December 26, 2017

1970. The U.S. Navy's Military Dolphin Program

Navy Reveals Existence of Marine Mammal Program
Tuffy the military dolphin in the 1960s (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

December 26, 1970

The Navy finally has admitted that it has been conducting one of the most bizarre and exciting series of experiments in the long and bloody history of warfare, and that Operation Porpoise, or whatever it's called, is now underway in Vietnam. A team of three dolphins, those bottle-nosed, grinning, gregarious and capricious underwater mammals, have been drafted for duty in Southeast Asia.

But we're wondering if the Navy really knows what it's getting into. Historians know that the air-breathing dolphin has been cavorting in the seas long before man learned how to swim, but it wasn't until scuba gear allowed divers to join these man-size cetaceans did anyone discover how truly remarkable these animals really are.

They seem to revel in the company of humans and have a language that may be more complex and communicative than any land-based tongue. Their brain is comparable in size and composition to our own, and their strength and endurance underwater is phenomenal.

The navies of the world—the Soviet Union is known to have their own secret dolphin experiments underway—first became interested in dolphins to discover how they propel themselves through the water with such great and silent speed without leaving a bubble in their wake, a secret of great potential military value if adaptable to submarines or torpedoes.

But now it develops that dolphins get a great kick out of working with the Navy's aquanauts. During the SEALAB I and II projects they carried tools, equipment, and even mail to the divers. In 1966, a dolphin named Tuffy located a $4,700 discarded cradle from a Regulus missile launch—the first time the Navy ever recovered one. They can distinguish between different types of metals and even tell the difference between a 2 1/8th and a 2 1/4 inch ball bearing.

So now the Navy says the dolphin team has been sent to Vietnam on a "surveillance and detection mission." It could be a most dangerous move. As far as we know, dolphins don't make war against each other or any other living creatures on this Earth. If they come to understand they are being crassly used for man's ultimate atrocity against man, might they not take vengeance against all humans?

The US Navy had better watch it step.