Cover image for Descent into darkness : Pearl Harbor, 1941 : a Navy diver's memoir
Descent into darkness : Pearl Harbor, 1941 : a Navy diver's memoir
Raymer, Edward C.
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike : G.K. Hall, 1999.

Physical Description:
344 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Novato, CA : Presidio, c1996.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D767.92 .R37 1996B Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print

On Order



On December 7, 1941, as U.S. battleships lie paralyzed and burning at Pearl Harbor, a crack team of Navy divers was flown to the island of Oahu tasked with rescuing sailors and marines trapped below. The author, the chief diver of the Pearl Harbor salvage operations, tells the story of men who entered the completely black interior of shipwrecks and attempted untested and potentially deadly diving techniques to save their comrades. The author brings their mission vividly to life in a long overdue salute to courageous men who performed a Herculean task.

Author Notes

The late Commander Edward C. Raymer, USN, retired from the Navy following a career that spanned three decades. Directly commissioned from the ranks during the war, Commander Raymer became one of the world's foremost authorities on naval salvage.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

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. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Prologuep. 1
I San Diego, Californiap. 9
Ii Uss Nevadap. 29
Iii Uss Utahp. 47
Iv Uss Arizonap. 59
V Uss Californiap. 93
Vi Uss West Virginiap. 113
Vii Uss Oklahomap. 137
Viii South Pacific Theater of Warp. 143
Ix Return to the Oklahomap. 179
Epiloguep. 209