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The Mathews men : seven brothers and the war against Hitler's U-boats / William Geroux.

By: Geroux, William [author.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York, New York : Viking, [2016]Copyright date: ©2016Description: ix, 390 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps, portraits, facsimiles ; 24 cm.Content type: text | still image Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780525428152; 0525428151.Other title: Mathews men : 7 brothers and the war against Hitler's U-boats.Subject(s): Hodges family | World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations -- Submarine | World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, German | Merchant mariners -- United States | Submarines (Ships) -- Germany -- History -- 20th century | Merchant mariners -- United States -- Biography | Brothers -- Virginia -- Mathews -- Biography | Submarines (Ships) -- Germany | Atlantic Coast (U.S.) -- History, Naval -- 20th century | Mathews County (Va.) -- Biography | Mathews County (Va.) -- History, Naval -- 20th centuryDDC classification: 940.54/293092275531
Contents:
A gift from the predators -- Born to the water -- The Devil's shovel -- Missing -- Professional survivors -- "Off Hatteras the tankers sink" -- Killing ground to battleground -- "Avoid polar bear liver" -- Catastrophe -- "Please don't tell me" -- Counterattack -- The conveyor belt -- War's end -- Legacy -- The Mathews men and women.
Summary: One of the last unheralded heroic stories of World War II: the U-boat assault off the American coast against the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine who were supplying the European war, and one community's monumental contribution to that effort.Summary: One of the indelible images of World War II is of an explosion at sea-- a U-boat attack, a ship in flames, and an ocean full of men swimming for their lives. The Mathews Men tells the story of what it was like to be on those ships in an almost unknown epic sea battle that took place just off the coast of America. Its heroes were the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine, celebrated at long last in this book. Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay. Its men had gone to sea for generations, but in 1942, Mathews mariners suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs of a lethal fleet of U-boats. The Germans were determined to sink every American merchant ship they could, to strangle the flow of fuel, arms, and supplies to the Allies. The U.S. Navy initially lacked the inclination and resources to protect the unarmed vessels, and the carnage was staggering. Ships were sometimes torpedoed before the eyes of tourists on American beaches. Nearly every family in tiny Mathews had a personal stake in the U-boat war, and none had a greater one than that of Captain Jesse and Henrietta Hodges and their seven sons. The Hodges family would experience the war from the Gulf of Mexico to the Indian Ocean to the Arctic Circle. Drawing on interviews with the last living Mathews mariners, family records, diaries, letters, and official documents, journalist William Geroux describes how men survived torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, shark attacks, and harrowing lifeboat odysseys-- only to ship out again as soon as they'd returned to safety. Merchant mariners often died terrible deaths, and suffered a higher casualty rate than any branch of the U.S. military except the Marines-- but were denied veterans benefits for decades. This is a story of valor without glory, of the men who made sure no Allied invasion force was ever thrown back into the sea for want of supplies or weaponry. Merchant mariners landed at D-Day and delivered the crew of the Enola Gay to the Pacific, and when the war was over, it was Merchant Marine ships that brought the troops home. Geroux evokes in vivid, human detail a war beyond the familiar battlefields and its toll on the families back home. Unrecognized by the government, unheralded in the history books, the achievements and sacrifices of the Merchant Marine have been largely ignored-until now.--Adapted from dust jacket.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Mathews County, Virginia, is a bleak strip of land along the Chesapeake with almost nothing to offer ? but it sent one of the largest concentrations of sea captains and merchant mariners of any community in America to fight in World War II. The Mathews Men tells that heroic story through the experiences one extraordinary family whose seven sons (and their neighbours), all of them merchant marines, suddenly found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of the first fleet of U-Boats bearing down on the coastal United States in 1942.

Includes bibliographical references (pages 321-375) and index.

A gift from the predators -- Born to the water -- The Devil's shovel -- Missing -- Professional survivors -- "Off Hatteras the tankers sink" -- Killing ground to battleground -- "Avoid polar bear liver" -- Catastrophe -- "Please don't tell me" -- Counterattack -- The conveyor belt -- War's end -- Legacy -- The Mathews men and women.

One of the last unheralded heroic stories of World War II: the U-boat assault off the American coast against the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine who were supplying the European war, and one community's monumental contribution to that effort.

One of the indelible images of World War II is of an explosion at sea-- a U-boat attack, a ship in flames, and an ocean full of men swimming for their lives. The Mathews Men tells the story of what it was like to be on those ships in an almost unknown epic sea battle that took place just off the coast of America. Its heroes were the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine, celebrated at long last in this book. Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay. Its men had gone to sea for generations, but in 1942, Mathews mariners suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs of a lethal fleet of U-boats. The Germans were determined to sink every American merchant ship they could, to strangle the flow of fuel, arms, and supplies to the Allies. The U.S. Navy initially lacked the inclination and resources to protect the unarmed vessels, and the carnage was staggering. Ships were sometimes torpedoed before the eyes of tourists on American beaches. Nearly every family in tiny Mathews had a personal stake in the U-boat war, and none had a greater one than that of Captain Jesse and Henrietta Hodges and their seven sons. The Hodges family would experience the war from the Gulf of Mexico to the Indian Ocean to the Arctic Circle. Drawing on interviews with the last living Mathews mariners, family records, diaries, letters, and official documents, journalist William Geroux describes how men survived torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, shark attacks, and harrowing lifeboat odysseys-- only to ship out again as soon as they'd returned to safety. Merchant mariners often died terrible deaths, and suffered a higher casualty rate than any branch of the U.S. military except the Marines-- but were denied veterans benefits for decades. This is a story of valor without glory, of the men who made sure no Allied invasion force was ever thrown back into the sea for want of supplies or weaponry. Merchant mariners landed at D-Day and delivered the crew of the Enola Gay to the Pacific, and when the war was over, it was Merchant Marine ships that brought the troops home. Geroux evokes in vivid, human detail a war beyond the familiar battlefields and its toll on the families back home. Unrecognized by the government, unheralded in the history books, the achievements and sacrifices of the Merchant Marine have been largely ignored-until now.--Adapted from dust jacket.

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TR-NBK

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Prologue: A Gift from the Predators (p. 1)
  • Chapter 1 Born to the Water (p. 11)
  • Chapter 2 The Devil's Shovel (p. 35)
  • Chapter 3 Missing (p. 55)
  • Chapter 4 Professional Survivors (p. 79)
  • Chapter 5 "Off Hatteras the Tankers Sink" (p. 105)
  • Chapter 6 Killing Ground to Battleground (p. 127)
  • Chapter 7 "Avoid Polar Bear Liver" (p. 150)
  • Chapter 8 Catastrophe (p. 171)
  • Chapter 9 "Please Don't Tell Me" (p. 193)
  • Chapter 10 Counterattack (p. 212)
  • Chapter 11 The Conveyor Belt (p. 230)
  • Chapter 12 War's End (p. 253)
  • Chapter 13 Legacy (p. 274)
  • The Mathews Men and Women (p. 301)
  • Author's Note (p. 317)
  • Notes on Sources (p. 321)
  • Bibliography (p. 371)
  • Index (p. 377)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

The heroics and sacrifices of the U.S. Merchant Marines during the late 1930s through the end of World War II in 1945 are often overlooked by history. Their precious cargo kept the Allied powers from starvation while also providing them with the arsenal to continue fighting. Because of this, American merchant ships were prime targets of Adolf Hitler's U-boats years before an American soldier set foot on European soil. Unprotected by the navy until 1943, Merchant Marines risked torpedo explosions, shark attacks, storms, and weeks aboard lifeboats with minimal supplies. Former journalist Geroux aims to bring their achievements to light in his first book by focusing on one community in Mathews County, VA, near Chesapeake Bay, and one family in particular. The Hodges family sent seven sons to war while the family's matriarch, Henny, ran the farm and experienced the war seaside. Geroux describes the evolution of U-boat and merchant ship technology as both Allied and Axis powers sought to attack and defend. VERDICT A gripping tale of wartime heroics and an emotional family story, this is a must-read addition to World War II literature.-Heidi Uphoff, Sandia National Laboratories, NM © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Journalist Geroux combines the skills of a newsman and those of a scholar to tell the story of the vital and heroic role played by the U.S. Merchant Marines during WWII. These civilian sailors delivered hundreds of millions of tons of cargo across the globe during the war, on vulnerable, often-unescorted ships, and their actions are largely overlooked in histories of the war. Communities that made their living from the sea, including Mathews County, Va., and families such as the Hodges-who sent seven sons to war on defenseless merchantmen facing the ace U-boats of Nazi Germany-bore the consequences and received neither recognition nor reward. In the war's early days, so many merchantmen were sunk off the Atlantic coast that a publisher "hurried into print a 144-page book entitled How to Abandon Ship." Death was only a torpedo hit away and surviving could still mean dying slowly on a raft. Geroux leaves no doubt that the ocean was as unforgiving as the U-boats-as was a Congress that failed to extend veterans' benefits to merchant mariners until 1988. Yet the men of Mathews still put to sea; "the torpedoes just got in the way." Maps. Agent: Farley Chase, Chase Literary. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The valor and contributions of the U.S. Merchant Marines to victory in WWII has seldom been acknowledged. Often derided as not real soldiers or draft dodgers, they had a reputation in port cities as drunken brawlers whose company should be avoided by respectable citizens. Journalist Geroux acknowledges that some men enlisted for less-than-patriotic reasons, including the desire to avoid the perceived drudgery and discipline of the regular military, and that some let off steam with raucous behavior. But he convincingly asserts that many were true yet unappreciated heroes. They maintained the vital lifeline to Europe, shipping millions of tons of fuel, food, and munitions to Britain and the Soviet Union while facing severe weather conditions and the constant threat of attacks by German submarines. A surprisingly large number of men came from Mathews County, Virginia, including seven men from the Hodges family. Geroux follows these men and their exploits from the Arctic to the Caribbean to the south Atlantic and, surprisingly, the U.S. coast, as German subs found supply vessels to be easy pickings. Geroux presents an unflinching, inspiring, and long-delayed tribute to the sacrifice of these men.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2016 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

An intricate look at the outsized role of a group of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, families in the dangerous work of the Merchant Marines during World War II. As former Richmond Times-Dispatch journalist Geroux delineates in this stringently researched study, the Merchant Marines "was not a branch of the military" but rather "an association of privately owned shipping companies operating under the American flag, employing American crews, and fighting like bull sharks over contracts to haul goods by sea." Thus, they became vitally important in control of the seas when war broke out officially in 1941. Mathews County, Virginia, had a long reputation for producing the most capable mariners, and Geroux spotlights several families whose fathers and sons took the brunt in parrying the German U-boats that hunted in the waters of the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, disrupting war supplies and oil to Britain and Europe. The author delves into the service of the Hodges family of Gales Neck, whose many sons became merchant mariners, working as independent contractors for the U.S. government who needed to carry the crucial war cargo across the seas. Facing the ramped-up U-boat campaign in the beginning stages, the U.S. did not have the wherewithal to protect the tankers and freightersuntil the implementation of the convoy system in mid-summer 1942 after horrible losses at sea such as the sinking of the Onondaga. Geroux offers poignant accounts of these lost men, such as Onondaga's Capt. George Dewey Hodges, whose remains and ring were soon after found in a captured shark. Sadly, however much the Merchant Marines aided in helping shepherd the convoys across the seas during the war effort, they were locked out of the postwar veterans' benefits. A deep, compassionate group biography of these "unsung heroes" of the Merchant Marines. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.