Monday, March 20, 2006

The Navy's Swimmer Nullification Program

This headline on the BBC website caught my eye:

Pentagon plans cyber-insect army

The article goes on to talk about some DARPA plan for implanting microtechnology in butterflies to sniff out explosives or something equally weird. But it reminded me of something I read about the Japanese using bats to carry incendiaries in World War 2. And, when I read a little farther in the BBC article, that story, about the bats was mentioned.

But, the article lists other animal warfare attempts including tantalizing information on some secret US Navy program that used trained dolphins to
. . . tear off diving gear of Vietcong divers and drag them to interrogation, sources linked to the programme say. Syringes later placed on dolphin flippers to inject carbon dioxide into divers, who explode.
Wow, exploding Viet Cong frogmen! Could this really be true?

Well I did some research and came up with a possible source for the BBC's claim. In 1990, William Johnson published a book called the Rose Colored Menagerie, which says:
By 1972, the US Navy had deployed a top-secret team of "warrior porpoises" in Vietnam, part of its "Swimmer Nullification Program", yet another Orwellian code name for killing. For at least a year, these experimental dolphins were utilised to protect strategic Vietnamese harbours against infiltration by enemy frogmen.

According to Dr. James Fitzgerald, pioneer in dolphin research for the CIA and US Navy, after detecting an intruding diver, the animals were trained to pull off his face mask and flippers, tear the air-supply tubes, and finally "capture him for interrogation." In fact the dolphins serving in Vietnam seem to have been considerably less benign. Indeed, it was the increasingly sordid exploitation of cetaceans by the US military which began to provoke repulsion amongst its own dolphin trainers. Several resigned in disgust, and experienced few qualms about betraying at least some of the military's secrets to the public. According to Dr. Michael Greenwood, the Navy's dolphins had also been taught to kill, with knives attached to their flippers and snouts.

Worse was to come however, when dolphins were equipped with large hypodermic syringes loaded with pressurised carbon dioxide. As the dolphin rammed an enemy frogman with the needle, the rapidly expanding gas would cause the victim to literally explode. Years later, it was revealed that the killer dolphins of Vietnam had actually been responsible for the deaths of 40 Vietcong divers, and accidentally, two American servicemen.
By the way, the entire book seems to be online and free to view here. I looked through parts of it online and it's interesting as well as grotesque and depressing

But, adding a bit of credibility to the dolphin hit man idea is this US Navy website. Here's a quote from that page:
While dogs work as effective sentries on land, dolphins and sea lions cannot be outmatched as sentries in the water. In the MK 6 MMS, dolphins and sea lions effectively protect piers, ships, harbors, and anchorages against unauthorized swimmers, SCUBA divers, closed-circuit divers, and swimmer delivery vehicles.

MK 6 MMS was first operationally deployed with dolphins during the Vietnam War from 1971 to 1972 and Bahrain from 1986 to 1987
Does "anchorages against unauthorized swimmers" really mean "blowing them up with CO2?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yes, i just learnd of this on site:

this is the most scary thing to imagine... a smiple, peaceful animal that causes such a brutal death. somehow appropriate that a couple of their trainers also died in this horrific way.

of course now that its out of the bag, i'm sure many countries have similar programs. watch out scuba divers know a few of those dolphins probably got loose!