Way Back When: Our Seals Hunted Submarines

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Way Back When: Our Seals Hunted Submarines
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(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.]


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1918 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the fifth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com

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Luvaduck May 26, 2019 06:20 PM
Way Back When: Our Seals Hunted Submarines

Fish weren't a "distraction" they were the whole point from the seals' point. U-boats aren't snack food so they would have been worthless as 'natural' bait.

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