News / USA

Decades After Cold War, VOA-Coast Guard Partnership Honored

Coast Guard Honors Joint Cold War Mission With VOAi
X
June 25, 2014 3:15 PM
In 1952, amidst the Cold War, a 338-foot Coast Guard Cutter was transformed into the mobile broadcasting base of the Voice of America. Its mission for more than a decade: send information beyond the Iron Curtain to counter Soviet propaganda in more than a dozen native languages. Daniela Schrier reports from an exhibit honoring the veterans and broadcasters who served aboard the ship in the waters off of Rhodes, Greece.
In 1952, amidst the Cold War, a 338-foot Coast Guard Cutter was transformed into the mobile broadcasting base of the Voice of America. Its mission for more than a decade: send information beyond the Iron Curtain to counter Soviet propaganda in more than a dozen native languages. Daniela Schrier reports from an exhibit honoring the veterans and broadcasters who served aboard the ship in the waters off of Rhodes, Greece.
Adam Phillips

In 2014, long after the end of the Cold War, the USS Courier may not be familiar to most Americans, citizens of the former Soviet Union or the Eastern bloc. But, between 1952 and 1964, this Coast Guard vessel floated off the coast of Rhodes, Greece, and beamed thousands of hours' worth of Voice of America broadcasts behind the Iron Curtain. Ever since, veterans of this unique partnership have held anniversary reunions to celebrate their mission and the friendships it fostered. This year, they gathered at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut to enjoy an exhibit dedicated to the Courier.
 
Cold War newsreels about the Coast Guard-VOA partnership sound dated to some, but for people on both sides of the Iron Curtain separating the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe from the West, the struggle between communism and democracy was very real. 
 
“We were real proud of our job.  We got through to people who couldn’t hear the truth and we kept working to get that message across and it made us feel good to know that they got the truth from somewhere, that in their native countries was censored,” said Bob Marriott, who was part of the Courier’s original Coast Guard crew.
 
Along with news, listeners behind the Iron Curtain also relished VOA’s musical and cultural programming.

FILE - Coast Guard Ensign Henry H. Lodge, seen March 2, 1952, looks over big glass tubes of a high voltage rectifier unit aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Courier.FILE - Coast Guard Ensign Henry H. Lodge, seen March 2, 1952, looks over big glass tubes of a high voltage rectifier unit aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Courier.
x
FILE - Coast Guard Ensign Henry H. Lodge, seen March 2, 1952, looks over big glass tubes of a high voltage rectifier unit aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Courier.
FILE - Coast Guard Ensign Henry H. Lodge, seen March 2, 1952, looks over big glass tubes of a high voltage rectifier unit aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Courier.

To relay its broadcasts, the Courier used antennas far more powerful than land-based AM stations.
 
Maintaining a clear signal when the Soviets tried to disrupt or “jam” VOA broadcasts was a constant challenge that Bob Marriott likened to a high stakes game of “cat and mouse.”   
 
“We were matching our wits against the guy in Russia that was trying to jam us.  And we took pride in having a couple extra frequencies available so when he lined up on our frequency, we clicked him off and got another one and kept the program going.  We were the tip of the bayonet.  It felt real good,” said Marriott.
 
Unlike most military ships, the Courier did not carry heavy armaments or weaponry, much less bayonets. It relied on Navy vessels to come to its aid if the need arose, which sometimes happened. 
 
The Courier and VOA crews, along with their money, were a boon to Rhodes itself, which had been nearly destroyed during World War II, said Maria Lowther, a Greek who had come to the island as a refugee and later married a Coast Guardsman.      
 
“We did not have enough money to put food on the table and all of a sudden, this ship appears,” recalled Lowther.  "And the money started flowing. But above all, it was the dignity of the people that was saved. The American spirit was absolutely unbelievable.”
 
The families of Coast Guard and VOA personnel lived on Rhodes, where they bonded with the islanders. The visitors also feasted on the American spirit the VOA provided, especially in the form of rock and roll.
 
Denise Clemens was an American teenager whose father was an engineer aboard the Courier. She recalled the affections of one Greek.     
 
“I had a boy who was crazy about me and that was because of those VOA broadcasts.  He wanted a ticket to America.  And he decided I was his ticket. And so every time I would walk anywhere he’d ride his bicycle around and around singing, ‘You Are My Destiny,' by Paul Anka at the top of his lungs. He might not have known any other English, but he knew those words,” said Clemens. 
 
That boy never did win Denise’s hand. 
 
For their part, the American Coast Guardsmen and their families consider themselves winners many times over.  As one veteran officer who attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s commemorative exhibit put it: “It almost makes you cry. We made lifelong friends and comrades, and we helped win the Cold War without firing a shot. Not bad.  Not bad at all.”

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs