A tribute to the audacious Navy divers who performed the almost super-human deeds that served to shorten the war.
I’m just going to go ahead and let you know that this is one of my favorite books of 2017! Ok, so let me tell you what it about. Descent Into Darkness is the memoir of Commander Edward C. Raymer where he describes his time as a Navy Salvage Diver assigned to help raise the battleships sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The story begins right before the attack, when Raymer signs up for diver training and follows the young sailor through the raising of the battleships and his experiences during the campaign in the Solomon Islands.
This story has been on my TBR for a long time. And by a long time, I mean 3 to 4 years. Descent Into Darkness is my husband’s favorite book and he has been asking me to read it since he first picked it up. Sadly, I was just burned out on nonfiction thanks to years of grad school, and despite being interested in the subject since I am a military history nerd and an experienced scuba diver, I just couldn’t pick it up. Thankfully, Mike decided we were going to listen to it on our way back from celebrating New Years in Texas, and I was hooked within the first thirty minutes!
The narrative style is fluid and leaves readers feeling as if they are sharing a beer with Raymer while he tells his war stories. The prose is detailed and the descriptions of diving operations are detailed enough to keep experienced divers enthralled but also presented in layman’s terms which make the procedures understandable and relatable for those with little to no knowledge diving or salvage operations. Descent Into Darkness also provides a detailed look at life on Hawaii in the wake of the attack as Raymer includes plenty of hilarious antics as he and his team members managed to find enjoyment in a dangerous job and survive an island in the throws of prohibition.
I do provide a warning for readers. First, this is a story about sailors in their early twenties stuck on an island where there were far more men than women, and Raymer shares the sexual antics of his team. Also, be prepared to read about the realities of war. Yes Raymer has a humorous and lighthearted writing style, but you must remember there were men on those ships when the harbor was attacked. The divers do encounter bodies of fallen comrades and Raymer does not dance around the realities of working in these conditions. I found his honest approach refreshing and educational, especially in a time where harsh truths are glossed over for the sake of peoples feelings and the demands of political correctness. This is a real account, with real stories, where young men willingly risk their lives to do a job. It is everything I love about a good nonfiction piece.
I recommend Descent Into Darkness to everyone, but especially to anyone interested in the development of dive salvage procedures, World War II history, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the real experiences of those who ‘just went to work’ when the nation needed them most. Today marks 76 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor and I can’t think of a better way of honoring the greatest generation than by sharing this book with y’all.