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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Making discoveries with a family journal

 Persian Column, Perspolis, Iran
Grandpa visited this site
The last few days have seen a whirlwind visit by my h­­usband’s father and step-mother.  They of course came to see the boys, we totally understand grandparents don’t come to see us anymore, but we all had a great time.  There were driving tours of the countryside, way too much food, talking about all manner of subjects, and of course a bit of family history.

I did corner my father-in-law and ask him to go through my grandfather’s journal with me.  He is a metallurgist and rocket scientist (no jokes) and is familiar with what my grandfather did while in the military.  We spent two days going page by page reading and deciphering the journal entries.  I pulled up Google maps and traced his routes through the mountains of Iran.  When we found the entry that simply stated “killed a cinnamon bear. It’s a beauty, about 600 pounds.” I cheered, couldn't help myself. That entry dates the picture I have of him and the bear to 7 April 1957.

It was nice to have someone familiar with military abbreviations and designations sitting there with me.  He helped me figure out key phrases to search the internet with.  This was a fantastic because I gained a lot more information on the operation he was involved with than I ever would have before.

­­My grandfather was involved with the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Iran.  These men were military advisers who assisted the native military in the country they were sent to.  From his journal I saw that he oversaw training of several different areas of military function and wrote reports for his superiors and the corresponding Iranian officers on how the troops were progressing.  It was entertaining at times, and down right disheartening at others.

In searching for explanations and information I came across several interesting declassified documents from that time frame.  Included in those findings was this report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the review of the Military Assistance Program for Iran.  The review was conducted in November 1957, the month my grandfather left.  You can read the full report here

The real shocker was discovering an episode of The Big Picture.  It was a documentary style TV series that ran in the 1950s and early 1960s.  Essentially this was the way the Army kept the American people informed about historic events around the world.  It prided itself on current events and moments that made the Army proud.  In one episode titled “Military Assistance Advisory Group: Iran” Mike Wallace takes the American people to Iran and shows them about this important operation.  If you watch it, notice how the American’s on the ground are decidedly downplayed.

This has been a real adventure the last couple days and I have to admit fascinating too.  Sometime in the near future I will go back through the journal again.  This time cataloging all the names, places, and tid-bits that I can.  These may lead me to further clues about who my grandfather was working with and what he was doing. I love it when I can find family links with historical contexts.  Now I am off to share all this with my history loving oldest child.


  1. Very exciting that your father-in-law could help you with your grandfather's journal. Judging from how things are going in Iraq and Afghanistan today, it sounds as if your grandfather had a very, very difficult and delicate job. In the fifties, it seems, maybe it was easier than it is today.

    Just out of the blue, when I saw the photo I immediately thought, "A Golden Calf!" Back to the Bible stories of my childhood . . . tho I don't remember what part of the O.T. this story is from.

    1. They were a country who was trying to be modern and come quickly into the current times. It was delicate, and frustrating at times, but he seemed to enjoy himself. Or, at least I assume because he was hunting every chance he could get.