DEFENDER DOLPHINS: The Story of Project Short Time is the never-before-told eyewitness account of a unique and daring SECRET project during the Vietnam War involving the first-ever military use of dolphins.
Even though the facts contained in DEFENDER DOLPHINS were declassified in 1992, no one has attempted to document the amazing project — until now. Myths and lies have filled the void, calling into question the integrity of the program that saved lives in Vietnam, added to scientific knowledge, and laid a foundation for modern-day partnerships with trained dolphins, many of them descendants of the original defender dolphins. Ten years in the making, DEFENDER DOLPHINS corrects the misconceptions by spelling out the true story.
DEFENDER DOLPHINS begins with the early days of nascent marine mammal research at California’s Naval Ordnance Test Station China Lake and Point Mugu Naval Missile Center, and follows the “Secret Fish People" at the Naval Undersea Center Hawaii Lab, to deployment of the Swimmer Defense System at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. Behind-the-scenes stories bring to life the men and women who sacrificed to make Project Short Time a success. The book also effectively refutes many of the rumors, distortions, and misinformation still floating around about military use of dolphins.
DEFENDER DOLPHINS highlights the vision, ingenuity, persistence, and personal sacrifice of the pioneers who braved low budgets, brutal deadlines, and bureaucratic snafus to achieve something new and great with Garth, John, Slan, Tinker and Toad — the defender dolphins.
PRAISE FOR DEFENDER DOLPHINS
Over time, U.S. secrets come to light — through loose lips or declassification. The latter has resulted in Hal Goforth’s detailed and fascinating account of a clandestine effort undertaken decades ago during the Vietnam war, to protect military assets from underwater threats. A security system relying on the most intelligent of marine creatures — the dolphin — proved successful in accomplishing this mission, a story now told by one personally involved.
— LCOL James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret), Author of Bare Feet, Iron Will—Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields
I am the creator and co-author of the Flipper story. I trained “Mitzi,” the first dolphin to swim with a human in the open ocean. Mitzi was used in the first Flipper movie. I also trained “Susie,” who was in the second movie, Flipper’s New Adventure and the first dolphin used in the TV series Flipper.
Having worked with dolphins for years, I believe we have only scratched the surface understanding their level of intelligence. I believe Defender Dolphins would be of great interest to readers regarding the use of dolphins by the U.S. Navy and their exploits in the Vietnam conflict.
— Ricou Browning, Dolphin Trainer, Creator and Co-Author of Flipper
Defender Dolphins reveals how a handful of dedicated scientist, engineers and biologist came together to confront one of the most difficult challenges the Navy faced in Vietnam, and still faces today. Hal Goforth tells the truth about how the Navy effectively used dolphins to protect its fleet at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during the heat of the Vietnam War. His knowledge of the Navy’s first Swimmer Defense System is unsurpassed.
— Ron Seiple, CAPT (Ret), a decorated two-time Vietnam veteran Navy SEAL, and former Science Advisor for the Commander Pacific Fleet who was considered one of the Navy’s experts in Swimmer Defense Systems.
In recent years, the public has come to appreciate the remarkable ability of service dogs to protect our military in the deserts, cities and mountains. There is another animal group that has long gone unnoticed and underappreciated – the U.S. Navy dolphins that have protected our military at sea for the past fifty years. Hal Goforth’s remarkable story details for the first time the partnership forged between man and dolphins in service during the Vietnam War. Melding history, dolphin biology, and behavior, and an insider’s view of a military mission, Dr. Goforth takes the reader on a unique journey where military lives depend on the intelligence and steadfastness of one of the ocean’s most personable animals and the U.S. Navy’s biggest secret.
—Terrie M. Williams., PhD, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, author of The Odyssey of Kp2: An Orphan Seal, A Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species (Penguin Press, 2012).
No one is in a better position to tell the dramatic story of the world’s
first military dolphins than CAPT (Ret) Harold W. Goforth, Jr., the
U.S. Navy's first Marine Mammal Officer.
Goforth joined the Navy in 1967 as the Vietnam War was escalating.
Chance encounters put him place to be tapped for what would become the
SECRET Project Short Time. For two years he lived and breathed dolphin
training, deploying with the revolutionary Dolphin Swimmer Defense
System to Vietnam until his active duty tour ended in 1971.
After earning a master’s in zoology and a Ph.D. in kinesiology, he
worked as a marine scientist at the Naval Ocean Systems Center, San
Diego, and then as a research physiologist and department head at the
Naval Health Research Center, San Diego. He also taught marine sciences
and exercise physiology at Point Loma Nazarene University as an adjunct
A long-distance runner, Goforth competed in 50 marathons, running in the
Boston Marathon 34 consecutive years (placing in top 3 of his age
division 7 times). He and his wife, Sharon, have been married 48 years.
They have three children and three grandchildren, and divide their time
between San Diego and South Florida.
Sentry Vehicle Station (SVS) - A pontoon boat with a netted housing for a dolphin and 2 man crew.
Every night three SVSs were anchored around the Ammunition Pier.
Anchorages varied depending on tidal currents and moonlight conditions.
Dolphins and crew worked nights and were rotated on a regular schedule.
Enemy swimmers (Sappers) never attempted to attack this pier.
Every night- at predawn a practice attack on the pier, was conducted by one of our men.
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