After leaving Key West, Carl was assigned to an escort carrier, the USS Palau, where he requested training as a diver. The request was denied. His request was granted, however, when he was transferred to the USS Tripoli. Carl saw a diver, dressed in a deep-sea suit and wearing weighted shoes go over the side of the Tripoli to recover an airplane that had rolled off the carrier's jettison ramp. (The links take you to photos from the Navy's 1943 Diving Manual.) Carl's reaction was immediate:
This was where I said, "Now, this is the best thing since sliced bread. I've got to be a deep-sea diver." So I started requesting, requesting, requesting to be a deep-sea diver. I finally got into school in 1954.
But getting into diving school was just the start of a long, difficult process. And - blacks were not divers in the Navy. These were not the days when black men read Navy recruiting posters that said:
You can study black history and
you can go out and make it.
Instead, Carl found life at the diving school very disturbing. Using explicit words, he explains what happened in his Naval Institute Reminiscences:
They would put notes on my bunk:
“We’re going to drown you today, nigger!”
“We don’t want any nigger divers.”
Carl decided to quit the program. He didn't see how the threats would ever stop. Someone on staff at the diving school - "a man named Rutherford" - intervened. He told Carl:
Those notes are not hurting you. No one is doing a thing to you. Show them you’re a better man than they are.
Heeding Rutherford’s words, Carl stayed the course. He graduated from diving school, ready to put on the Navy MkV (Mark V) and plunge into the deep as often as he could. Before that happened, though, he had to learn a few things about diving hundreds of feet below the surface.