Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Brashear grew up on a farm in Kentucky as part of a sharecropper family. After being educated in segregated schools, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1948 and underwent recruit training at Great Lakes, IL. After initial duty as a steward, he began handling aircraft for squadron VX-1 at Key West, FL, and was subsequently rated as a boatswain’s mate. He served on the escort carriers Palau (CVE-122) and Tripoli (CVE-64) and began taking training in salvage diving. In 1954, Brashear completed U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage training becoming the first African-American to attend and graduate from the school and the first African-American U.S. Navy diver. Other duties were on USS Opportune (ARS-41); Naval Air Station Quonset Point, where he escorted President Dwight Eisenhower; Ship Repair Facility Guam; Deep-Sea Diving School; the submarine tender Nereus (AS-17), and Fleet Training Center Pearl Harbor. He also had temporary duty with Joint Task Force Eight for nuclear tests in the Pacific. He served on USS Coucal (ASR-8), USS Shakori (ATF-162), and USS Hoist (ARS-40). While on board the latter in 1966 for the recovery of a nuclear weapon off Spain, Brashear was badly injured in an accident. As a result, surgeons amputated his left leg below the knee. He refused to submit to the medical survey board’s attempt to retire him as unfit for duty. After demonstrating that he could still dive and perform his other duties, he was assigned to Harbor Clearance Unit 2, Naval Air Station Norfolk, Experimental Diving Unit, the submarine tender Hunley (AS-31); USS Recovery (ARS-43), Naval Safety Center; and Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity Norfolk. In 1970, as an amputee, he qualified as the first African-American master diver in the history of the U.S. Navy.
We honor you, Carl Brashear.