The Courier was created in Hoboken New Jersey and funded by the US Information Agency/Voice Of America. The project was called Vagabond Able and approved by President Harry S. Truman in 1951. This was to be the first of 7 transmitting ships to be able to move into an area and begin high power broadcasting. The Courier was the only ship made, as the high cost and international broadcasting laws (the ship was not allowed to broadcast from the high seas but it was allowed in territorial waters of consenting nations) caused the USIA to curtail the scope of the program.
The hull was a 338 foot cargo vessel 5800 Tons previously named the Coastal Messenger.
The ship was outfitted with 3 each 500KW 3 phase 60 Hz. diesel generators to power a 150KW water cooled broadcast band transmitter and 2 each 35 KW medium frequency band transmitters. The main antenna was carried aloft by a helium filled barrage balloon. The two medium frequency transmitters fed two folded trilons on the forecastle of the ship. There was a receiving room aft of the bridge and a series of dipole antennas were located around the stern.
The ship was Commissioned "The U.S.Coast Guard Cutter Courier in the Bethlehem Steel Co. Shipyard on Feb.15th, 1952. CDR. Oscar C.B. Wev was its first Commanding officer he and the 96 man crew sail to Washington DC where President Truman presided in a dedication ceremony March 4, 1952. He praised the ship and its cargo of Truth. The Ship then departed on a six week shake down cruise to the Caribbean, Canal Zone and Mexico. And returned home for assignment. Korea was thought by the Captain and crew to be the destination but that was changed to The Island of Rhodes, Greece.
The Gray Lady sailed into Rhodes Harbor in August 1952 and there was a submarine threat to sink the Courier mentioned by a Communist newspaper article. The Ship retreated to Turkey and when the threat was deemed false the Courier went back to Rhodes and began broadcasting on September, 7, 1952. The local population viewed the ship and its crew with mixed emotions. The Island was under Italian domain from 1812 to the end of WW2 and now they were back under the Greek Flag and Queen Fredrica. After a period of adjustment the Americans were generally accepted into the Greek community. Many of the single crew members rented apartments and the married personnel rented homes. The Crew got together and started a Courier Club in the City of Rhodes where they could meet and socialize when on off the ship. Softball was a favorite past time and a team was formed to play the teams of the 6th Fleet when they came in for R and R.
After the balloon broke loose two times the USIA engineers designed an inverted delta antenna that fitted between the masts. There was a slight loss in signal output but being free of the balloon problems proved to be well worth the loss. A receiving site was constructed on the highest point of Monti Smith a hill south of the city of Rhodes. A VHF link was set up to send the program material down to the ship. Many innovative antennas were designed and implemented to thwart Russian jamming and natural phenomena such as selective fading.
In 1964 the ship was ordered to return to the United States and all the transmitting equipment and generators were off loaded in Athens and given to the Greek Government. The ship retuned to the U.S. and was converted to a reseve training ship.In 1974 it was retired to the dead ship fleet in Virginia. Shortly after that it was towed to Texas and cut up for scrap.
The crew has had nine reunions starting in '76 and we went back to Rhodes in October 2002 the 50th anniversary of the ship sailing ino Rhodes harbor. Future reunions are being planned.
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