Dolphins – The Submarine Warfare Qualification Insignia:
Many people are interested in the history and development of Navy traditions. One Navy tradition is the wearing of Dolphins by qualified submariners. "Earning Dolphins" is a significant event in a Navy submariner's career - one of those special high points that instill tremendous personal pride and a sense of accomplishment.
Dolphins are earned through a process of "Qualifying." Individuals must learn the location of equipment, operation of systems, damage control procedures and have a general knowledge of operational characteristics of their boat. Dolphin wearers qualify initially on one boat and must requalify on each subsequent boat to which they are later assigned.
Once Dolphins have been earned, they are awarded by the Commanding Officer in a special ceremony.
The origin of the US Navy's Submarine Service Insignia dates back to 1923. On 13 June of that year, Captain Ernest J. King, USN, later to become Fleet Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations during WWII, and at that time Commander Submarine Division THREE, suggested to the Secretary of the Navy, via the old Bureau of Navigation, that a distinguishing device for qualified submariners be adopted.
A Philadelphia firm, which had done work for the Navy previously, was approached with a request that it undertake the design of a suitable badge. Two designs were submitted by the firm and these were combined into a single design that is still in use today: a bow view of a submarine proceeding on the surface with bow planes rigged for diving, flanked by dolphins in horizontal positions with their heads resting on the upper edge of the bow planes. (These Dolphins are the fish, also known as Dorado or Mahi Mahi, not the sea mammal many people are familiar with. They were chosen for the insignia because they are the mythical attendants to Poseidon.)
The officer's insignia is a gold-plated metal pin worn centered above the left breast pocket and above the ribbons or medals. Enlisted men originally wore the insignia, embroidered in silk, sewn on the outside of the right dress uniform sleeve, midway between the wrist and elbow. The device was two and three-quarters inches long. In mid-1947 the embroidered device shifted from the sleeve of the enlisted men's jumper to above the left breast pocket. Subsequently, silver metal dolphins were approved for enlisted men in 1950.
Submarine Dolphins were the first Warfare Specialty Qualification Insignia adopted by the US Navy. Today, the Surface, Air, and Expeditionary communities also have warfare insignia pins similar to the original Submarine Dolphin design.
In more recent times, the Navy has developed Dolphin insignia for specialist officers in the submarine force. These include the Engineering Duty Officer Dolphins, Medical Officer Dolphins, and Supply Corps Dolphins.
Regardless of the color of the pin or the insignia at the center, Dolphins are worn with pride by members of the Submarine Force, who refer to each other as “Brothers of the ‘Phin.”
Back to Submarine History.
Ahead to About USS Providence.