Thursday, July 27, 2006

Carl Brashear, First Black Navy Diver Dies

Carl Brashear, the US Navy diver whose life story inspired the blockbuster movie Men of Honour, has died aged 75. Born in 1931 to a sharecropper family in Kentucky, Brashear joined the American Navy aged 17, in 1948 and battled institutional racism to become the first African-American US Navy diver. On 17 January, 1966, he suffered an accident while attempting to recover a lost hydrogen bomb off the coast of Spain after two US Air Force planes collided. Following persistent infections and necrosis, the determined Brashear convinced his doctors to amputate the lower portion of his leg. The Navy was set to retire Brashear from active duty, following his accident, but he began a gruelling regime to beat his disability. After battling with his fitness and use of only one leg, he broke US Navy records again by becoming the first amputee to be restored to full active duty.
Carl Brashear
In 1970 Brashear was promoted to the highest-ranking Navy diver position of master diver after completing dives deeper than 300m while being evaluated for five weeks at the Experimental Diving Unit in Washington. He eventually retired from the US Navy in 1979 as a master chief petty officer and master diver. Up until 1993, he served as a civilian employee for the government with the grade of GS-11. Brashear's inspirational life story was picked up by Hollywood film-makers and the film Men of Honour was released in 2000. Cuba Gooding Jr portrayed him and starred alongside Robert De Niro. Brashear married three times and had four children: Shazanta, DaWayne, Phillip and Patrick. The 75-year-old died of respiratory and heart failure at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, US on July 25. No funeral arrangements have yet been made.

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