We have started a chat group dedicated to Black History Month in our office. We would like to share this post by our teammate, Ivan Miranda, who found this article on the Navy.mil website. During February, we can all learn together about the historical contributions made by African Americans.
Master Chief Brashear:
Brashear enlisted in the U.S. Navy on February 25, 1948, shortly after the Navy had been desegregated by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. He graduated from the U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage School in 1954, becoming the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Diving & Salvage School and the first African-American U.S. Navy Diver.
Brashear first worked as a diver retrieving approximately 16,000 rounds of ammunition that fell off a barge which had broken in half and sunk to the bottom. On his first tour of shore duty in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, his duties included the salvaging of airplanes (including one Blue Angel) and recovering multiple dead bodies.
During the bomb recovery operations on March 23, 1966, a line used for towing broke loose, causing a pipe to strike Brashear’s left leg below the knee, nearly shearing it off. He was evacuated to Torrejon Air Base in Spain, then to the USAF Hospital at Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany; and finally to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. Beset with persistent infection and necrosis, his lower left leg was eventually amputated.
Brashear remained at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Portsmouth from May 1966 until March 1967 recovering and rehabilitating from the amputation. From March 1967 to March 1968, Brashear was assigned to the Harbor Clearance Unit Two, Diving School, preparing for return to full active duty and diving. In April 1968, after a long struggle, Brashear was the first amputee diver to be recertified as a U.S. Navy diver. In 1970, he became the first African-American U.S. Navy master diver, and served nine more years beyond that, achieving the rating of master chief boatswain’s mate in 1971. Brashear was motivated by his beliefs that “It’s not a sin to get knocked down; it’s a sin to stay down”.