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Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Carl M. Brashear (1931-2006)

Carl Maxie Brashear was born on January 19, 1931, in Tonieville, Kentucky. Enlisting from that same state in the U.S. Navy in February 1948, he completed Basic Training at Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois, and was assigned to Naval Air Station, Key West, Florida. In June 1950, he reported on board USS Palau (CVE-122), later transferring to USS Tripoli (CVE-64). In October 1954, Brashear graduated as a Salvage Diver at the Navy Diving School in Bayonne, New Jersey and returned to Tripoli. A year later, he was promoted to Boatswain's Mate First Class and served on board USS Opportune (ARS-41), departing a year later for shore duty at Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island. In June 1958, Brashear received orders to the Ship Repair Facility on Guam. In September 1960, he was promoted to Chief Boatswain's Mate and reported to USS Nereus (AS-17). Less than a year later, he had shore duty at Fleet Training Center, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he qualified as a Second Class Diver.


In April 1962, Brashear was assigned to USS Couca (ARS-8). In June 1964, he became qualified as a First Class Diver and reported to USS Shakori (ATF-162). In September 1965, he was ordered to USS Hoist (ARS-40). On March 23, 1966, Hoist participated in the recovery of atomic bombs following the crash of two U.S. Air Force planes off the coast of Palomares, Spain. While retrieving one of the bombs, a towing line broke loose, striking Brashear's left leg and immediately giving him life-threatening injuries. Evacuated from the area, he was transferred to Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia, where the portion of the leg was eventually amputated. During this time, Brashear was promoted to Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate. In March 1967, he recovered from his injuries and reported to the Diving School at Harbor Clearance Unit Two, Little Creek, Virginia, for rehabilitation and training. After becoming recertified in March 1968 as a diver, the first amputee to serve as such in the U.S. Navy, he reported to Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia.


In June 1970, Brashear graduated from the Deep-Sea Diving School at the Experimental Diving Unit located at the Washington Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. and became the first African American Master Diver in the U.S. Navy. He then reported to USS Hunley (AS-31), later transferring to USS Recovery (ARS-43). While on Recovery, Brashear was promoted to Master Chief Boatswain's Mate in 1971. In June 1975, he was the Master Diver at the Naval Safety Center at Norfolk, Virginia. In June 1977, he reported back to Recovery. In October 1978, he served at the Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity at Norfolk, Virginia. In April 1979, Brashear retired from active duty and remained in the area serving as civilian employee for the U.S. Navy until 1993. Carl M. Brashear died on July 25, 2006.

Image: 428-GX- USN 118932: Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate and Master Diver Carl M. Brashear, April 1971. Brashear assists another diver as he prepares to enter the water from USS Hunley (AS-31).