Many people are interested in the history and development of Navy traditions. One Navy tradition involves 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 re-qualify on boats to which they are subsequently assigned.
Once Dolphins have been earned, they are awarded by the Commanding Officer in a special ceremony.
The origin of the U.S. 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 World War II, 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 the 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. It was the design 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.
The Officer's Insignia was and is a gold plated metal pin, worn centered above the left breast pocket and above the ribbons or medals. Enlisted men wore the insignia, embroidered in silk, in white on blue for blue clothing, and in blue on white for white clothing. This was sewn on the outside of the right 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 more recent time, Dolphins for specialist officers in the submarine force have been developed. 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.