The Navy and Kamikaze Dolphins Part 1

About the rumors that the United States Navy trained dolphins to operate combat and kamikaze missions.


Imagine a race of alien creature, probably brighter than man. Their language is sophisticated, but its structure and logic are so different from ours that we will probably never be able to translate it. They can swim 40 knots an hour. They can dive to depths in the water that would burst man's lungs. Imagine that these sentient creatures also love the human race and will do, for love, what humans ask of them. Then consider how man might make use of them in war.

The creatures are dolphins. The dolphin is a mammal, one of the toothed whales, which, though it lives in the ocean, breathes air and nurses its young with milk as humans do.

Dolphins may have already been used in war to torpedo enemy ships, blowing themselves up as they did so.


1973 headlines read. The stories were as sensational as the headlines. They told of secret military operations in which dolphins with explosive backpacks rammed enemy submarines, committing suicide in the process. They told of dolphins planting magnetized explosives, activated by a timing device, on the sides of enemy vessels below the water line.

The Day of the Dolphin, a movie based on this sinister rumor, related the story of Alpha and Beta, a lovable pair of dolphins who were taught to understand and speak English by a "good guy" scientist. Whereupon Beta, kidnapped by a "bad guy" government power, was equipped with a bomb backpack and sent to blow up the presidential yacht, only to be saved by the scientist and Alpha.

How true were the stories on which Day of the Dolphin must have been based? The Navy's official statement was, "In spite of science fiction, conjectural and sensational so-called news stories to the contrary, the Navy has never, is not, and has no plans to train any animal to injure itself in any way in connection with any alleged military mission or tactic."

Moreover, the Navy said, it would be impractical to use dolphins as suicide bombs. After all, it takes 3 months and $50,000 just to "tame" a dolphin, and far more money and time to train one. That's an extremely expensive bomb. Moreover, no matter how well trained, an explosive-carrying dolphin might miss his target. If he did, he would become a highly dangerous moving bomb. What if he were to hit a friendly pleasure boat or dock by mistake?

There were other stories. It was said that dolphins had been acting as undersea detectives and counterspies in Camranh Bay in Vietnam for over a year. Part of their job was to intercept any enemy frogmen who sneaked into the harbor, it was said. Some stories claimed that the dolphins were literally transformed into lethal weapons with switchblade knives attached to their beaks, which they would drive into enemy frogmen on a go-ahead signal from a radioman on board a ship. Such dolphins were supposedly used around Haiphong Harbor.

James Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Laboratories, a pioneer in dolphin research, said, on the CBS television program 60 Minutes, that 50 to 60 enemy swimmers were indeed intercepted by Navy dolphins in Camranh Bay. He himself had trained 3 of the dolphins; the Navy, the other 3. Ray Harmon, who played the role of an enemy diver in the Navy's Anti-Swimmer Dolphin Program, told how dolphins were trained to run divers to the surface and corral them in one spot. Other reports said that dolphins were trained to tear off swimmers' face masks, regulators, and swim fins.

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