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Brief History of Radio Swan

[From Taylor report]



Brief History of Radio Swan

1. On 17 March 1960, President Eisenhower approved a covert action program to bring about the replacement of the Castro regime.  Within the propaganda framework of that program, an important objective was to create and utilize a high-powered medium and short wave radio station. CIA was asked to provide such a station, outside the continental limits of the United States, and have it ready for operation within sixty (60) days.

2. Swan Island, in the Caribbean, was chosen as an appropriate site. The United States Navy furnished CIA with splended support: within sixty days, equipment had been brought from [intentional blank], a landing strip was cleared on the island, and the station was able to go on air on 17 May of the same year, precisely on schedule.

3. Originally it was planned that Radio Swan would be a clandestine station [intentional blank]. Just prior to inauguration, however, it was decided the station should be a commercial one. This was at the request of the Navy, which reasonably argued that should their participation in construction of a black facility be known, explanations would be difficult.

4. Using a "commercial" station for the tactical and strategic tasks envisaged for Radio Swan is not, of course, the most desirable way to support a covert operation. The only pracitical method of operation is to "sell space". Thus, program time on Radio Swan was gold to various Cuban groups. These included organizations of workers, students, women, two publications in exile, two radio stations in exile, and several political groups. [intentional blank] Programs (on tape) were produced in [intentional blank] and later, on Swan Island.

5. Radio Swan effectively reached not only its target area of Cuba, but the entire Caribbean as well. Soon after broadcasts began Castro started jamming, but was sucessful in hindering reception only in the City of Havana. Scores of letters were received from all parts of Cuba to show that the station had listeners. As late as March 1961, a survey was made to determine the extent of listening coverage. An inexpensive ballpoint pen was offered to those listeners who would write in to the station. The reply was immediate: almost 3,000 letters from 26 countries. This barrage of mail included significant amounts from all parts of Cuba.

6. As Radio Swan progressed, it became the symbol of the anti-Castro effort within Cuba and of opposition to Castro throughout the hemisphere. Toward the end of 1960, the effectiveness of Radio Swan began to diminish. Although great numbers of Cubans still listened to the station, its credibility and reputation began to suffer as the result of statements representing the selfish interests of the Cuban groups producing the various programs. In the first place, these groups talked overmuch about their activities in Miami and the hard fight they were conducting along Biscayne Boulevard. Naturally, the Cubans who were suffering under the Castro dictatorship within Cuba resented this. Secondly, the Cuban programs became a fulcrum where individual political ambitions of Cuban exiles in Miami were presented to the other Cubans in Miami, forgetting the all-important target audience within Cuba. Finally, each program fought with the other for "scoops". As time passed and the Cubans found that their sources of information were no better than the next fellow's, the program producers began to exaggerate in order to give their broadcasts a touch of sensationalism. They made statements which were obvious lies to listeners. An example: One of their announcers stated that there were 3,000 Russians in a park in Santiago de Cuba -- the residents had only to walk to the park to see that this was untrue. Moreover, the various programs began to defy coordination. All programs but one told the Cuban militiaman that he would be a hero on the day that he defected from Castro. The sole exception told the Cuban militiaman that he would be hanged regardless of what he did. [intentional blank] This action failed to achieve proper control.

7. As this unfortunate situation developed, the military operation was about to be launched. It was obvious that CIA could not allow uncoordinated programming to continue while the station attempted to provide tactical support to military forces. On the 27th of March 1961 each program producer received a letter from the management of Radio Swan informing him of the termination of his program. Broadcasting was not suspended. Rather, it was immediately replaced with a new, overall programming schedule--more broadcasting hours than before [intentional blank] Thus Radio Swan was converted into a station which provided the Cuban people with straight news as well as a program which stated its only function was to assist those who were fighting Castro within Cuba. This was the beginning of an intensified propaganda campaign directed against Castro. Within a few days after the change, Radio Mambi, a Cuban government station, said to its listeners, "the hysterical parrots of Radio Swan have recently raised their voices scandalously." On the day following these declarations by Radio Mambi, President Osvaldo Dorticos declared in a speech over another radio station, "Cubans must be alert for lies and attempts to destroy the revolution through psychological warfare." A Cuban newspaper, at the same time, repeated Dorticos' statement: "Our enemies are intensifying psychological warfare to find weak points in our domestic front."

8. During the military action in Cuba, Radio Swan was used in tactical support of the strike force [intentional blank] Radio Swan was monitored by hemisphere radio stations and by world news services, and was an important factor in presenting the desired picture of the fighting in Cuba to world opinion. Despite some press allegations, Radio Swan was not responsible for the wild rumors during those hectic days. [intentional blank]

9. When it became obvious that the main attack on Cuba had been unsuccessful, Radio Swan deliberately anticipated Castro's victory [illegible] by admitting that the Cuban Expeditionary Force had been stopped by Communist armament, but that many of the Freedom fighters had been able to join resistence groups in the hills. Radio Swan then returned to a calm presentation of world news and over a period of one week changed from round-the-clock broadcasting to a normal schedule, avoiding all program content designed to incite the Cuban people. The producer of the consolidated program was instructed to present programs with a minimum of [illegible] content, but to continue the anti-Castro orientation through the selection of news items. At the present time present time, Radio Swan is broadcasting simultaneously over medium and short wave daily from 0500 to 0600, from 1230 to 1400, and from 1800 to 0015 (E.S.T.).  The broadcasts are made up of hourly news, [intentional blank] and other commercial programs including the relay of [intentional blank]  Neither during nor after the strike phase has there been any [illegible] of Radio Swan from any country other than Cuba and the United States.

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