Our Visit to the “Voice Of America”

One of the benefits of attending the Dayton Amateur Radio Association “HamVention” every year is to spend time with my long-time (notice I didn’t say “old”) friends.  Dave, Ed, and I grew up together in the 60’s in Redford Township, Michigan – a western suburb of Detroit.  We played together, we rode bikes together, we got in trouble together and we attended school together (since the 2nd grade) and we also got our ham radio licenses together – all first licensed in 1969.

This year at HamVention we decided we’d like to take a trip away from the main venue and visit the site of the Bethany Transmitting Station of the world famous Voice Of America (VOA) located just off I-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati.

VOA Bethany Transmitting Station

The VOA Bethany Relay Station was designed by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation.  Although the actual recording studios were in New York City and later moved to Washington, D.C., the signals were relayed through dedicated AT&T long distance telephone lines to the transmitter site near Cincinnati.

The VOA began in 1942 as a radio program designed to explain America’s policies during World War II and to bolster the morale of its allies throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. After the war, VOA continued as part of America’s Cold War propaganda arsenal and was primarily directed toward the western European audience. In February 1947, VOA began its first Russian-language broadcasts into the Soviet Union.

With the words, “Hello! This is New York calling,” the U.S. Voice of America (VOA) begins its first radio broadcasts to the Soviet Union. The VOA effort was an important part of America’s propaganda campaign against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The initial broadcast explained that VOA was going to “give listeners in the USSR a picture of life in America.” News stories, human-interest features, and music comprised the bulk of the programming. The purpose was to give the Russian audience the “pure and unadulterated truth” about life outside the USSR. Voice of America hoped that this would “broaden the bases of understanding and friendship between the Russian and American people.”

The Bethany site encompassed hundreds of acres of land for the huge rhombic antenna farm that could be switched to direct the 1.2 million watts of radio frequency programming to different locations around the world, depending on the time of day and atmospheric conditions.

In one of the pictures above you can see my friend Dave talking to the last remaining employee of the VOA at this site — Dave’s getting quite a history lesson.

Note the windows at the top of the tower in the first picture – It kind of looks like an airport control tower.  I asked our tour guide the purpose of that tower.  His response … “for sharpshooters”.  This Bethany Relay Station was specifically placed here because of it’s distance from the east coast stations where they could be more susceptible to enemy attack.  Even though the Bethany Station was so far west, they still stationed military armed personnel to protect the Voice Of America to make sure the message always got out.

Due to new satellite and internet technology, the need for the high power RF radio broadcast stations has diminished and the station was closed as an active transmitting site in 1994.  Fear not however as the Voice Of America still broadcasts every day from their studios in Washington D.C. and their programming can be heard on the internet and on some local PBS network stations around the country.  Find out more and listen to VOA live at https://www.voanews.com/

And thanks to dedicated volunteers, we were able to tour the museum.  Take a look at the pictures below.

Here’s a few pix of us boys at the Dayton HamVention and at the VOA

4 thoughts on “Our Visit to the “Voice Of America”

  1. Hi, new follower to your blog.

    I (we) traveled around the world for 4 years as a mid-life retirement back in 1987-90. Back then there weren’t smart phones or laptops. The only “electronics” we traveled with was an AM/FM-shortwave radio. We listened to the VOA and the BBC all through Asia and Africa. Those and Newsweek and Time were our only way to know what was going on in the news. I can remember waiting until night time to listen to VOA as that was when it came in the clearest without static.

    I’m now traveling full time as I sold my house 2 years ago. I’m in my truck camper for half the year, (Travels with Charlie, but w/o a Charlie) and out of the country somewhere for the other half. I now travel with a phone and laptop and didn’t even know that VOA still exists. Thanks for this blog as I’m now gonna bookmark the link to the VOA. It would have been interesting last year when I returned to Vietnam.

    Thanks again.

    1. Steve, thanks for your comments and I can relate to your “pre-internet” communications systems as you and I are of the same era. We also sold our home a couple years ago and travel now … loving the life. Take care,

    1. I didn’t know they were still in operation. I remember seeing the HUGE antenna farm along I75 when I used to go to Cinti when I was in the medical ewup business

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