From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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