Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Best of Intentions

The Beach Boy Chronicles


One of the greatest features of living where we do is meeting the people and hearing the stories of the visitors that arrive on our islands. During a recent sailing excursion, a mixed party of sailors were amazed by a large group of bottlenose dolphins that approached our catamaran and began swimming playfully alongside.

The reactions from folks that do not see our Flipper-like friends every day is always the same. Sheer excitement quickly changes into awe and then curiosity as inspired imagination takes over. Most everyone will have questions and answers about our seagoing friends that thrive in our waterways and more often than not, a dolphin or porpoise story from across the globe will surface as much more than just a fish tale.

On this particular outing when the Flipper friends swam alongside and the excitement and awe grew into enthusiastic curiosity, one of our group was inspired to ask the question: “I’ve always heard that dolphins will save sailors that fall off of boats or ships,” a young lady asked. “Does anyone know if that is true?” Before anyone could answer, the oldest of our sailing party raised a hand and then spoke up. “That story is true,” he related as everyone was still watching the Flipper antics. “But where I was, the dolphins that came to the rescue of men overboard were not always welcome assistants. I was in a very different time and place, but the dolphins that came to our rescue were the enemy.” The young lady that originally asked the question appeared shocked. “How can that be?” she almost pouted. “I’ve always heard dolphins are friendly. Friendly and helpful. How can they be the enemy? Can dolphins be bad?”

Suddenly, it seemed our playful dolphins swimming alongside understood the conversation and when they submerged, they were like little submarines in on a family secret. Under orders and hiding below the surface. Gone and out of sight.

When the older gentleman realized everyone was waiting for an explanation for the disappearance of the dolphins and the seemingly unheard-of declaration of war, he continued.

“This goes back to the war in Vietnam,” he began the narrative. “At the time, I was a doctor on an aircraft carrier, and we were stationed near the coast of North Vietnam. Every day the mission was to launch our jets on sorties over the land and into target zones occupied by our enemy, which— at the time—were the North Vietnamese. When our jets would find their targets, they would engage the enemy. However, quite often the enemy would strike back with antiaircraft gunfire or surface-to-air missiles. This was when the Americans flying the jets were determined to fly as quickly as possible back out over the water in case they had to eject and parachute out of an aircraft too badly damaged to return to the ship. As the war continued, many of our planes would report they had made it out over the water and were pulling the lever to eject and parachute into the ocean. The theory of survival for every American pilot was the same. If your aircraft was shot up, and too badly damaged to reach the ocean and the nearby aircraft carrier, or the helicopters from the ship that would come to rescue downed pilots, then it was a jungle landing with a parachute and another American aviator would become a prisoner of war. This was the nightmare and scenario none of our pilots wanted to consider.”

He continued with his story. “When our pilots would report they were indeed out over the water before bailing out and parachuting down—but then began to disappear—we began to realize we were facing another enemy. After several pilots successfully ejected and landed in the ocean but then mysteriously disappeared, we sent out helicopters near the coast to watch for the troubled aviators as they ejected from badly damaged airplanes. With the rescue helicopters on patrol near the coast, we soon learned there was indeed a new enemy.”

“After a pilot would land in the water,” he said, “bottlenose dolphins would appear and begin pushing the downed aviator into the shore. Of course, the dolphins believed they were helping a human in trouble, but they were actually helping the North Vietnamese army by pushing downed Americans into the arms and custody of our enemy. When the first patrolling helicopter saw a downed pilot surrounded by a group of bottlenose dolphins pushing him toward the Vietnamese beach, the mystery of the missing aviators was solved. The next action taken by our side was to equip our pilots with a dolphin repellent. This job was handed over to the medical crew and we soon decided that plastic bags filled with tabasco pepper sauce was the answer to keep the dolphins with the best of intentions away. We soon learned that the Vietnamese bottlenose did not appreciate the Louisiana hot sauce released during a rescue effort and after a few bags of the spicy dolphin repellent was deployed, the dolphins apparently decided the Americans that fell from the sky were just too hot to handle.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *