After reports revealed that trained dolphins in the Ukrainian Navy — outfitted with weaponry — swam away from their handlers in their hunt for mates, a Ukrainian newspaper has come out to dispel the rumors, assuring the public that dolphins with weaponry attached to their heads were not loose in European waters.
At first, the idea in itself that dolphins could be used for naval warfare seems absurd, but “control over dolphins was quite common in the 1980's,” said Yury Plyachenko, a former Soviet naval anti-sabotage officer.
In fact, even though this specific report turned out to be untrue, animals have a long history of serving in various military operations. Here are four animals that have played bizarre roles, from spying to sniffing out bombs:
Dolphins have been serving in the U.S. Navy as some of our most trusted spies as early as the Vietnam War. Bottle-nose dolphins are experts at finding and marking underwater mines. They are also used at detecting and defending against enemy swimmers who are seeking to plant explosives in the vicinity. Once they do find an intruder, the dolphin’s job is fairly simple: bump the intruder from behind, which causes the strobe light or noisemaker that is secured to the dolphin’s nose to fall as a signal, then swim away and allow military personnel to handle the situation.
Honey bees, with their natural ability at sniffing out particular odors, have naturally become of use in detecting bombs. The bees are trained to recognize the scent of certain explosive compounds and bomb ingredients, and then associate that scent with the reward of food. Therefore, when they smell the suspicious scent, the bees will extend their proboscis, a tubular feeding organ extending from their mouths, in search for food.
In most cases, the bees are set in a box outside a security checkpoint, and when they smell the scent they are trained to detect, a video camera with pattern-recognition programming would sense the movement of the bees’ proboscises and would alert the authorities.
During World Wars I and II, homing pigeons played a widely important role in wars, using their homing abilities and speed to carry military capsules which included everything from maps, photographs, cameras and confidential messages. As it turns out, the pigeons were a fairly effective method of sending and receiving messages as historians hold that over 90% of all messages carried by pigeons in the U.S. army had successfully found their destinations.
Bats, with their ability to fly in darkness and find secretive hiding spots, and their uncomplicated maintenance, were attempted to be used by the U.S. military towards the end of World War II to attack Japan. Small, incendiary devices were to be attached to these so-called bat bombers, before they were caged into bomb-shell like containers. They would then escape the shells and disperse into buildings and factories until their miniature bombs detonated.
The plans, however, did not go according to plan for the U.S. military as not only did developing the bat bombers take too much time, but they also accidentally set an Air Force base in Carlsbad, N.M. on fire.