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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More