U.S. NAVY CWO BOATSWAIN (BM) SLEEVE DEVICE
While he did not have a ship named in his honor, Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl M. Brashear is probably the most famous Boatswain’s Mate (BM) to ever serve in the U.S. Navy. Born in Kentucky in 1931, Brashear enlisted in the Navy in 1948 and attended the U.S. Navy Diving and Salvage School (now held at the Navy Diving Salvage and Training Center in Panama City, Florida). Upon his graduation in 1954, Brashear became the first African-American diver in the U.S. Navy.
To coin a phrase, it would not be the last of his firsts.
In 1966, a B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs collided with a KC-135 refueling tanker. Three of the bombs had hit land, near a small Spanish fishing village named Palomares, with two of them detonating and contaminating nearly 500 acres with plutonium from the warheads. The fourth was lost at sea for over two months before it was located and brought to the surface.
Brashear was serving aboard the USS Hoist, one of 30 ships taking part in the search and recovery mission, when a stern line broke and caused a pipe to slam into his leg. Though quickly evacuated to medical facilities at Torrejon Air Base in Spain and subsequently moved Wiesbaden Air Base in Germany and finally to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, doctors could not halt the spread of infection and were forced to amputate his lower left leg.
After being released from the Naval Hospital in March, 1967, Brashear was sent to Diving School to prepare to return to duty—and a year later became the first amputee to ever be certified as a U.S. Navy diver. Not satisfied with two firsts under his belt, Brashear went on to become the Navy’s first African-American Master Diver in 1970, and followed that up with reaching the rank of Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate. He retired from the Navy in 1979.
Brashear’s story was recounted in the 2000 film Men of Honor starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Brashear and Robert de Niro as his Master Chief Petty Officer. Brasher passed away on July 25, 2006 at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.
Black (for SDB and DDB Jackets)