The Walt Shumate Dive Tower

Walter L. Shumate Free Ascent Tower in Key West, FL

Walter L. Shumate Free Ascent Tower in Key West, FL

We’re a little late on this one, but we’re devoted fans of both Walt Shumate the man and Walt Shumate the legend (two sets which do have a considerable intersection, one exception being that the man has unfortunately passed on, but the legend shows all signs of immortality). So we really have to note that the SF Scuba School (which has had many names through the decades) has rebranded their most prominent landmark.the Walter L. Shumate Free Ascent Dive Tower, with massive painted icons of the combat dive badge and green beret, and a very large label on the roof: US Army Special Forces. It’s a fitting tribute to the great 20th Century SF Sergeant Major. The tower, which is used to practice submarine lockout and ascent procedures, was named for Shumate many years ago, but the only sign was legible only to the instructors and students at the school.

Now everybody who passes the military base will see the painting, and perhaps some of them will look up the tower and wonder why this name lives on.

Of the few names that surface in the quiet world of Army Special Forces, Sgt. Maj. Walter Shumate’s legend stands as a towering achievement to what one man can accomplish through sheer tyranny of will, his friends, family and fellow commandos said Friday. A cadre of dive instructors, veterans and fellow Special Operations Forces commandos gathered on the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor to honor Shumate’s memory by unveiling the newly painted “SGM Walter L. Shumate Free Ascent Diving Tower.”

via Dive tower painting honors founder |

Combat Dive Qualification Course students

Combat Dive Qualification Course students

Shumate’s bio, a brief version of which was published (.pdf) in 2008 on the occasion of his posthumous nomination as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment, shows a man who was in the right place at the right time, over and over again. SGM Shumate served in combat in Korea, at least four deployments to Vietnam, and on Operation Eagle Claw, the ill-fated 1980 Iranian hostage rescue attempt.

The dive tower was a very fitting memorial, as Shumate was one of the founders of SF combat diving and the school that teaches it.

The sergeant major was also one of the veterans who had experienced Charlie Beckwith’s command of B-52 Project Delta, a sensitive strategic reconnaissance project, in Vietnam, and eagerly joined Beckwith’s new unit, also named Delta, in the 1970s. (B-52 vets tend to be either Beckwith boosters or Beckwith bashers… he was not a man who left undecided followers in his wake). Walt Shumate remained associated with Delta until his death, serving on as a civilian after his Army retirement.

3 thoughts on “The Walt Shumate Dive Tower

  1. Tom Schultz

    Delta Roster shows Beckwith as CO 7/17/65 to 2/1/66. Shows Shumate assigned 2/1/66 to 1/1/67.
    Probably not that big a deal to survive Charlie for one day, most probably at NhaTrang.
    Just sayin’

    1. Hognose Post author

      Hey, at least we’re aware of the controversy around here. Lots of folks aren’t.

      I only met Beckwith twice. Once he pretty much ignored me (I was nobody compared to the others there so I did the responsible junior SF guy thing and willed myself into invisibility). The other time he had to notice me and he made a pretty good effort at biting my head off — I think, just because that’s what folks expected of him at that juncture. Come to think of it, I also got him to sign his book later. He was pretty snappy that day, too.

      Of course the Vietnam beef wasn’t his temperament but whether he treated RTs as throwaway elements. I know one of his proteges felt that way about SFODAs. The teams were told there was an extract plan, but there actually wasn’t much of one, the resources were dedicated to inserting more follow-on teams. Fortunately we never had to execute that plan.

  2. Andrew

    Walter Shumate was my godfather’s brother, and through the years I have heard numerous stories, the dedication of the dive tower means not only alot to his family but to people from his hometown as well

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