The Nation: Night of the Dolphin

In 1967, Novelist Robert Merle's The Day of the Dolphin postulated the preposterous: two dolphins were trained to speak, then used to plant underwater mines off Haiphong to stage a nuclear confrontation with China. But last week the Navy reluctantly admitted that black dolphins, trained at a Navy laboratory in San Diego, had been taken to Viet Nam to be used in a classified mission of surveillance and detection, possibly against enemy frogmen.

In his book, Merle fantasizes an interview with a dolphin named Fa:

Reporter: What do you think of Viet Nam?

Fa: We cannot withdraw. That would encourage aggression.

Reporter: Fa, in case...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!