In 2009, the USNS T-AKE 7 was named the USNS Carl Brashear, in honor of Master Chief Boatswain's Mate (Master Diver) Carl M. Brashear (1931-2006), who joined the U.S. Navy in 1948. He was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the Navy Diving School, and was designated a Navy salvage diver. He was the first African-American to qualify and serve as a master diver while on active duty, and the first U.S. Navy diver to be restored to full active duty as an amputee, the result of a leg injury he sustained during a salvage operation. After 31 years of service, Brashear officially retired from the U.S. Navy on April 1, 1979.
The training ground for the diving school was filmed on the Columbia River, along the Oregon-Washington border. The Weyerhaeuser paper mill visible along the bank is in Longview, Washington. This site is currently a sheet rock factory.
It is mentioned several times that Billy Sunday swam out of the St. Lo when she sunk. The U.S.S. St. Lo was an escort carrier, and the first major U.S. Navy ship to be sunk by a kamikaze. It happened during the Battle off Samar, part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf. The St. Lo and several other escort carriers, along with a handful of destroyers and destroyer escorts, held off a larger, and more powerful, Japanese task force, whose mission was to shell the Allied invasion force preparing to re-take the Philippines.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
In the hearing to determine if Senior Chief Brashear can remain a diver, his insignia is gold and Chief Sunday's is red. Chief Sunday has a record of bad conduct. Gold chevrons are used if an enlisted man has a good conduct record of at least twelve consecutive years.