Home | Back to DX History
The USCGC Courier

On April 18, 1952, the Voice of America floating station aboard the 338-foot USCGC Courier commenced broadcasting during a brief cruise to the Panama Canal Zone. With 80 men and 10 officers aboard, plus three VOA engineers, the Courier was to be the first of a proposed fleet of "Truth Ships" designed to defeat Soviet jamming by operating close to VOA target areas. But it was the only such ship that made it to air. One of the novel features of the early Courier installation was a 35 by 69 foot barrage balloon that held the medium wave antenna aloft. (The balloon had a tendency to break loose and was eventually replaced by a permanent antenna.) After Panama, the Courier headed to its permanent assignment in Rhodes. From there it identified as the Courier until 1959, when the ship's name was dropped from the ID and the Courier became the VOA transmitter "at Rhodes." A land-based station was installed at Rhodes in 1964, whereupon the Courier was retired from VOA service.

  • A postal cachet from the VOA-Courier.
  • A postal cachet issued on the occasion of the ship's visit to Detroit in 1967, three years after it left VOA service.
  • A closeup postcard view of the ship maneuvering through the Panama Canal in 1952. (See the back of the card for some interesting text.)
  • The following was taken from some text that appeared in an eBay advertisement for a postal cover for the USCGC Courier: "Naval cover from the post office on board the USCGC Courier (WAGR-410) commemorating her service as a transmitter for Voice of America broadcasts. Postmarked on 10 March 1953, just a year after she was acquired by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The text of the green rubber stamp cachet reads 'VOA/TRUTH/USCGC COURIER.' The Courier was built in 1945. Prior to her Coast Guard service, the Courier was known as the SS Coastal Messenger, in commercial service. She was acquired and commissioned by the Coast Guard as WAGR-410 on 15 February 1952. From 1952 until 1964 the Courier was used to transmit Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts from the Mediterranean Sea. She was reclassified as a training ship (WTR-410) on 30 April 1966, transferred to the Maritime Administration on 4 October 1972, and struck on 31 January 1975." Here is a picture of one of these envelopes. The postmark looks like March 10, 1958, but comparison with other like Courier postmarks suggests it is actually March 10, 1953. Here also is a postcard view of WTR-410"U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Courier (WTR-410). Floating 'Voice of America' station from 1952-1964 in Rhodes, Greece: now serving in the CG Reserve Training program on the Great Lakes and the Eastern and Gulf coasts. Based in Yorktown, Virginia."
  • A reply card from the USCGC Courier while in Panama.
  • A 1952 VOA-USCGC Courier QSL while the ship was in Panama.
  • A 1963 VOA Rhodes QSL
  • A QSL-card from SV0WV, a ham operator aboard the Courier. Operator Larry Mennitt was in Rhodes from 1959 to 1964, and served many tours of duty at VOA stations around the world thereafter. He was much in demand on the air because the "Dodecanese Islands" were considered a separate country in the ham radio world (as they are under the NASWA country list).
  • A small card showing the ship's balloon and antenna.
  • A homemade postcard bearing two different Courier postmarks for June 13, 1952.

Here is a recording of one of the Spanish-language announcements used by the USCGC Courier.

"[La Voz de los] Estados Unidos de América transmitiendo a través del Courier con la estación flotante KU2XAJ en aguas del Canal de Panamá. Esta emisora flotante de La Voz de los Estados Unidos de América está probando su equipo electrónico con programas en castellano que pueden escucharse desde las 5 hasta las 11 de la noche, hora de Panamá, en las frecuencias de 1.510 kilociclos onda larga y 9.690 y 6.110 kilociclos onda corta. Estos programas podrán escucharse hasta el domingo 27. Los técnicos de La Voz de los Estados Unidos de América agradecerán los informes que se reciban de los oyentes relativos a la claridad y fuerza de nuestra señal. Nuestra dirección, mientras dure este período de prueba, es Courier, Apartado 2016, Balboa, Zona del Canal. Y ahora, amigos, son las 7 de la noche y hora de presentar a Tito Arriagada con el Noticiero Courier."

English translation: "[Voice of] America transmitting from the Courier, seaborne station KU2XAJ in the waters of the Panama Canal. This seaborne broadcasting station of the Voice of America is testing its electronic equipment with programs in Spanish that can be heard from 5 to 11 p.m., Panama time, on the frequencies of 1510 kc. mediumwave and 9690 and 6110 kc. shortwave. These programs will be available until Sunday the 27th. The engineers of the Voice of America would appreciate listener reports regarding the clarity and strength of our signal. Our address during this testing period is Courier, P.O. Box 2016, Balboa, Canal Zone. Now, friends, it is 7 p.m. and time to present Tito Arriagada with the Courier News."

This recording was made in 1952 by Sweden Calling DXers host Arne Skoog. Thanks to the Sveriges DX Forbund, to Henrik Klemetz, who identified and edited the clips, and to Erik Koie, who digitized the original phonograph record.

  • USCGC Courier NFKW - This is the site of the USCGC Courier Association. It contains many photos and links to other sources.
  • USCGC Courier WAGR/WAT-410 - This is the official U.S. Coast Guard site, and it contains much detailed information about the ship, its travels and its crew.
  • "A Battleship Without Guns" - This is a book-like presentation on the Courier.
  • Modesto Radio Museum - "Voice of America Broadcasts from Coast Guard Cutter."
  • Video - "Coast Guard Cutter 'Courier'" - A Coast Guard video narrated by Gregory Peck.
  • Video - "Decades after Cold War, VOA-Coast Guard Partnership Honored.
  • Video - USCGC Courier VOA Newscast by Adam Phillips, 2014.
  • Videos - YouTube, More Courier videos.