The Courier was one of 10 built at the Froemming Bros. shipyard in Milwaukee. It originally was named the USS Doddridge. When completed in 1945, however, the ship was assigned to the War Shipping Administration of the U.S. Maritime Commission and renamed the Coastal Messenger. Its commercial operator was the Standard Fruit Co. of New Orleans.
The Courier, which was built at the end of World War II, first operated as a cargo ship under the name Coastal Messenger.
At a ceremony in February 1952, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed the ship was “dedicated to the cause of peace,” adding that “this vessel will not be armed with guns or with any instruments of destruction. But it will be a valiant fighter in the cause of freedom. It will carry a precious cargo and that is truth!”
The Coast Guard’s Courier was outfitted with a short “flight deck” on which the crews released a balloon that carried the radio antenna aloft.
By 1950, the Soviets had already built rings of jamming stations around the two Voice of America stations in Europe (at Salonika and Munich) that beamed garbled transmissions directly at the VOA facilities.
On board the Courier, if the captain suspected the broadcasts were being jammed, he would raise his anchor and proceed to a new location, broadcasting as he went. Most of the radio programs transmitted from the ship originated in the VOA’s New York studios and then were rebroadcast from the Courier.
During its conversion at Hoboken, a large platform called the “flight deck,” was erected on the ship’s main deck. This was where a 69-foot-long balloon, which carried the antenna aloft, was prepared. The balloon was of the same type that the British used to protect London during the German air raids and was called a barrage balloon.
After its service as a floating radio station, the Coast Guard used the Courier as a reserve training cutter until 1973. By mid-1964, advancements in electronics made the Courier’s mission redundant and the ship returned to Yorktown, Va., where it took on a new role as a “port security school” or reserve training cutter for the Coast Guard. By 1973, the Courier entered the federal government’s James River Reserve Fleet, where it lay until March 1977, when it was sold for scrap at Brownsville, Texas. For 32 years, the Courier served the United States well.
Captain James McNamara, who retired as president of the National Cargo Bureau, currently serves as chairman of the Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler, N.Y., and remains active in the U.S. maritime industry.