Dec 10

Diving History — History of the Navy Diver Rating

Friday, December 10, 2010 12:01 AM


Back in the late 1800’s, the very first Diving rating was Gunners Mate. Instruction in simple diving had been part of the course at the Gunnery School because Gunners Mates were assigned as ships divers as a collateral duty. The introduction of the torpedo, a weapon that revolutionized Navy warfare caused the Navy to require a more in depth training pipeline to support torpedo testing and recovery. In order to support this, the Navy established a school under Chief Gunners Mate Jacob Anderson to teach diving (in 1882). Chief Anderson’s two week course was the first designed solely to train divers. Based in Newport, RI; the school trained divers to descend to a maximum depth of 60 feet to recover exercise torpedoes. The course of instruction was based solely on dress of the diver and underwater procedures. Things like decompression, DCS or AGE were still decades from being discovered. As the mission of the Navy Diver grew, so did the training and recognition of the program.

In 1929 two Diver’s distinguishing marks (patches) were introduced. The Master Diver mark had a block letter “M” on the breast plate and the First Class Diver mark had the numeral “1”. Shortly there-after, two additional Diver distinguishing marks were added; Second Class Divers and Salvage Divers. These cloth marks were awarded based on in-water/operational knowledge as much as they were on the training the individual received.

The outstanding contributions the Navy Diver had during WWII caused the Navy to attempt the establishment of a Diver rating in 1948. This rating was called Underwater Mechanic – established in 1948 from wartime diving details but never actually activated. Originally this rating fell under the Exclusive Emergency Service Rating (in response to WWII needs) and later was planned as a General Rating that would be placed under the Engineering/Hull ratings. The specialty badge consisted of a MK-V helmet superimposed over a two headed wrench with the rating designator of UM. The Navy planned the rating and had manufacturers even create insignia for it, but never implemented it until 1964 when it was disestablished. It was also at this time that the metal qualification badges that we all wear today would be created and approved for wear:

1) Second Class Pin – Obvious heritage symbol of the diving community representing its primary job of diving — The MK V helmet.

2) First Class Pin – Heraldic Dolphins come from the sub community. These mythical fish/dolphins were tied closely to Poseidon the Greek God of the sea. It symbolizes speed and the ability to reach deep depths.

3) Master Diver – Also from the sub community. Seahorses pulled the chariot of Poseidon and traditionally stand for wisdom and sea power – the double tridents mastery of the ocean. The knot is a carrick bend, used to hold and position the divers air hose. This was placed on the breast plate to reflect ties to the operational side of diving and to differentiate it from the diving medical pins that use the caduceus on the breast plate.

In July 1, 2006 the Navy Diving (ND) rating was officially established as a general rating and falls under the Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations ratings. The MKV helmet on the rating badge reflects our main operational environment as well as our heritage/history. The pins are still worn on uniform to distinguish both warfare qualification as well as level of diving training/qualification.

  • Jim Valle

    The mission of the Navy’s divers overlaps with that of the maritime salvage community, as colorful and irreverant a group of men as ever wore the Navy blue and gold. The flavor of their lifestyle and adventures can be sampled in several books written by the late Rear Admiral Edward Ellsberg USNR and a comprehensive history can be found in Captain C.A. ( Black Bart ) Bartholomew’s book “Mud Muscle and Miracles” published jointly by the Naval Historical Center and the Naval Sea Systems Command ( 1990 ). They were a rugged and practical crew where the officers got their hands dirty right along with the enlisted ratings and everyone relied on everyone else regardless of rank.

  • SS/DV

    Back in the early 70’s I went through the Submarine Dive School in New London, first class after the winter close (brrrr) and our ‘badge’ was a cloth badge with SD on the breast plate of the Mk V. Later they shifted to the MK.V pin, with attendant SD prior to the current double hose/mask configuration. Really enjoyed the crow (left), dolphins and dive patch (right) on my uniform when I flew into San Antonio (land of the rising Air Farce.)

  • Dennis

    I have been trying to find the origin of the pewter/silver Mk 5 pin with “SD” attached to the cowel.

    Was this an interem pin between the sleeve rate and the double hose pin? what was its dates of use?