Descent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941: A Navy Diver's Memoir

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Overview

On December 7, 1941, as the great battleships Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, and several others lie paralyzed and burning in the aftermath of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, a crack team of U.S. Navy salvage divers is hurriedly flown to the island of Oahu. The divers have been given a Herculean task: rescue the sailors and Marines trapped below, and resurrect the pride of the Pacific fleet. Now for the first time, the chief diver of the Pearl Harbor salvage operations, Cmdr. Edward C. Raymer, USN (Ret.), tells the...
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Overview

On December 7, 1941, as the great battleships Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, and several others lie paralyzed and burning in the aftermath of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, a crack team of U.S. Navy salvage divers is hurriedly flown to the island of Oahu. The divers have been given a Herculean task: rescue the sailors and Marines trapped below, and resurrect the pride of the Pacific fleet. Now for the first time, the chief diver of the Pearl Harbor salvage operations, Cmdr. Edward C. Raymer, USN (Ret.), tells the whole story of the desperate attempts to save crewmembers caught inside their sinking ships. Descent Into Darkness is the only book available that describes the raising and salvage operations of sunken battleships following the December 7th attack. Once Raymer and his crew of divers entered the interiors of the sunken shipwrecks - attempting untested and potentially deadly diving techniques - they experienced a world of total blackness, unable to see even the faceplates in their helmets. By memorizing the ships' blueprints and using their sense of touch, the divers groped their way hundreds of feet inside the sunken vessels to make repairs and salvage vital war materiel. The divers learned how to cope with such unseen dangers as falling objects, sharks, the eerie presence of floating human bodies, and the constant threat of Japanese attacks from above.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Within hours of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Raymer, an enlisted man, was on a plane headed from San Diego to Oahu. His primary mission: to act as chief diver in the operations to rescue men trapped in sunken battleships. Removing bodies, recovering material and raising the ships themselves could, and would, come later. In this compelling memoir, Raymer describes the multiple hazards of working inside wreckage-strewn warships under the handicaps imposed by available diving technology. Courage was at least as important as competence as the number of dives mounted and the law of averages shifted against the men who went down. Raymer details many harrowing incidents, including one in which he, an arachnophobe, began to panic when a spider stowed away in his diving suit began to crawl over his face in the middle of a dive. The narrative includes lighter passages as well, especially the depictions of how the divers spent their off-duty hours pursuing food, liquor and women. For all its drama and charm, however, Raymer's memoir is useful above all as a case study of the hands-on, un-bureaucratized approach to problem-solving that the U.S. brought to WWII from the beginning. Photographs and maps not seen by PW. (July)
Booknews
A memoir detailing the salvage operations performed at Pearl Harbor after the "Arizona", "Oklahoma", and "Utah" were sunk by the Japanese. Raymer, chief diver during the operations, describes the rescue attempts and the eery diving expeditions made to recover war material. The combination of working in the dark with sharks, floating human bodies, and under threat from Japanese attack above make the story compelling, a combination between Stephen King and Hermann Wouk. No index or bibliography. Includes photographs. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Roland Green
Raymer's World War II memoirs throw some light on a literally dark side of Pearl Harbor and the Pacific war--the salvage efforts on sunken and damaged ships. He spent most of his wartime diving career in Hawaii, working on ships ranging from the ruined "Arizona" to the comparatively easily salvaged "California", but also took a side trip to Guadalcanal aboard a salvage tug. His is a plain tale plainly told, and one could wish for more material on diving and less on chasing women and liquor ashore. Yet Raymer pays tribute to fallen comrades--diving was nearly as dangerous as combat--to good and bad superiors and divers, and to the technical ingenuity of the U.S. Navy at the time of its greatest trial. He adds more than enough to our knowledge of the Pacific war for his recollections to be worthwhile.
From the Publisher

"This is an impressive book written by an impressive individual."

-- Naval Books of the Year column in Warship, 2013

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780783885032
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/1999
  • Series: American History Series
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.45 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author


Commander Edward C. Raymer, USN (Ret.) served thirty years in the U.S. Navy. Descent into Darkness was his only book. He died in 1997.
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