Swan Island is located just off Honduras and until 1972 was disputed between Honduras and the United States. The island got its name–reportedly–because it was used as a base for a pirate named Swan in the 17th century. Swan Island also had a long history of use by the United States government.
One of the most important uses was the collection of guano. The Guano Islands Act of 1856 allowed the United States to designate otherwise unclaimed territory as part of the United States for the purpose of collecting guano which, in addition to being bird excrement, is also important because it contains phosphates used in fertilizer and gunpowder.
However, the most famous occupant of Swan Island was Radio Swan which broadcast on the AM radio band and shortwave. The station was owned by the Gibraltar Steamship Company with an office in Miami, Florida. Oddly, though, the company didn’t actually have any steamships. What it did have was some radio transmitters that had been used by Radio Free Europe and brought to the island by the United States Navy. The Gibraltar Steamship Company was actually a front for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who in May 1960 started Radio Swan to broadcast Spanish-language propaganda into Cuba, which had recently been taken over by Fidel Castro’s revolution. These were created and broadcast by various Cuban dissident groups in Miami.
However, infighting between these groups as well as misleading information lead to Radio Swan announcing in May 1961 that it would no longer carry political broadcasts and switched to reporting news, which was under the direct control of the CIA. This news carried coded messages, presumably aimed for Cuban dissidents who had fled Cuba after Castro took power. In April 1961 the station gave a coded message stating that the Bay of Pigs operation had commenced – an attempt by Cuban dissidents and US special forces to overthrow Castro, and that all Cubans should join in and make the invasion a success.. The message was:
Alert! Alert! Look well at the rainbow. The fish will rise soon. Chico is in the house. Visit him. The sky is blue. The fish will not take much time to rise. The fish is red.
As history showed, the Bay of Pigs operation was a fiasco, with the United States involvement being exposed. Radio Swan changed its name to Radio Americas, and continued broadcasting until mid-1968.
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