Radio Swan

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Radio Swan was a pirate radio station based in the Swan Islands, a group of islands in the western Caribbean Sea, near the coastline of Honduras. Under the "Radio Swan" and "Radio Americas" names, the station was in operation from 1960 to 1968.


In 1960, a Central Intelligence Agency cover,[1] the Gibraltar Steamship Company (which didn't own any steamships and whose president was Thomas Dudley Cabot)[2][3] owned and established Radio Swan on Swan Island, a covert black operation[2] to win supporters for U.S. policies and discredit Fidel Castro.

The radio station began acting as a regular commercial broadcaster with sponsors such as Kleenex, Phillip Morris Co., and others lined up,[2] operating with a 50,000 watt transmitter[1] on AM 1165 (early 1960s) and 1160 and on shortwave with a power of 7,500 watts on 6000 kHz. The importance of this island was in its location and proximity to the island of Cuba, because on March 17, 1960, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had approved covert action to topple the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba. As early as October 30, 1960, the Castro government sent reconnaissance flights over Swan Island and the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala (CIA 11-3-1960).

Swan Island was claimed by the governments of both the United States and Honduras, although the island was in the de facto hands of personnel acting on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A Mr. Sumner Smith of Boston also claimed ownership. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) claimed that it had no jurisdiction over the station.

The AM transmitter in use by Radio Swan had been used by Radio Free Europe and it was taken to Swan Island by US Navy personnel. At first all broadcasts of this pseudo-commercial radio station were in the Spanish language and it was announced on air as Radio Swan, la Voz Internacional del Caribe, with its initial commercial programming coming on tape recordings from anti-Castro political groups in exile.

Cuba responded to the broadcasts by setting up a jamming station to block the transmissions of Radio Swan and initiated La Voz de INRA, or The Voice of INRA which represented the National Institute of Agrarian Reform with an anti-American message. This action was followed on January 3, 1961, by a break in diplomatic relations between both countries that had been initiated by the US. Following this action, Cuba commenced broadcasting to the US and to the world, with a new international service called Radio Havana Cuba.

In March 1961 Radio Swan announced that it would no longer sell its airtime for political programming and the station changed to an all-news format while infusing its broadcasts with coded messages. The station described itself as assisting those who are fighting Castro within Cuba and it began transmitting on fourteen frequencies. The CIA issued a press release claiming its anti-Castro broadcasts were now being beamed by seven radio stations as well as Radio Swan.

A station identifying itself as Radio Swan briefly resumed broadcasts in 1975-1976 on 6185 kHz. The station used a mailing address in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and referred to itself as "La Primera Voz Democratica de Latinoamerica" ("The First Voice of Democracy in Latin America"). Since San Pedro Sula is located on the Honduran mainland, it is possible that these broadcasts originated there rather than on Swan Island, though no positive verification has been determined.

Bay of Pigs invasion broadcasts[edit]

During the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba, which took place between April 15–19, 1961, it became obvious to all concerned that the purpose of the station was to assist in the landings. But following the abortive invasion, Radio Swan suddenly changed format again. While its tone remained anti-Castro its programming did not promote an uprising against the Cuban government. Then, the station changed its format and name. Vanguard Service Corporation became new owners of the station. Radio Swan became Radio Americas and it remained on the air until May 1968 when the station closed down and its AM transmitter was transported to South Vietnam to assist in the wars of South-East Asia.

The World Tomorrow radio program[edit]

One of the loyal sponsors who advertised on both Radio Swan and Radio Americas was Herbert W. Armstrong with The World Tomorrow radio program. In the January edition of his magazine The Plain Truth, a letter to the editor praised Armstrong by claiming that "... you could not have chosen a better station than Radio SWAN for reaching the Caribbean area. ... It is becoming popular with all those who share in the dislike of Fidel Castro and his communistic dictatorship. - Lady, Costa Rica."

In the same edition, his Radio Log listed his 'The World Tomorrow' program as being broadcast by Radio Swan in the English language at 6 p.m. on Sundays and at 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. This listing remained unchanged through the edition of January 1962. The February 1962 edition of his Radio Log listed the English-language broadcast at 6:30 p.m. on Sundays over Radio Americas, but on the same frequency as Radio Swan, while the Spanish-language broadcast was listed at the same times as before, but over Radio Swan. In the March edition, the Spanish-language broadcast was also listed as being heard over Radio Americas.

The World Tomorrow broadcast was also carried on several other radio stations around the world which also appeared to have a proprietary connection to the CIA.


  1. ^ a b "HONDURAS: Swans, Spooks and Boobies". TIME Magazine. December 6, 1961. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Kneitel, Tom (November 1985). "Inside the CIA's Secret Radio Paradise: Part I" (PDF). Popular Communications. Retrieved September 18, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Schoultz, Lars (2009). That Infernal Little Cuban Republic: The United States and The Cuban Revolution. University of North Carolina Press. Retrieved September 18, 2011. Pg. 608
  • Anonymous CIA operative. 1991 (released 4-18-05, accessed 2-18-07) Working the Cuban beat. Case number EO-2005-00090 [1]
  • CIA 11-3-1960 (released 6-6-1998. accessed 2-18-06) Cuban Developments. Current intelligence weekly review November 3, 1960. Bay of Pigs| Cuba|Castro Fidel. Case number CSI-1998-00005 [2] p. 5 "reconnaissance flights were made on 27 and 28 of October(1960) over the Swan Islands and the Guatemalan Caribbean coast—areas where the "invasion" forces are allegedly being assembled."
  • CIA Inspector General (1962, sanitized release 2-18-1998, accessed 2-18-07) Inspector General's survey of the Cuban operation and associated documents Part 1 of 2 Case number F-1996-00233 pp. 9-10, 15, 27-28, 93. [3]
  • King, J.C. 1961 (accessed 2-18-07) 1. Brief History of Radio Swan. Memorandum for: General Maxwell D. Taylor May 18, 1961 in: Proposed operations against Cuba 3-11-1961 released 2-13-2001 Dulles Papers|Dulles Allen| Dulles Collection, case number F-1985-00856.
  • Montaner, Carlos Alberto 1999 (last accessed 2-18-07) Viaje al corazón de Cuba, Plaza & Janés, Barcelona ISBN 84-01-37659-9 ISBN 978-8401376597 p. 102 [4]
  • CIA, Radio Swan and "The World Tomorrow" broadcasts to the United Kingdom: 1965-1967 [5]