Senator Jim Webb, chair of the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, introduced a concurrent resolution this week in support of a memorial to honor the members of the Armed Forces who have served as divers. The resolution urges the Secretary of the Navy to provide an appropriate site at the former Navy Dive School at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. for the privately funded Man in the Sea Memorial Monument. The memorial will recognize the contributions of divers from the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
"Divers in our armed forces have significantly contributed to international port protection, underwater recovery efforts, ship and infrastructure maintenance, and crucial missions in every American-fought war since World War I," said Senator Webb, who served as Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration. "This memorial would be an appropriate tribute to the sacrifices of the brave men and women who defend our country beneath the waters of the world."
The work of military divers is often unseen and unrecognized, despite providing considerable support to national security efforts since the early 20th Century. During the Cold War, Navy divers established wiretaps on underwater Soviet communication cables at extreme depths and are the only members of the Armed Forces to receive Medals of Honor during peacetime. During World War II, Army divers were instrumental in the clearance of underwater munitions at ports and harbors and repaired vessels. They also recovered aircraft during the Vietnam War and deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Marine Corps divers were essential to the development of the buoyant ascent technique, which allows forces to deploy from submarines at depth, thus enabling the completion of a range of covert missions, as well as testing and development of the Fulton Skyhook program, intended for the sophisticated snatch pickup of troops from remote areas. Air Force divers have supported crucial missions of the Department of Defense in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Coast Guard divers have established a security posture throughout the United States during inspections of ports, waterways, and coastal security facilities.
"We are deeply grateful for Senator Jim Webb's efforts to recognize military divers and their contributions to the nation," said William Nuckols, Director for Policy for the Man in the Sea Memorial Monument project. "As a former Secretary of the Navy and representative of a state home to the majority of divers stationed on the East Coast, we could think of no more appropriate senator to champion this legislation than Senator Webb. When valiant acts are lost to history we do a grave disservice to those who have served. A publically accessible monument on the waterfront in Washington, D.C. would go a long way to keeping the history of our military divers alive."
Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives in November 2011. The memorial has also been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Officers Association of America, the UDT-SEAL Association, and the Non-Commissioned Officers Association of America.