 200). The real combat value of the navy was insignificant. By the end of WWII, the navy had one battle cruiser, two cruisers, two gunboats, three minesweepers, eight destroyers, 12 submarines, three motor torpedo boats, five minelayers, a surveying vessel, a depot ship, a fleet tug, a collier, and an oiler. By 1940 the Turkish air force was composed of four air regiments (each regiment contained six air companies), and had in possession a total of 370 aircraft (it had 8 500 personnel). Thanks to British and French shipments one more air regiment, along with five independent air wings, was formed in 1941. Shipments of military equipment from Germany replaced the shipments from Allied countries in the same year. Close to the end of the war, two air force divisions were organized; they together contained 15 air wings (or 30 flights). The Turkish armed forces did not participated in any military operations of WWII.


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Armed Forces of WWII:

Miscellaneous Axis Military Formations of WWII

South America

Eastern Europe & Opinion Poll

South-Central Asia

Russian Nationalist National Army

SD's Russian Brigade

Jugoslav Partisan Air Force

Polish WWII Fighter Aces
New!!!! Updated: 31 August, 2000

Decorations of PSP's Polish Personnel (1940-45)
NEW!!!!! - 15 March, 2001

Subjects to come:

Polish Pilots over France (1940)
Defending a pseudo-ally.

Bulgarian Volunteers in Waffen-SS
A closer look at those treacherous and pro-Germanic Bulgarians.

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