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Mon, 01.19.1931

Carl Brashear, Navy’s first Black Master Diver

Carl Brashear

*Carl Brashear was born on this date in 1931. He was a Black Master Chief Boatswain's Mate and the first Black Master Diver in the U.S. Navy.

From Tonieville in Larue County, Kentucky he grew up on a farm as part of sharecropper's family. His parents were McDonald and Gonzella Brashear. From 1937 to 46 starting at Sonora Grade School, a small segregated school in Sonora Kentucky, he enlisted in the Navy.  Beginning in 1948 and he was recruited to train at Great Lakes, Illinois. After duty as a steward, he began handling aircraft for squadron VX-1 at Key West, Florida, and was rated as a boatswain's mate. He served in the escort carriers Palau (CVE-122) and Tripoli (CVE-64) and took training in salvage diving.

In 1952, he married Junetta Wilcoxson, they had four children: Shazanta, Dewayne, Phillip and Patrick S. Brashear. Other duties were in 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.  Brashear passed his GED test in Navy in 1960 at Charles County and also had temporary duty with Joint Task Force Eight for nuclear tests in the Pacific. He served in the 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 medical survey boards attempting to retire him as unfit for duty.  After demonstrating that he could still dive and perform his other duties, he served in Harbor Clearance Unit 2, Naval Air Station Norfolk, Experimental Diving Unit, submarine tender Hunley (AS-31); USS Recovery (ARS-43), Naval Safety Center, and Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity Norfolk.

In 1970 he qualified as the first Black master diver in the history of the U.S. Navy. Master Chief Brashear's memoir also includes material on his divorced in 1978 and his post-retirement employment and a candid description of his treatment in the Navy's alcohol rehabilitation program. On April 1, 1979, he retired from the Navy as a master chief petty officer and master diver. His civilian employment includes: April 1979-August 1980: QED Systems, Inc., Virginia Beach, Virginia--Diving Study for the Royal Saudi Navy; USS Forestall (CV-59) Service Life Extension Program. Later in his life Brashear attended Community College in Great Mills, Maryland, 1980-82 and Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1983.

It was during this time that he married Hattie R. Elam and began training at CDI Marine Company, Chesapeake, Virginia as an Engineering Technician. In November 1982 he served the Naval Communication Area Master Station Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia as an Environmental Protection Specialist and Energy Conservation Specialist where he worked there until January 1993. He filed for his second divorced in 1983. I

In 1985 Brashear married Jeanette A. Brundage they were divorced in 1987. Also in 1993, Brashear retired from government service with the grade of GS-11.  Carl Brashear died of respiratory and heart failure at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia on July 25, 2006.

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