FJHUMMING: Radio Liberty’s Russian Language Broadcasts from Taiwan
For nearly 20 years, the CIA and the Republic of China collaborated to reach broadcast audiences in the Soviet Union through Radio Liberty Taiwan.
The US-sponsored “Radio Liberation” (Radiostantsiya Osvobozhdeniye) was first broadcast from transmitters in Lampertheim, Germany, on March 1, 1953, with a 20-minute program that was rebroadcast for 12 hours. The program opened with Soviet émigré Sergey Dubrovsky giving the station’s broadcast times and frequencies. This was followed by a political and moral proclamation read by Boris Vinogradov that began:
"Listen! Listen! Today, a new radio station, Liberation, begins broadcasting.” (Слушайте! Слушайте! Сегодня начинает свои передачи новая Радиостанция Освобождени)”
Almost three years earlier, on Sunday, August 13, 1950, the Chinese Nationalist shortwave broadcasting station, "The Voice of Free China," had begun a more modest effort to reach audiences the Soviet Union. The announcer in the first broadcast spoke fluent Russian but with a Chinese accent. The broadcast content was short items of international news presented straightforwardly, without comment. Soviet authorities promptly and effectively jammed the broadcast in the USSR.
This was not the last broadcast from Chinese Nationalist occupied Taiwan to reach the Soviet Union, however. The CIA-sponsored Radio Liberation Committee (RLC) and the Broadcasting Corporation of China signed an agreement on December 4, 1954, that allowed RLC to use certain transmitting facilities on Taiwan owned by the corporation. The agreement provided that the corporation furnish the land and personnel for the operation and maintenance of the facility and that RLC provide and maintain the antenna system and related equipment and parts. Under the agreement, the corporation assigned transmitting time blocks to RLC for 8 hours each day. RLC was required to pay the corporation $16.50 an hour for each transmitter provided.
The RLC had the CIA project cryptonym QKACTIVE; CIA gave the Radio Liberty Taiwan operation the cryptonym FJHUMMING.
The initial broadcasts went on air on shortwave on May 1, 1955, from a transmitter at Banqiao, located just beyond the western edge of the capital city, Taipei. This was a temporary location while a new base was constructed at Bali, on the coast 20 kilometers north of Taipei.
Initially, the international radio station at Bali contained four shortwave transmitters at 50 kw each, three of which were on the air with the international programming of Radio Liberty. The Broadcasting Corporation of China, BCC, and the Voice of Free China (VOFC) used one transmitter exclusively and the other three when available.
The programming from Radio Liberty Taiwan was beamed to the eastern areas of the Soviet Union (CIA cryptonym MHHARSH). A 1959 Soviet KGB report of jamming included this mention of RL’s Taiwan broadcasts: “In Petropavlovsk-Kamchatka, Khabarovsk, Chita and such cities as Artem, Suchan and Nakhodka (Primorsky region), programs from a branch office of this radio station, located on the island of Taiwan, were broadcast freely on frequencies 15345 and 17755 KHz.”
News programs were produced locally, while some feature programs broadcast from Taiwan were flown from Radio Liberty in Munich or New York. The process was time-consuming, so a local program department was established on Taiwan, supplemented by a correspondent in Hong Kong. Eventually, a staff of 16 persons worked for Radio Liberty in Taiwan.
Radio Liberty had a monitoring facility in Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, to monitor the effectiveness of its broadcasts originating from the site in Taiwan.
Radio Liberty's Taiwan station stopped broadcasting on December 31, 1973, due to RL's budget cutbacks. At one of the Congressional Hearings on the future of RFE and RL, Howland Sargeant justified the decision:
Mr. WHALEN. What you are saying, then is that you have reduced your mission, thus achieving this reduction in personnel.
Mr. SARGEANT. That would be partially true in the case of Radio Liberty. We do lose, I think, a significant audience in the Far Eastern part of the Soviet Union. Numerically it is a small audience, but we were broadcasting to the Maritime Provinces, for example.
Mr. WHALEN. What is the potential audience there?
Mr. SARGEANT. The potential audience is on the order of about 20 million, but because of the terrain of the mountains, I think that we were reaching an audience of somewhere between 4 and 5 million. Of course, this audience included those that lived in the areas of the Amur and Ussari Rivers where the border clashes between the Soviet Union and China took place in 1969 and the same areas I may say where the border clashes took place but with the Japanese in the middle 1930s, so that although it is a small audience, I think it has significance.
About the Author
Richard H. Cummings
Richard H. Cummings, a graduate of Boston University, was a Criminal Investigator for the U.S. Government, a Russian Linguist for the U.S. Air Force, and Director of Security at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Munich. He is also the author of three books on early Cold War history.
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