Way Back When: Our Seals Hunted Submarines
(Image: Image: Library of Congress)
By Betsy J. Green
Memorial Day was the time to remember the war contributions of both men and women, and – seals. Seals? Yes, indeedy. According to the local paper, “Two California sea lions, one male and the other female, captured at Santa Cruz Island, helped to win the world war … This story of a pair of Santa Cruz Island sea lions trained to hunt submarines may sound like a fairy tale, but it is true in every detail.
“In the summer of 1917, the British admiralty hit on the scheme of tracking German U-boats.” The seals were trained to follow a submarine to obtain a reward of food. A buoy was tied to the seal, and as the seal chased a submarine underwater, the British trawler would drop a depth charge when the seal appeared to locate the sub. [Spoiler alert - A recent book about World War I, however, claims that the seals were too easily distracted by schools of fish.]