Trained to conduct salvage missions, Carl Brashear and his team aboard the USS Hoist were sent to retrieve the missing hydrogen bomb. It had been located on March 17th (two months after the mid-air collision) by ALVIN, the Navy’s deep-diving research vessel.
In his Naval Institute Oral History, Carl recalls his March 25, 1966 job to remove the bomb from the Mediterranean Sea:
I rigged up what I call a spider. It was a three-legged contraption that I was going to drop for this bomb to be hooked up to...We dropped that equipment in 2,600 feet of water, and it landed 15 feet from the bomb.
Carl attached grapnel hooks to the legs of the “spider.” The ALVIN crew placed the unopened parachute shrouds into the grapnel hooks. The salvage process was working without a hitch - until the crew brought the bomb to the surface around 5:00 p.m.
Within minutes, Carl’s life changed forever. As an unexpected sea swell caused the receiving ship to suddenly change positions, a tragedy cycle began. Carl relates what happened.
I got the crate, picking it up, and the boat broke loose...The engineer was revving up the engines, and it parted the line. I was trying to get my sailors out of the way, and I ran back down to grab a sailor, just manhandling him out of the way. Just as I started to leave, the boat pulled on the pipe that had the mooring line tied to it. That pipe came loose, flew across the deck, and it struck my leg below the knee. They said I was way up in the air just turning flips. I landed about two foot inside of that freeboard. They said if I’d been two feet farther over, I’d have gone over the side. I jumped up and started to run and fell over. That’s when I knew how bad my leg was.
Carl thought he “knew how bad” his leg was injured. He actually had no idea how bad things would get.