Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Do Our Dolphins Have Names?

An old shipmate turned me on to this discussion thread from last year over at the forums. It claims that the names of our dolphins on our warfare insignia are "Castor" and "Pollux", the Gemini Twins and patron of Sailors:
I've been trying to figure this one out for a few months now, and am having no luck at all. Here's the story behind it:
About a year ago, a junior guy in my division was at his submarine pin qual board, and was asked, "What are the names of the two dolphins on the warfare pin?" He had no clue, and at the time, neither did I. I mentioned it to my wife, and she (on her own) searched online for 3 hours and actually found the answer. He checked with the board members and they agreed. Several other chiefs on baord concurred as well with the names "Pollux and Castor" (aka the Gemini Twins).
Now, here's my problem. Ever since then, nobody I know seems to know WHERE the two dolphins are ever mentioned as to having names. Some even say it was an "urban legend."
Does anyone out there happen to know this? My guess is some kind of Naval History and Traditions book, but I'm stumped.
The discussion goes on and provides some pretty good history of the Submarine Warfare insignia, as well as a link to all the old "All Hands" magazines. They never did end up determining where to find an actual authoritative source for the claim.

Do any commenters here have any idea if this claim is correct or not?


Anonymous Jeff Lee said...

I think it came from Face/Off.

5/02/2009 10:35 AM

Blogger cheezstake said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/02/2009 2:03 PM

Blogger cheezstake said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/02/2009 2:08 PM

Blogger cheezstake said...

After writing my two comments, I found the original posting of the question at hand.

Castor and Pollux seem a logical choice for the dolphins' names as they we protectors of sailors and dolphins were subjects to Neptune.

5/02/2009 2:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The insignia originated as the crest of the Naval Academy class of 1926, which had the dolphins wrapped around sabers flanking the USS O-2. The artist, a member of the class, later flattened out the dolphins when he was asked to design a breast insignia similar to pilots' wings. He went on to serve on subs and earn the dolphins he designed. I never heard that he, or anyone, had named the fish.

5/02/2009 8:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

5/03/2009 7:03 AM

Anonymous Anon E. Moose said...

Re: Anon 0833

Here is a link to the mentioned class crest:

USNA 26 Class Crest

5/03/2009 9:29 AM

Anonymous boatgoat said...

Although a fitting association, it is coincidental and not factual; thus making it a bullshit question for a qualification board. Lets stop wasting Sailors' time with this kind of trivial nonsense. As a Master Chief that rides other submarines for a living, I would prefer young Sailors knew a little more about damage control and a lot less about Naval history and tradition. Let's get our priorities straight!

5/03/2009 9:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Well stated. I agree wholeheartedly that this was a BS question. While I think a question here or there on naval tradition is an important aspect of submarine qualification, I have seen major deficiencies all around (including some basic DC) on the last few boards I sat.

Keep the water out and the boat able to surface.

Just my thoughts.


MM1/SS (nuke type)

5/03/2009 1:03 PM

Anonymous SJV said...

Seems to me like this is a good place for a BS question like that.

Not sure what happens on qual boards now, but I sat nuke qual boards at prototype and we used to ask BS questions after we established that they were prepared and going to pass. If we knew the guy was ready, we might ask them before we asked all the real questions to see if we could get him outside the comfort zone and find out how he handled pressure. There's probably some kind of hazing rule against that now?

5/03/2009 7:16 PM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

There is no anti-hazing rule in boards as much as the "don't waste my time rule." I might have asked something silly once, well maybe a lot more than once, but it was not a graded question.

Naming the fish as part of a 'tradition' question is bunk...but I suspect more E-7+ like it than not.

5/04/2009 4:35 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...


On the subject of submarine qualification boards, I agree with you 100%. It's a bullshit question and has nothing at all to do with the intent nor spirit of earning your dolphins. Where you and I appear to differ however, is the importance of Naval, in particular, Submarine Force, traditions and history. Outside of the qual board, teaching young sailors our heritage to me is vitally important. I used to start all of my department and division training sessions with a short presentation on WWII submarine history. I used many references, from my own personal library. Nearly all of my sailors enjoyed and appreciated the lesson. At one of my sailor's dolphin ceremony, I also would read a passage from the patrol reports of USS NARWHAL (SS-167), which I have my own copy. That was appreciated, rather than making them go on some ridiculous chase looking for an "oolie."

5/04/2009 7:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


There is a WORLD of difference between the sort of tradition you're talking about (battle history of the submarine force) and silly things like dolphin names.

Not even in the same ballpark.

5/04/2009 8:59 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...


Did you figure that one out all by yourself, or did you need help? Read the end of Boatgoat's comment where he states "More time on DC, and a lot less time about Naval History and tradition." You also may have noticed I also frown upon "Oolies" such as ficticious names for the fish on a set of dolphins. Thanks again for pointing out the obvious.

5/04/2009 10:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That question is garbage. At a board I will typically ask a question about submarine history and tradition, but it isn't about a nonsense detail like that.

Each question I ask has a point, and a lesson to be learned by finding out the answer. The origin of the SUBSAFE program is one of my favorites, as an example.

I recall with much bitterness one of my final walkthroughs where one of my 'look-ups' (from a CPO) was "what used to go here" when pointing to a piece of deck. That kind of BS (as with the Castor & Pollux question) has no place in the qualification process.


5/04/2009 11:21 AM

Anonymous YNC(SS), USN, Retired said...

I've never thought of a name for the dolphins. Is it Herb and Wally? Qual boards subject brings to mind a little story I heard on SSN 590 regarding a young sailor at his qual board. I don't know what ship he was on, but the story goes: The young sailor passed Number 2 pencils and lined tablets out to the board and told them to take notes, because they were going to learn something about "our" submarine. I understand he passed

If it's BS it's BS. A good story nonetheless.

5/04/2009 2:13 PM

Anonymous HUNEE said...

Brian what do you think?

5/04/2009 8:12 PM

Anonymous BKT(SS) said...

What? These comments are way out in left field. Yes, the Dolphins do have names. Also Fleet Admiral Ernest King, well respected skimmer was the captain of the USS Bridge (AF-1), yes a cargo ship built in 1916. It is assumed that he didn't care for commanding a cargo ship and wanted to accelerate his career by way of the newly emerging Submarine Service. He did attend a short course at the Submarine base in New London before he took command of a Submarine Squadron, but he never qualified (SS). He did propose a design of the Submarine Dolphins insignia and in his Biography, the Dioscuri, or Castor and Pollux, the Guardians of Mariners was an influence. So yes they do have names. I think this is something a Submariner should know. Whether my findings are right or wrong this type of history research should be known as a Submariner.

As far as "oolies", I had three... How many cotter pins in the bow compartment bulkhead hatch, how to blow the san tank into the coffee maker and something about the smallest valve on the boat. They were all usefull because after I did my standard oral and walkthrough quals, I had to dive deeper into the piping tabs to solve the "oolies" thus more studies about my environment. The question about "oolies" that pertain to Submarine history is also valid. What you can't ask a pilot getting his wings about historical aviation history?

5/04/2009 9:41 PM

Anonymous BKT(SS) said...

You Submariners and the Nubs might want to read this book.

Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King

or any other books pertaining to Submarine history. Well the nubs should focus on the Piping Tab to find the smallest valve before they start watching movies and reading a biography. :)

5/04/2009 10:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do Our Dolphins Have Names?

Why yes they do. Their names are Willy & Wally Widget. What is the origin of the brother's last name you might ask?...It's based upon the working philosophy that more than half the shit we do on a daily basis, can't be openly discussed. We can't say where we are, where we've been or where we might be proceeding to next.

It's like being instructed to walk up to the COB and ask him if we can see the Golden Missile Key that he wears around his neck.
It's a fictious implement that doesn't exist. Same situation with the Greek myth of Castor and Pollux. It's not real.

That's why the fish are really named Willy and Wally Widget.

We're told in short, that we don't have to believe it (obviously). But as long as you wear them with pride and do your job accordingly, then they will believe in you and bring you home safe. That simple bit of logic in life means a hell of a lot more to me than some Spurious Greek myth.

MT2 WidgetHead

5/05/2009 2:49 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Castor and Pollux are irrelevant to submarining with good reasons...

True, they were regarded as patrons of sailors, who invoked them to seek favorable winds. [all SKIMMERS!] - A Dictionary of World Mythology. Arthur Cotterell. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Also, Castor and Pollux are widely depicted as helmeted horsemen or on foot carrying spears.[MARINES] -Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008.

Finally, Castor and Pollux were vile felons by modern standards, having raped the daughters of Leucippus.

Like pilots wings, my dolphins are never considered separable, neither forward and aft, nor even port and starboard, and certainly not nameable twins.

5/05/2009 10:26 AM

Anonymous BKT(SS) said...

Wait one...
Castor means "beaver" in both Greek and Latin, and poludeukeis (Pollux) means "much sweet wine". How can Beaver and wine not be considered proper names for the Dolphins? LOL

On a more serious note they were considered the Guardians of Mariners, not just skimmers. Besides, back then we didn't have Submarines so it's a symbolic reference. The Naval community has many references to greek gods and the Latin language. If you happen to have them handy, read your Shellback, Golden Dragon or Blue Nose Certificate. Note the reference to ancient traditions, Greek gods and Latin phrases. Hell, often even ships mottos are in Latin.

5/05/2009 11:31 AM

Anonymous dm said...

Hey All-

I know that a shellback has crossed the equator, and a blue nose has passed under the North Pole.

What is a Golden Dragon?

Be cool,


5/05/2009 5:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crossing Equator=Shellback
Crossing Artic Circle=Bluenose
Crossing International Dateline=Golden Dragon
Crossing Dateline at Equator=Golden Shellback.

At least that is how I remember them, as I have 3 of the 4.

As to the original question, what are our Dolphins called, well, I call 'em Dolphins, although wine and beaver would be a good second choice!


5/05/2009 5:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

{It's like being instructed to walk up to the COB and ask him if we can see the Golden Missile Key that he wears around his neck.
It's a fictious implement that doesn't exist.}

No way! He told me he left it in the locker with 50 feet of shoreline. Unless.... damn it!

5/05/2009 9:51 PM

Anonymous Boatgoat said...

Interesting discussion following my post. I thought I was pretty clear when I said "more DC ( submarine operation) and LESS naval tradition". Having been a submariner for twenty-two years and counting, I can say that our heritage is very rich in tradition and interesting history, of which, I know very well. So, if the question was in fact asked following a satisfactory board on the important material- great, we can continue our tradition of passing on, or, creating "debatable" trivia regarding this heritage. These will be great topics for conversation when we are sitting on the bottom of the ocean awaiting the DSRV or snorkeling home because somewhere along the line someone neglected to ensure that Sailors knew how to read a chart, identify a closing contact, restore propulsion, rig a submersible pump to dewater the Machinery Room or respond to a large multi-level Class A/C fire. Food for thought......

5/06/2009 9:37 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...


Gimme a friggin' break. If you don't like the way ship's qual boards are going, then follow my lead, volunteer to sit as many as you can, and make a difference! I was a Submariner for 26 years, and yes, obviously all the basic submarining things you pointed out are vitally important and should be questioned during the course of qualification, be it a walk-through or a board. This does not mean Submarine history and traditions can't be incorporated into the process. Didn't you read the post where STSC mentioned asking about the origins of the SUBSAFE program? Don't you find that somewhat important? For a nuke, how about why the Fast Recovery Startup procedure exists?
There is great value in understanding the why's of a topic, not just the how's. Sometimes, it's historical as well.

5/06/2009 8:39 PM

Anonymous Boatgoat said...

Thanks for missing the point, reiterating what has already been stated and making ridiculous assumptions. I will not elaborate much further as my suspicion is that your post was mainly an avenue to toot your horn and I have better things to do than beat a dying horse further.
Lets look at this from a logical and somewhat mathematical aspect with efficiency in mind. First, as you are so obviously familiar with the subject matter of a Submarine Qualification card, let's evaluate the percentage of the card that is system design and operation and damage control as compared to indocrination topics such as naval heritage and such. Now, unless we want a qualification board to last eight hours (which many, like yourself I suspect, may desire because there seems to be this ridiculous expectation for large amounts of geedunk at this event nowadays), it needs to efficiently cover the key aspects of submarining that involve KEEPING US ALIVE and the SHIP OPERATIONAL. THAT is the main purpose of this board. Now, can this board include submarine history and tradition? Certainly. Your reference to SUBSAFE and FRSU are in no way comparable to the trivia question regarding the dolphins and trying to make them so is ludicrous. Furthermore, I will say that there are other avenues, more appropriate or efficient, for discussing those particular topics any way such as, I don't know, maybe the QA qualification and Engineering qualifications respectively. As far as the realm of Naval history and heritage knowledge is concerned, I think day-to-day submarining and fostering a genuine interest in what we do is what ultimately teaches Sailors this subject matter. If we are doing our jobs right, they will be interested and learn the majority of this on there own and through discussion and shoot-to-shits JUST LIKE most of US did. We didn't need a checkout for this. In closing, I will say that as submariners we are all inherently and fundamentally on the same page with this stuff. Let's try not to read between each others lines so much. We all want the same thing.

5/08/2009 9:24 PM

Anonymous ex-EM1(SS) Tugboat said...

The FRSU procedure exists because it's entirely possible that you could be moored in a nameless european city, where your shore power truck sh**s the bed, followed by 5 minutes of snorkelling at which point your diesel seawater strainer clogs with condoms from the Tejo, leaving you with a short period of time left on the battery.

Next question!

BTW, I love history as much as the next guy, but oolies can go die, unless you're messing with a guy who is already going to pass his board.

6/03/2009 4:04 PM

Blogger Brandon MacDonald said...

Although this may not get read, since it is a little old now, I want to thank several of your for your posts in response to the Original Question. I was the originator of the querry from, and this blog so far has offered the best responses to the name question.

However, to put at ease to the rest of you who complained about the trivial question at hand, I want you to be aware that the young sailor was only asked this question because up until that point he had aced the board with flying colors (we won't talk about the other sailor who he shared the board with... who failed). This young Petty Officer had earned his way through the qual board as well, if not better, than anyone could have expected, but the board members chose to stump him so he'd have at least that one look-up.

Don't for a minute believe that he wasn't grilled to death on the extreme importance of Damage Control and ships systems, controls and operations. Obvioulsy, the board members ensured that he knew what was required of him to join the ranks of the qualified FIRST before lightly touching on Submarine history.

Again, thanks for those who provided pertinent information and references.

God Bless

10/11/2011 11:20 AM

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10/31/2011 12:32 PM

Anonymous French said...

Some pretty interesting conversation happening down here...

I happened onto this discussion as a result of having been asked the same question at my board. As a matter of fact, I had the same experience - I was very well prepared, both in theory and practice - and couldn't get out with at least a few lookups on history and tradition. For the question re: names, I came back with Castor and Pollux and all agreed. I had never known there were names and neither had several of my shipmates. I am glad to have a couple of references to go dig through for a better understanding.

I agree somewhat regarding the importance of topics covered at a qualification board. While obviously nobody should wear dolphins without an understanding of the systems on board and a thorough knowledge of DC, I feel like having at least some knowledge of submarine history and tradition adds substance and weight to the things we do at sea, and the pride associated with being qualified and being a bubblehead in general. It may not hold much priority in a board setting, but I think commands should encourage and facilitate the continuation of submarine/naval tradition and and understanding of the sub force's accomplishments and especially lessons learned. Through knowledge of our history we are able to honor our lost shipmates.

Just my two cents.


11/25/2011 4:20 PM

Blogger Donald Love said...

Though I may be a little late for all of this scuttle butt, I feel that anyone who is "qualified" and can proudly wear their dolphins should have the ability to throw in their own "two cents". First of all trying to shake a non-qual out of their comfort zone (and exactly WTF is the is the true definition of a "comfort zone" when being riddled with questions concerning DC and 160 plus lives are at stake? As a civilian I have had to take state exams for qualifications to ensure my knowledge of electrical systems from nuclear power plants to branch circuits to light up an outhouse. NO BS was ever evidenced in these qualification exams. Was history included with them? You bet your ugly fat goat ass there was. Naval history is just as important as knowing what the dive alarm is or the collision alarm is. My CO was on my board and the only thing I did not respond to in a quick and sharp manner was to answer "Why is the recirculation fan located in the position it is in now? Nowhere in the piping tab was there even the remotest clue as to "WHY". Can any of you answer that? The purpose of that question was to make your at the time young brain think about aerodynamics. Just exactly what happens to air as it comes into contact with a fan blade. RPM and pitch. So the names of these dolphins do not increase the safety of the crew. Neither does the location of one of the recirc. fans. But it PROMPTS the mind to work in a manner that does benifit the crew. Just sayin'. MT2/SS Love. Not ashamed to put out my real name. Find me on SSBN 643 Gold USS George Bancroft Peace to all of those who went below crush depth.

7/29/2013 9:41 PM


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