10 communist radio ships

Ship details: Unknown. 

Planned offshore radio station: On July 8th 1971, the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf published a leaked report from the CIA. It revealed that 10 pirate radio ships based on the Radio North Sea operation, were under construction in the Polish port of Gdansk. The programme was under the direction of the Institut für Technische Untersuchungen. This was believed to be a cold war riposte to the US-based operation Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. It was also likely that such vessels would incorporate a SIGINT (signals intelligence capability), which was also clearly a feature of the North Sea operation. Publication of the report compromised the operation and work on the ships ceased. [Story by Paul Harris, published in the Scottish newspaper The Herald on February 1st 2001]

Mike Barraclough commenting: “No other newspaper seems to have posted this claim nor has the actual documentation claiming this been published. There’s extensive CIA documentation that has been made available online by the US Government including much on their involvement in broadcasting, nothing can be found on these claims. None of these stations came on the air either.”

Here is an English translation of the article from “De Telegraaf”:

“Shipyard Secrets from Poland – Ten Red Pirate Radio Stations for Europe – CIA Received Plan from Workers

Workers from shipyards in Northern Poland handed over a carefully guarded plan of the Eastern Bloc countries to Western intelligence agencies, particularly the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), during their strikes in the fall of last year. The plan aimed at launching a powerful anti-American propaganda offensive using Russian trawlers converted into powerful broadcasting ships at these shipyards. These ships were intended to broadcast from the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to target Western European countries, Israel, and North African nations.

The premature discovery of this grandiose scheme, details of which can only now be revealed, has, at the very least, delayed and possibly thwarted the execution of communist plans. The intention was to discredit American politics and undermine the economic position of the U.S. in the involved countries. Additionally, it was (or is) aimed at undermining the authority and societal structures of Western countries through propaganda broadcasts.


American and German sources declare that it is established that the countries included in the operational plan also involve the Netherlands. Intelligence services in several Western European countries are now searching for agents from communist states and their accomplices who have been or are collecting material in Western countries about individuals and institutions for future broadcasts from the broadcasting ships.


A preliminary cost estimate for this, the largest-known political propaganda offensive in history, amounts to approximately 2 billion dollars, expressed in Dutch guilders, more than fl 7 billion. The intelligence services in Warsaw Pact countries would have had to contribute to the total amount through a system of proportional contributions. The majority of the funds were intended for:

  • Conversion of trawlers from the Soviet Union into radio broadcasting ships.
  • Technical equipment of these ships with what is called “high-quality broadcasting equipment.”
  • A meticulously detailed system for supplying these ships, independent of the navies of the participating countries.

The conversion of these trawlers took place not only in Polish shipyards but also in East Germany. The Polish port of Gdansk, formerly known as Danzig, located on the Baltic Sea, served as the main center for installing the equipment.

The (preliminary) ten radio broadcasting ships, adapted and equipped for this purpose, would not have a fixed location outside territorial waters off the coast of the targeted country but would cruise around. They would operate in the 200 to 400-meter band with transmitters ranging from 1100 to 1400 kHz.

Political Aspect

The American intelligence agency CIA has determined that the broadcast programs would primarily oppose the United States’ Vietnam policy. The role played by the Nixon administration in reaching a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Arab dispute would be portrayed as unfavorably as possible.

The “material” for this would be supplied by Egypt. Specially trained “commentators” are part of the “international” crews of the ships, capable of using the language of the country for which the broadcasts are intended.

Due to a strong suspicion that one of the main information centers, responsible for gathering data on the political situation in the countries selected as targets for this propaganda offensive, is located on West German territory, Chancellor Brandt was personally informed about it during his visit to Washington a week and a half ago.

Also, the visit of the head of the CIA, Helms, to the Israeli Prime Minister, Mrs. Golda Meir, is related to the discovery of the plan.


If the broadcasting ships were to become active, action could not be taken based on the Strasbourg Convention because it only prohibits assistance from the territory of countries that have ratified the convention. The ships themselves are “immune” as long as they remain outside territorial waters. Their supply would be provided by East European ships, originating from the territory of the Eastern Bloc, where no international provision or even the Strasbourg Convention is applicable.

Providing assistance in the form of intelligence on individuals and institutions in the relevant Western countries, when such gathering has taken place in these countries, is illegal.


In this context, it is interesting that the East German espionage and agitation stronghold, the Ministry for State Security in East Berlin, has almost openly been trying to attract West German journalists in recent months.

Newspaper advertisements offer journalists a good supplementary income, amounting to around 1000 guilders per month. Interested parties are instructed to contact an address in Berlin, which turns out to be East Berlin.

So far, only cases are known of journalists who, after realizing which way the wind was blowing, have angrily publicized the matter. The question remains how many West German journalists have shown fewer scruples.


Lately, higher and technical personnel seeking a new job with a West German newspaper also repeatedly receive offers from East Berlin.

For a further discussion, the “applicants” are invited to come to West Berlin, take the S-Bahn to East German Friedrichstrasse station, and sit in a certain café near that station at a specified time.

Curious individuals who accepted the invitation were informed that they could gather information about institutions and people for good money.”

Planned location: The ships were intended to broadcast from the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to target Western European countries, Israel, and North African nations. It is possible that one of these ships was used for Russian propaganda transmissions directed to China.

1971-07-08 De Telegraaf