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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid