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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 Praise for The Mathews Men “The German U-Boat war against American merchant men was deadly and dramatic—in World War II, the U.S. Mercha 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 Praise for The Mathews Men “The German U-Boat war against American merchant men was deadly and dramatic—in World War II, the U.S. Merchant Marine had twice the fatality rate of the U.S. Navy. William Geroux has unearthed a fascinating tale of one small coastal town caught in the thick of the fight, and he tells it with a sharp reporter’s eye and a real feel for the heroic men who went down to the sea in ships.” —Evan Thomas, author of Being Nixon and Sea of Thunder Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay with little to offer except unspoiled scenery—but it sent one of the largest concentrations of sea captains and U.S. merchant mariners of any community in America to fight in World War II. The Mathews Men tells that heroic story through the experiences of one extraordinary family whose seven sons (and their neighbors), U.S. merchant mariners all, suddenly found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of the U-boats bearing down on the coastal United States in 1942.             From the late 1930s to 1945, virtually all the fuel, food and munitions that sustained the Allies in Europe traveled not via the Navy but in merchant ships. After Pearl Harbor, those unprotected ships instantly became the U-boats’ prime targets. And they were easy targets—the Navy lacked the inclination or resources to defend them until the beginning of 1943. Hitler was determined that his U-boats should sink every American ship they could find, sometimes within sight of tourist beaches, and to kill as many mariners as possible, in order to frighten their shipmates into staying ashore.             As the war progressed, men from Mathews sailed the North and South Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and even the icy Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle, where they braved the dreaded Murmansk Run. Through their experiences we have eyewitnesses to every danger zone, in every kind of ship. Some died horrific deaths. Others fought to survive torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, shark attacks, mine blasts, and harrowing lifeboat odysseys—only to ship out again on the next boat as soon as they'd returned to safety.             The Mathews Men shows us the war far beyond traditional battlefields—often the U.S. merchant mariners’ life-and-death struggles took place just off the U.S. coast—but also takes us to the landing beaches at D-Day and to the Pacific. “When final victory is ours,” General Dwight D. Eisenhower had predicted, “there is no organization that will share its credit more deservedly than the Merchant Marine.” Here, finally, is the heroic story of those merchant seamen, recast as the human story of the men from Mathews.


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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 Praise for The Mathews Men “The German U-Boat war against American merchant men was deadly and dramatic—in World War II, the U.S. Mercha 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 Praise for The Mathews Men “The German U-Boat war against American merchant men was deadly and dramatic—in World War II, the U.S. Merchant Marine had twice the fatality rate of the U.S. Navy. William Geroux has unearthed a fascinating tale of one small coastal town caught in the thick of the fight, and he tells it with a sharp reporter’s eye and a real feel for the heroic men who went down to the sea in ships.” —Evan Thomas, author of Being Nixon and Sea of Thunder Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay with little to offer except unspoiled scenery—but it sent one of the largest concentrations of sea captains and U.S. merchant mariners of any community in America to fight in World War II. The Mathews Men tells that heroic story through the experiences of one extraordinary family whose seven sons (and their neighbors), U.S. merchant mariners all, suddenly found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of the U-boats bearing down on the coastal United States in 1942.             From the late 1930s to 1945, virtually all the fuel, food and munitions that sustained the Allies in Europe traveled not via the Navy but in merchant ships. After Pearl Harbor, those unprotected ships instantly became the U-boats’ prime targets. And they were easy targets—the Navy lacked the inclination or resources to defend them until the beginning of 1943. Hitler was determined that his U-boats should sink every American ship they could find, sometimes within sight of tourist beaches, and to kill as many mariners as possible, in order to frighten their shipmates into staying ashore.             As the war progressed, men from Mathews sailed the North and South Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and even the icy Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle, where they braved the dreaded Murmansk Run. Through their experiences we have eyewitnesses to every danger zone, in every kind of ship. Some died horrific deaths. Others fought to survive torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, shark attacks, mine blasts, and harrowing lifeboat odysseys—only to ship out again on the next boat as soon as they'd returned to safety.             The Mathews Men shows us the war far beyond traditional battlefields—often the U.S. merchant mariners’ life-and-death struggles took place just off the U.S. coast—but also takes us to the landing beaches at D-Day and to the Pacific. “When final victory is ours,” General Dwight D. Eisenhower had predicted, “there is no organization that will share its credit more deservedly than the Merchant Marine.” Here, finally, is the heroic story of those merchant seamen, recast as the human story of the men from Mathews.

30 review for The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-boats

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”The U.S. Merchant Marine’s fatality rate in World War II was approximately 3.9 percent---one of every 26 mariners who sailed on a merchant ship. The only branch of the U.S. military with a comparably high fatality rate was the U.S. Marines. The casualty rate for the U.S. Navy was 1.49 percent---less than half the casualty rate of the Merchant Marine.” All a man from Mathews County, Virginia, had to do to get a job on a ship was to mention to the person in charge of hiring where he was born. ”The U.S. Merchant Marine’s fatality rate in World War II was approximately 3.9 percent---one of every 26 mariners who sailed on a merchant ship. The only branch of the U.S. military with a comparably high fatality rate was the U.S. Marines. The casualty rate for the U.S. Navy was 1.49 percent---less than half the casualty rate of the Merchant Marine.” All a man from Mathews County, Virginia, had to do to get a job on a ship was to mention to the person in charge of hiring where he was born. They were not only well respected seamen, but were also expected to rise up the chain of command quickly to become captains. When World War II broke out, many were already serving on ships, but soon most of the men of Mathews County were serving in the Merchant Marine. There were five families who contributed almost every available male to the war: the Hodges family had ten men serving, the Callis family also had ten, the Hudgins family had seven, the Hammond family had three, and the Respess family had two. A predominant number of those men had Captain in front of their name before the end of the war. Many of them never made it home. ”For ten months after Pearl Harbor the U.S. Merchant Marine had kept the war from being lost. They had kept Britain supplied with the oil, munitions, and food needed to continue fighting the Nazis. They had delivered enough oil and raw materials such as manganese and bauxite to keep American factories churning out ships, planes, tanks and other weapons. They had carried tens of thousands of American troops to England for future invasions.” The Merchant Marines have always had a romantic allure to men from all over the world. It was a organization from which to escape; few questions were ever asked. It was a place a man could avoid his past and make a new name for himself. Spurned by your wife, join the Merchant Marine. Kill a man, join the Merchant Marine. Have a knock down drag out with your father, join the Merchant Marine. I’ve always thought of them as hardworking, hard living men, who lost fingers at sea and lost their wages to crooked card games, to alluring light fingered hookers, and thugs in dark alleys. I was shocked to discover that, out of all the American men who went to war, the Merchant Marines had the most dangerous job. ”For seven months the U-boats had had their way in American waters, sinking more than three hundred merchant ships and killing thousands of merchant seamen. They had sent millions of tons of Allied food, supplies, munitions, and fuel into the sea playing havoc with the enemy’s supply line.” So the plan during the first seven months of the United States officially entering the war was to send out hundreds of these ships with supplies and hope the majority of them managed to make it to their destination. These ships did not have any weapons to defend themselves or air cover or destroyers standing between them and the German wolfpack of U-Boats. It is really baffling. It didn’t make sense to the German Admiral Karl Donitz either. He was in charge of the wolfpack and had no qualms about sinking unprotected ships. He only knew that the more tonnage that America allowed him to sink, the better chance Germany had to prevail. A German Wolf Pack of U-Boats. Sometimes boats would sink slowly, sometimes they went down quickly. In many cases, the U-Boat captains did allow seamen time to escape the ship before applying the coup de grâce with a final devastating point blank torpedo shot. Escaping a floundering ship is difficult.”A sinking ship was a deathtrap that could kill a man in a thousand ways. Falling masts and guy wires snagged mariners and pulled them under. Jagged debris swirled through the water. The ship’s hot boilers could explode from contact with cold seawater.” William Geroux shares with us numerous stories of sacrifice, of heroism, of terror, of maddening bad luck, of triumph, of death, and even an intriguing story about a baby born on a life raft. The men of Mathews County were at the heart of all these stories. Allied convoy getting ready to cross the Atlantic. Donitz was merely putting his wolfpack in the most likely places for allied shipping to be. I was amazed to learn how long the United States thought that loose lips were sinking ships instead of just realizing it was a matter of logistics. Even after the U.S. government decided to begin protecting their Merchant Marine ships, it still wasn’t easy. The run to Murmansk to resupply the Russians was a nightmare. Surviving the constant attacks from German fighters and U-Boats was only half the battle. Once their ships reached Murmansk, the level of danger only increased. ”It had an apocalyptic feel. Fires continuously burned throughout the city. German bombers attacked five to six times a day. Russian fighters rose to meet them, and engaged in dogfights with German fighters. Antiaircraft guns crackled from sandbagged bunkers in the rubble of buildings.” By 1943, the predators of the deep, the wolfpack, had become the prey. Fatality rates of U-Boat seaman reached 70%. The women who were left behind had to wonder about the fate of their men. In many cases, they never found out what happened to their father, husband, son, or brother until after the war when German records were available. Their ship was just overdue. ”Overdue, an ominous threat of loss and sorrow trembling yet in the balance of fate...There is something sinister to a seaman in the very grouping of the letters which form this word clear in its meaning, and seldom threatening in vain.”---Joseph Conrad With not knowing the fate of their loved one, there is always room for hope. Maybe he is stranded on a deserted island or in a hospital unable to tell anyone who he is, or maybe he has been taken prisoner. The burden of not knowing weighs down people more than the burden of grief. It is like waiting in a cell after being condemned to die without knowing when you will be executed. Every time there is a clang of a cell door opening or the sound of hobnailed boots you wonder if this is finally it. For the women of Mathews County, it was the ringing of a phone or the receiving of a telegram, or in the case of the Hodges family, the appearance of Spencer, the son who had to tell his mother each time one of his brothers died. Sinking Ship during WW2 When I think about my understanding of the scope of World War II, I didn’t know I was missing a major piece of the history of how the allies won the war. I knew about the importance of supplies being in the right place at the right time, but it just never occurred to me to think about the seamen on those ships who took the risks and the part they played in saving the world from tyranny. Geroux brings these men out of the shadows of the conning towers. He discovers the bones of their corpses lying on the ocean floor and brings them back to life, however so briefly, to add their tales of courage to those of the Army, Airforce, Navy, and Marines. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marla

    I found this book very interesting. I had no idea there were that many German U-Boats on the coast of the U.S. and in the Caribbean. It's shocking how many ships were sunk by the U-Boats and the US Government took their time with convoys to help these merchant marines. A lot of the ship captains were from the same family and from the same small community of Mathews County, Virginia. It shocked me how these men would be torpedoed, abandon ship, survive in a lifeboat and then go back out again. Th I found this book very interesting. I had no idea there were that many German U-Boats on the coast of the U.S. and in the Caribbean. It's shocking how many ships were sunk by the U-Boats and the US Government took their time with convoys to help these merchant marines. A lot of the ship captains were from the same family and from the same small community of Mathews County, Virginia. It shocked me how these men would be torpedoed, abandon ship, survive in a lifeboat and then go back out again. The water was where they felt they needed to be. Anyone who is interested in World War II should read this book and see another side of the war. A side that came very, very close to our shores. Very well written and informative. The book kept my attention. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Another book let down by its subtitle. Because while these seven intrepid brothers do appear, this isn't their story. Instead, it's the story of Matthews County as a whole and the inordinate number of men they sent down to the sea, who had ships torpedoed from under them, who didn't all return, and who seem to have seen every port in the world on their travels. There's not a great deal of narrative here apart from the arc of the war. Instead it's a litany of sinkings and bravery. Of close calls an Another book let down by its subtitle. Because while these seven intrepid brothers do appear, this isn't their story. Instead, it's the story of Matthews County as a whole and the inordinate number of men they sent down to the sea, who had ships torpedoed from under them, who didn't all return, and who seem to have seen every port in the world on their travels. There's not a great deal of narrative here apart from the arc of the war. Instead it's a litany of sinkings and bravery. Of close calls and unlucky decisions. And while those don't get tiring - how awe inspiring it is to read ordinary men doing extraordinary things - it still doesn't tell a story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Popular culture in America generally teaches World War II using the 'highlights' method - we invariably skip from Pearl Harbor to D-Day, glossing over the almost three-year gap between the two events. "The Mathews Men," by William Geroux, performs the valuable service of reminding us that America's rising to the juggernaut that won WWII required a herculean labor and tremendous sacrifice. "TMM" focuses on the good people of Mathews County, Virginia, a marshy lost point on the Chesapeake Bay. Math Popular culture in America generally teaches World War II using the 'highlights' method - we invariably skip from Pearl Harbor to D-Day, glossing over the almost three-year gap between the two events. "The Mathews Men," by William Geroux, performs the valuable service of reminding us that America's rising to the juggernaut that won WWII required a herculean labor and tremendous sacrifice. "TMM" focuses on the good people of Mathews County, Virginia, a marshy lost point on the Chesapeake Bay. Mathews County is filled with villages and hamlets, and the locals are born to the water. One of the poorest parts of Virginia at the time, the poor farmland and access to the sea made a career on the waves a natural choice. This county provided an oversized portion of the Merchant Mariners, who served an essential but underappreciated role in the early war effort. Many would make the ultimate sacrifice. When America dove into World War II, England had been fighting the Germans for a couple of years, and the fight was not going well. In addition to all the other woes England suffered, Germany had adopted a strategy of starving the small island nation. England quite simply could not fight Germany with the resources available on its own shores - it desperately needed imports, and the American Merchant Marine fleet was the essential lifeline for a huge portion of those resources. Naturally, the Germans decided to start sinking the Merchant Marine. While a modern American might assume that our Navy could protect the merchant ships, the sad fact was that we lacked the ships to provide any meaningful protection in 1942. Half our navy was in the Pacific, and a bunch of the Atlantic fleet had already been sent to England under the lend-lease program. So many Merchant Marine vessels went out to face German U-boats armed with little more than luck. That was insufficient. William Geroux skillfully explains the logistics of the early American war effort and the Merchant Marine's vital role in that effort. He also tells several heartbreaking (or infuriating) stories of loss and heroism at sea as ship after ship gets torpedoed by the German U-boat fleet. These stories, naturally, aren't part of the American narrative of WWII - it's not too inspiring to read of oil tankers being sunk at the mouth of the Mississippi River, or the fact that American coastal cities refused to dim their lights at night (most European ports were on blackout status) - the bright city lights made hunting Merchant Marine vessels at night as easy for a U-boat commander as hunting in broad daylight - due to worries about the impact on local businesses. While America quickly ramps up for war, 1942 and 1943 were brutal years for the Merchant Marine and their families. And yet their sacrifices were essentially ignored, overshadowed by the triumphs of our 'real' military. Geroux's book, extensively researched and complete with excellent maps, notes, and bios of the key players, helps fill in this unforgiveable gap in America's understanding of who contributed to our military success. It is particularly poignant to read this history today as our own military efforts are so far removed from American daily life - it is a stark reminder that in WWII, the war was fought on the home front as well. Highly recommended

  5. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I've had this book for a while and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. This was Nonfiction WWII Military History. It is a book about the men from Mathews county, Virginia. It seemed like the best living for the male population in this county was at sea, leaving the women at home to raise the children and grow the food. During WWII, the number of deaths at sea is a staggering number. The U-boats were deadly. The men who were considered to be merchant marines were also considered to be vo I've had this book for a while and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. This was Nonfiction WWII Military History. It is a book about the men from Mathews county, Virginia. It seemed like the best living for the male population in this county was at sea, leaving the women at home to raise the children and grow the food. During WWII, the number of deaths at sea is a staggering number. The U-boats were deadly. The men who were considered to be merchant marines were also considered to be volunteers at that time. They ran supplies and whatever else was needed for the war through the deadly seas and so many lives were lost. I listened to the audio and the narrator, Arthur Morey, did a fabulous job. He had the perfect voice for this one. So 4 star.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    If you'll pardon the expression, WWII history involving U-boats and battles at sea just isn't in my wheelhouse, but this book is a wee bit different. First of all, it focuses on the Merchant Marine and its involvement in the war, which I knew nothing about and second, the people highlighted in this book are rather unique -- they're all from one small, isolated county in Virginia on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. It was a place where, as one man who grew up there noted, "You farmed, you If you'll pardon the expression, WWII history involving U-boats and battles at sea just isn't in my wheelhouse, but this book is a wee bit different. First of all, it focuses on the Merchant Marine and its involvement in the war, which I knew nothing about and second, the people highlighted in this book are rather unique -- they're all from one small, isolated county in Virginia on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. It was a place where, as one man who grew up there noted, "You farmed, you fished the Bay, or you went to sea. Those were your only options." Mathews men had been on the oceans since colonial times, and were sought out by a number of shipping companies for their seagoing prowess. This small, remote county was also a place where, during World War II, pretty much every family could claim a personal connection to the U-boats that prowled the seas. In The Mathews Men, Mr. Geroux focuses largely on one single, seafaring family, the Hodges, of which seven sons spent much of the war trying to avoid becoming casualties of the U-boats. They were all there on the high seas during World War II doing their best to keep the war effort going, sometimes at great personal cost. I'm going to be very honest here. While I love love love history, I'm not a huge fan of stories about actual battles and military engagements, and there is quite a lot of that sort of thing in this book. However, life at sea isn't everything that's covered here: the author goes into Mathews County history, into what life was like for those living there before the war, and then what went on with those left behind in Mathews County and how they coped while their men were serving during the war. One of the most interesting ongoing stories in this book is that of Henny Hodges, who kept the home fires burning while tending the 60-acre family farm. Her husband, Captain Jesse, was at sea for most of their life together; Henny was a strong woman who managed "forty acres of crops, a barn full of horses and cows, a hog pen and smokehouse, a chicken house and two docks." She had raised her own children (all 14 of them) and "several" of her grandchildren (27), pretty much on her own. The author revisits Henny and other women in Mathews County periodically while telling of the men's exploits at sea, and he is also able to vividly describe the U-boat operations from the points of view of the captains using valuable firsthand accounts. There is a LOT of interesting stuff here: the U-boats approaching the east coast of the US with very little resistance; the lack of military support for the Merchant Marine that in some cases resulted in unnecessary deaths, and the fact that although the men of the Merchant Marine were engaged in the war effort, they had no status or benefits as veterans once the war was over. Since I have an advanced reader copy, I'm not sure if there are photos in the finished product, but if there are not, the lack of photos is a huge drawback. There are excellent maps provided, but since I got so invested in the lives of these people, I would have also loved to have been able to connect names with faces. However, even if, like myself, a reader is not all about battles at sea, there is so much more to this book than simply U-boats vs. ships, certainly enough to keep pages turning. I'd definitely recommend it to maritime history buffs, or to those who are interested in World War II, but I'd also say it's of great interest to anyone interested in Virginia's history or the history of what was happening on the home front.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Pribus

    An interesting book on CD for me on several levels (and a much longer review than usual). We used to live on the Poquoson River, not all that many miles south of Mathews. But also interesting for the new information (to me) about U-boats and WWII. Lots of oh-wow stats that I haven't completely retained since I often listen in bed so can't jot things down. I had never known just how active U-boats were off our coast, for example. Vessels were torpedoed and people ashore in Cape May and Virginia Be An interesting book on CD for me on several levels (and a much longer review than usual). We used to live on the Poquoson River, not all that many miles south of Mathews. But also interesting for the new information (to me) about U-boats and WWII. Lots of oh-wow stats that I haven't completely retained since I often listen in bed so can't jot things down. I had never known just how active U-boats were off our coast, for example. Vessels were torpedoed and people ashore in Cape May and Virginia Beach could see them ablaze. U-boats set mines INSIDE the Chesapeake Bay, sinking vessels. U-boats would target ships silhouetted against the lights of New York City and Virginia Beach. There were not many U-boats at the start of the war, so the Germans named them U-456 or U-594 to make it seem like there were more. But even small wolf packs were deadly because the allies were slow to take defensive measures such as destroyer coverage for convoys. These convoys would eventually have 100 or more ships and would be perhaps 5 miles wide, but only 2-3 ships deep because they were so much more vulnerable from the sides. The most vulnerable ships- tankers and ammo carriers -- would be in the interior. Eventually the Germans were building more U-boats, but we were building Liberty Ships at the rate of about 40 a month. (Sidebar: When I was in college I sailed to Europe on a One-time Liberty Ship. Later, when we lived in California, we visited the Jeremiah O'Brien, a surviving Liberty Ship now in San Francisco. This book erroneously says it is in Baltimore.) Many descriptions of encounters, convoys to Murmansk, and sinkings in the Caribbean. In one case, Caribbean fishermen, butchering a shark they'd caught, found human remains, including two rings. The ownership of one ring was found to be a Mathews man. The end of the book epilogues many of the Mathews characters and their families and also wraps up the maritime war. The D-Day invasion -- second largest in history (after Sicily) involved 5300 vessels (not a typo!) The convoy heading to France was 15 miles across. After the end of the war, U-boats were directed to surrender at the nearest Allied port and two did in CONUS -- at Cape May and Portland NH. In all, about 900o mariners were lost and it was only in the 1980s they were awarded veterans benefits. (Oh, CONUS is military for continental US.) The death rate in the US Navy was about 1.5%, for mariners it was almost 4% -- second only to US Marines. U-boats, however were much more dangerous with a death rate of about 70%. At the end of the war, there were about 5000 US non-military vessels remaining, more than half of all the ships in the world. Most were sold off to allies and because of US regulations, our present maritime presence is very low. Some of the remaining merchant ships still flying US flags are well subsidized by the government with the understanding they are immediately available in the event of national need. The end of the book describes the 100s of WWII vessels lying on the US continental shelf, most now rusting away and stripped by divers before the 2004 law protecting the wrecks For example the U-869 was in 235 feet off New Jersey, the U-166 was in 5000 feet in the Gulf of Mexico. There are some 80 wrecks just off OBX in NC. All in all, an interesting book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    William Geroux has written a totally eye-opening book about the history of The Mathews Men and the Merchant Marines. It not only tells the story of a small county in Mathews Virginia and it’s heritage with the sea, it also tells how WWII forever changed the lives of the families living there. It’s the forgotten story of how the men from Mathews Virginia took to the sea to support their families as their forefathers had done. It’s the forgotten story of how they worked their way up to become Capta William Geroux has written a totally eye-opening book about the history of The Mathews Men and the Merchant Marines. It not only tells the story of a small county in Mathews Virginia and it’s heritage with the sea, it also tells how WWII forever changed the lives of the families living there. It’s the forgotten story of how the men from Mathews Virginia took to the sea to support their families as their forefathers had done. It’s the forgotten story of how they worked their way up to become Captains of their ships and helped the other men from Mathews do the same. Starting before the United States officially enters the war, the Men of Mathews and the Merchant Marines sail their ships full of goods, supplies, food, fuel, travelers, and arms to support the Allies in Europe. Unprotected, they face the German U-boats alone resulting in losses of both materials and lives. It’s the forgotten story of how the German U-boats almost decimated the shipping industry resulting in the United States losing staggering amounts of supplies, oil, and men’s lives and almost losing the war. It’s the forgotten story of the US Militaries failure to protect the Merchant Marines in the early stages of WWII. It’s the forgotten story of how these same men from Mathews Virginia and the Merchant Marines took part in Operation Torch in 1942 bringing supplies and food to the besieged island of Malta. It’s the forgotten story of how the Merchant Marines and the Mathews Men were part of the Invasion of Africa, Italy, and D-Day by transporting troops, landing craft, transports, and armaments necessary for theses successes, and even transporting the B-29 crewmen to Tinian Island who would crew the Enola Gay. In short, it is the forgotten story, overlooked in the US History books, of a group of men who should be honored as heroes—not forgotten. It’s the story of group of men and families who were for years denied for years the benefits enjoyed by the military such as the GI Bill and medical care. Reading this over Memorial Weekend made me appreciate the sacrifices of these men. There was no flag for the Merchant Marines flown that day, nor a call to stand if you were among this group of heroes. I find that very sad. I for one will remember that without the Men from Mathews and the Merchant Marines the outcome could have been so different. I for one will look at Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day and remember this wonderful book .

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This is an excellent first book for the author. The story takes place during the period of 1942 to the end of WWII. William Geroux brings to life the story of the men who risked their lives in Merchant Marine, delivering cargo in the shadow of Hitler's U-Boats. The book follows the lives of seven brothers, their extended families and friends from Mathews County, Virginia. It was especially interesting to find out about the U-Boat activities along the east coast and the Caribbean. I highly recomm This is an excellent first book for the author. The story takes place during the period of 1942 to the end of WWII. William Geroux brings to life the story of the men who risked their lives in Merchant Marine, delivering cargo in the shadow of Hitler's U-Boats. The book follows the lives of seven brothers, their extended families and friends from Mathews County, Virginia. It was especially interesting to find out about the U-Boat activities along the east coast and the Caribbean. I highly recommend this book!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Twobchelm

    This was a fact filled book full of interesting stories. The Merchant Marines played such an important part in supplying our allies in WWII but were not valued as part of the military. The German U-boats sinking their ships all along the Atlantic. In the year 1943 approximately 548 ships lay on the ocean floor and 3000 sailors were dead. With more joining the force and devising the concept of the convoy greatly improved their missions. It was something I knew very little about in WWII.

  11. 5 out of 5

    JD

    This is a well research book detailing the role the men of Mathews County, Virginia played during the World War 2 in the Merchant Marine. It is a very informative book about the role Merchant Mariners played during the war and very interesting. Would recommend it to anyone looking to learn about this part of World War 2.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Allison Anderson Armstrong

    Though I didn't know anything about Matthews, Virginia before reading this book, I found myself getting very interested in this book as U-boat combat is a terrifyingly fascinating subject to me. It was interesting to learn about many US merchant ships that were sadly sunk, and hundreds in the gulf of Mexico area. Lots of interesting accounts of fear, bravery, sorrow, and victory.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    An Underappreciated but Important Force in WWII In The Mathews Men, William Geroux presents a vivid reassessment of the role the Merchant Marine played during World War II. Largely unheralded, these merchant seamen served aboard vessels plying routes up and down the U.S. Coast, across the Atlantic, and to ports as far away as Murmansk and Sri Lanka. Their ships carried essential war materials, troops, food, medical supplies, oil, and every other conceivable item needed for the war effort. In our An Underappreciated but Important Force in WWII In The Mathews Men, William Geroux presents a vivid reassessment of the role the Merchant Marine played during World War II. Largely unheralded, these merchant seamen served aboard vessels plying routes up and down the U.S. Coast, across the Atlantic, and to ports as far away as Murmansk and Sri Lanka. Their ships carried essential war materials, troops, food, medical supplies, oil, and every other conceivable item needed for the war effort. In our overall appraisal of the war, we tend to focus on troops, battles, commanders, and tactics, but of course no military campaign could be conducted without the resources that were, for the most part, supplied by the unsung heroes of the war: the men of the Merchant Marine. To be honest, I found that listening to (rather than reading) this book made it a little hard to follow for the simple reason that there were so many threads to the story concerning so many men and their families that at times I lost track of who was who. There was, however, one central family from Mathews, VA that is the focus of the story, but even then it was a bit disorienting as this family was very large – seven brothers, as stated in the book's subtitle – and most of them served in the Merchant Marine. In addition, a good part of the book is a harrowing litany of ships which were torpedoed and sunk: especially early on in the war, American merchant vessels were sunk faster than they could be replaced. This was an untenable situation, especially given that it took between 7 and 15 tons of supplies to support one soldier on the front for a year. Geroux points an accusatory finger at naval policies which contributed to this dire situation, in particular the almost nonexistent support in the form of armed convoys and air cover for merchant vessels along the Atlantic coast, the lack of a coastal blackout (making it easy for U-boats to spot their prey), and a general military indifference to how many lives were lost by the merchant marine sailors. In particular, he lays blame at the feet of Admiral Ernest King, who was reluctant to devote resources to the coastal merchant marine. As a result, German submarines under the command of Admiral Karl Doenitz rampaged almost at will along the Atlantic and in the Caribbean during the first year of the war. A favored target were oil tankers, which were perhaps the most hazardous ships to serve upon. Geroux's accounts of oil tanker disasters held me spellbound. He recounts these events from both the perspective of the men on the tankers as well as the men on the U-boats who hunted them. He even provides accounts from tourists staying at beach-side resorts along the East Coast, who watched aghast as oil tankers offshore were hit by torpedoes and then (if lucky) burned slowly or (if not lucky) went up in violent conflagrations. Geroux recounts so many details of sinkings, losses, rescues, and submarine and naval tactics that the book becomes more episodic than I would have liked, but throughout he never loses sight of his main premise: that the Merchant Marine served heroically but, to our country’s shame, were not given the same consideration as other wartime personnel. They received no veterans' benefits – or at least not until 43 years after the war, at which point most of the seamen were either quite old or in their graves. Many had already given their lives – about 1 out of every 26 merchant seamen was killed. After the war, much of the vast Merchant Marine fleet was sold or scrapped, and the force that had played a decisive role in the war dissipated as many seamen turned to other professions. The modern-day practice of sending cargo under foreign flags rather than the U.S. flag, a cost-saving strategy, was particularly detrimental to the Merchant Marine. According to Wikipedia, “As of 2006, the United States merchant fleet had 465 privately owned ships …. Nearly 800 American-owned ships are flagged in other nations.” This figure of 465 ships is a far cry from the prewar total, not to mention the vast fleet that was ultimately assembled during the war. Though I don’t recall if Geroux gave a figure for this in his book, a website devoted to the Merchant Marine in WWII mentions that “The prewar total of 55,000 experienced mariners was increased to over 215,000 through U.S. Maritime Service training programs.“ In addition, some 8,300 of these men were killed while at sea and 12,000 were wounded. More to the point and as Geroux points out, 3.6% of the men serving in the Merchant Marine were killed -- a higher percentage than any other force. (The Marine Corps, according to the website cited above, lost 2.9%, the Army 2.04%, and the Navy 0.88% Clearly, the Merchant Marine seamen would have been over three times as safe, taken in aggregate, had they enlisted in the Navy.) In short, although Geroux’s book is ostensibly about one rural corner of Virginia that played a disproportionate role in the maritime history of WWII, he successfully builds a strong case for reassessing the role of the Merchant Marine. I came away with a newfound gratitude and regard for these underappreciated seamen.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    December 12, 2016 A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of the book “The Mathews Men” by William Geroux I ordered this book in hardbound, form Amazon, because it was a history book and one I wanted in my library. It told the valiant yet unheralded story of the men of the US Merchant Marine Service story during time of World War II. I thought it was a significant story and a worthy read because of where most of the players were from, namely Mathews County Virginia. Mathews County Virginia, especially during December 12, 2016 A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of the book “The Mathews Men” by William Geroux I ordered this book in hardbound, form Amazon, because it was a history book and one I wanted in my library. It told the valiant yet unheralded story of the men of the US Merchant Marine Service story during time of World War II. I thought it was a significant story and a worthy read because of where most of the players were from, namely Mathews County Virginia. Mathews County Virginia, especially during the War years was unknown to any but the people who lived within proximity and the major US shippers of cargo, sent to far off places in the world. The Mathews County men were renowned for their seaman skills and development of Captain’s for the Merchant service. Many predecessors were known and heralded during and after World War I. As World War II began the world and the United States were mostly unprepared for war time commerce especially given the isolationist feelings of most Americans who wanted nothing to do with Europe’s wars. Despite this attitude a hue and cry for help from both England and Russia fell on the ears of some in power in the US, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt resulting in new policies titled Lend Lease. The Materials and food products had to be shipped by boat and it fell on the major shippers of the day to begin the dangerous transporting across the Atlantic and the men of Matthews and elsewhere stepped up to the plate to endure these risks. During the early years of World War II the German Navy quickly fell into a state of non-importance primarily, because of the strength of the British Navy. However, the Germans concentrated their naval strength by use of the submarine of U-Boat fleet. Realizing that the US was taking a non-committed position of supplying both Britain and Russia, the Germans soon began to attack American Shipping to Europe and Russia as their assaults and invasions moved forward. The book pointed out some significant statistics on the amount of material tonnage and human life that was lost and destroyed and weaved into this recapture of events told the story of the commitment made by ordinary “heroes” from Mathews County VA. The flow of the authors writing made reading this book like great novel that I found difficult to put down. I was impressed and somewhat astounded by the proximity of the U-boat operations near and within US Waters and the number of ships and lives lost. There were many heart wrenching stories of men who experienced their ships torpedoed under them and yet men continued to ship out. The stories of the carnage in the waters around Russia were both frightening and hair raising. The men of the US merchant service were never rewarded after the war nor recognized for their herculean efforts and great sufferings. They were never included in the Veterans benefits program and were largely forgotten for many years. As a point of personal interest, I had an uncle who at 16 joined the US merchant service, because he was too young to enlist in the armed services and delivered material and food during these dangerous times. In 1950 he was drafted into the Army and fought in Korea because his prior service was not recognized. If you love action oriented history, and the great story telling of the author and his extensive research he did to tell his story. Reading it, I was pulled back in time and felt both the experience and feelings of the Mathews Men. I gave this book FIVE Stars out of five and highly recommend its reading to lovers of history. The cited statistics will blow you away.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karyl

    When we think of World War II, we remember things like the Holocaust, the Nazi death camps, the Allied landing at Normandy, the war in the Pacific, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We mourn all those people lost, both military and civilian, but we may not know how many men died in the service of the Merchant Marines, trying to get troops, cargo, food, and supplies to various ports overseas. These men, while not part of the US military, were an necessary link in the supply chain. However, When we think of World War II, we remember things like the Holocaust, the Nazi death camps, the Allied landing at Normandy, the war in the Pacific, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We mourn all those people lost, both military and civilian, but we may not know how many men died in the service of the Merchant Marines, trying to get troops, cargo, food, and supplies to various ports overseas. These men, while not part of the US military, were an necessary link in the supply chain. However, they sustained greater losses than any other branch of the military, save the Marines. While attempting to reach various ports between the US and the Caribbean, or over to Europe and to Russia, Nazi U-boats consistently torpedoed them, and rarely offered any kind of assistance to the survivors. This book explores the important role played by the merchant mariners and the dangers they faced. Unlike Navy sailors or Army soldiers, these men weren't drafted and instead signed up for a contract each time they went to sea. And they had to continually head to sea, even after returning from being torpedoed, if they didn't want to become eligible for the draft. These men voluntarily put themselves in harm's way time after time. I wanted to love this book. I'm fascinated by almost anything having to do with both World Wars, and I'm also from Norfolk, Virginia, not far from Mathews County. Unfortunately, the subtitle notwithstanding, this isn't really a narrative of the seven Hodges brothers. We hear about them sporadically through the book, but Geroux chose to organize his book chronologically, which left very little room for the stories of the brothers. There's quite a bit of the historical maneuvering regarding ways to protect the merchant mariners, including arming their ships, sailing in convoys, or breaking the code the Nazis used to communicate their locations to one another. It's clear the politics had a lot to do with the losses of these mariners, but once convoys were a regular occurrence, the deaths and losses of ships dropped dramatically. It was also difficult to keep track of who was who. I realize that the Hodges family all shared the same last name, so referring to them by their surname wouldn't have cleared much up. But Geroux frequently refers to non-Hodges men by their first names, which leads to a great deal of confusion for the reader. There is a glossary in the back, which I wish I had known before I finished the book. It may have been better served at the beginning. It's surprising, but I believe the most vivid character of all is Henny Hodges, the matriarch of the family who birthed 14 children, lost three before adulthood, and then lost three more of her sons to the war. She ran her house like clockwork, organized huge parties in celebration, farmed her 40 acres, and succumbed to crying spells several times a day, all while her husband and sons were away with the merchant marines. It is she whom I will remember most when I think back onto this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Exanimis

    I received this book through a goodreads give away. When I received this book in the mail I was first struck by the fact that it is a beautifully bound hardback book, I had expected a paperback. I am not a historian or much of a history buff but I have had a fascination with submarines since the first time I saw Das Boot. When I read that this giveaway was for a book about U-Boats I entered the giveaway. I had heard before that German subs had been seen off the coast of America during WWII but I h I received this book through a goodreads give away. When I received this book in the mail I was first struck by the fact that it is a beautifully bound hardback book, I had expected a paperback. I am not a historian or much of a history buff but I have had a fascination with submarines since the first time I saw Das Boot. When I read that this giveaway was for a book about U-Boats I entered the giveaway. I had heard before that German subs had been seen off the coast of America during WWII but I had no idea what really took place, this book opened my eyes and it put a face on the U-Boat commanders that I did not expect. Sometimes I read a book that I feel my intelligence and education are not adequate to offer a decent review, The Mathews Men is such a book. The Mathews Men Seven Brothers and the war against Hitler's U-Boats tells the story of Mathews county Virginia, a county with a long sea faring history with ties to the Merchant Marines. Men from Mathews sailed the world during WWII, many survived multiple sinking's by torpedo and many lost their lives. To the men of Mathews the Merchant Marines was a way of life and if their ship was torpedoed and sank it only meant one of two things, they died or they got a new ship. These were incredibly brave men and the women they left behind were tough and determined and learned to keep their homes and farms in order. As I read the Mathews Men I kept multiple book markers between the pages, I marked maps, lists of names and the "Notes and Sources" section. While reading I would flip to the maps or too the lists of men and women, after finishing a chapter I would flip to the notes and sources section and read all material for the chapter. This is truly an exceptional book and I needed to know all the details held within it's pages. While reading I began to see something else in the book, something I do not believe the author intended. I noticed all the background information, the interviews, the quote from other books and the tremendous amount of research that the author put into writing this. I feel that this is not only a look into the members of Mathew county who served in WWII but also a look into the heart and soul of a reporter.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I chose to read this book because my father was in the Merchant Marine, promoted to Captain and then ran US Lines shipping operations during World War II. Also I chose it because a friend had a grandfather sea captain from Mathews and we had been to a church cemetery in Mathews together years ago. it is wonderful that William Geroux dedicated the time and energy to writing this little known story, not just of men from the Mathews, Virginia area, but of the heroism many men faced while in the mer I chose to read this book because my father was in the Merchant Marine, promoted to Captain and then ran US Lines shipping operations during World War II. Also I chose it because a friend had a grandfather sea captain from Mathews and we had been to a church cemetery in Mathews together years ago. it is wonderful that William Geroux dedicated the time and energy to writing this little known story, not just of men from the Mathews, Virginia area, but of the heroism many men faced while in the merchant marine in World War II that was never heralded or recognized. It is good that this chronicle of those who served and what happened to them has been written. Little did I know when I christened one of the Liberty Ships in Dec 1945 at 9 years of age, (after the war because the ship was not completed on time) that my Father had been through years of stress working with people and ships that he sent with supplies and men to Europe who had subsequently died. Like another reviewer, I did not know that the German U-boat submarines were torpedoing so many ships right "off our bow" up and down our US coast! What a shock! Chapters called War's End and Legacy sum it up well: Congress excluded Merchant Marine men from GI Bill and other veteran benefits. One of every 26 mariners who served died. Britain lost 32,000 seaman in the war, a quarter of their war deaths. Merchant Mariners were not included in the 'Gold Star Honor Role" to honor those who died. My friend's grandfather's picture and a brief story of his death at sea was included in the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “The Mathews Men” by William Geroux, published by Viking. Category – History/World War II Publication Date – April 19, 2016. Any student of history and World War II must pick up this book. It is an amazing story that very few, if any, people know about. Many books have been written about World War II and have expounded on the feats of the United States Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Army, however does anyone know about the contribution and sacrifices made by the Merchant Marine. In a small county, M “The Mathews Men” by William Geroux, published by Viking. Category – History/World War II Publication Date – April 19, 2016. Any student of history and World War II must pick up this book. It is an amazing story that very few, if any, people know about. Many books have been written about World War II and have expounded on the feats of the United States Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Army, however does anyone know about the contribution and sacrifices made by the Merchant Marine. In a small county, Mathews County, on the Chesapeake Bay that was essentially a community of its own, where jobs were few but most inhabitants lived off the water. An unbelievable number of these men became Merchant Marines and many of them came to be Captains of ships. This is their story and the story of their families, and the tremendous sacrifices they all made for their country. These men went to sea knowing that their chances of survival were thin as the German U-Boats were unmolested, sinking ship after ship at the beginning of the war. These men from Mathews County kept going back to sea after having ship after ship sunk under them, living through their ships being torpedoed, trying to survive in the cold North Atlantic, fighting off sharks, fire, and oil. They did this with no compensation from the Government. A truly great story of heroic men who gave their all and then some without any thought to glory or monetary reward. An outstanding read about a forgotten part of history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    This is an interesting and very readable look at a little-known aspect of World War II - the civilian mariners who kept the Allied armies and navies supplied. They remain unsung heroes of the war. While this book brings to light their courageous service, it also reveals the terrible sacrifice in lives paid by merchant mariners and their families. As much as this book shines a spotlight on character traits we admire - dedication, perseverance, selflessness, duty - it's not the kind of book that w This is an interesting and very readable look at a little-known aspect of World War II - the civilian mariners who kept the Allied armies and navies supplied. They remain unsung heroes of the war. While this book brings to light their courageous service, it also reveals the terrible sacrifice in lives paid by merchant mariners and their families. As much as this book shines a spotlight on character traits we admire - dedication, perseverance, selflessness, duty - it's not the kind of book that wants you to rush outside to hang the stars and stripes. The story is quite melancholy at times. The US military's refusal to adequately escort and guard merchant vessels, including those plying the US coast and Caribbean, exacerbated the Nazi U-boats' devastating effort to cripple the Allies. I'm sure the US military command had it's reasons for prioritizing limited resources the way it did. Whatever reasons they had are given short shrift in this book. It is almost certainly true, however, that no explanation would satisfy the surviving families of the thousands of merchant mariners lost during World War II.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marissa

    Well... I liked the content of this book - I love WWII history and this book showed me an aspect of the war that I hadn't thought about much. I liked learning about the Merchant Marine and theU-boat war. It was very interesting. But I felt a little deceived by the secondary title - the part that says its about 7 brothers and the battle against U-boats. This book is about all of the merchant marines from the county of Mathews Virginia - while the tales of the most 7 Hodges brothers were told, it Well... I liked the content of this book - I love WWII history and this book showed me an aspect of the war that I hadn't thought about much. I liked learning about the Merchant Marine and theU-boat war. It was very interesting. But I felt a little deceived by the secondary title - the part that says its about 7 brothers and the battle against U-boats. This book is about all of the merchant marines from the county of Mathews Virginia - while the tales of the most 7 Hodges brothers were told, it wasn't the entire focus of the book in my opinion. 2 of the brothers were barely mentioned more than a few times. I was expecting something different. I also felt that the story was patched together and wasn't very fluid. I felt like the author was all over the place at the beginning and didn't finish any thought before jumping to the next. There were so many "tidbits" thrown in randomly that it detracted from the flow of the story. Yes I realize it's a history book, but history can be so interesting if it's presented that way.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Belk

    I received this book from Goodreads. This is my honest review. I am a fan of World War II stories and all the history involved with it. The Mathews Men were Merchant Marines from a Virginia County who joined the war effort to protect the U.S. Shores and supplied our Allied forces with urgent supplies of food and munitions. I found the book very informative about this part of the war that I was unfamiliar with. In particular, it is the story of 7 brothers, the Hodges who fought gallantly and at g I received this book from Goodreads. This is my honest review. I am a fan of World War II stories and all the history involved with it. The Mathews Men were Merchant Marines from a Virginia County who joined the war effort to protect the U.S. Shores and supplied our Allied forces with urgent supplies of food and munitions. I found the book very informative about this part of the war that I was unfamiliar with. In particular, it is the story of 7 brothers, the Hodges who fought gallantly and at great sacrifice while being attacked over and over again by Soviet U-Boats. I learned a lot from this book. Thank you William Geroux for a riveting read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tess Mertens-Johnson

    Mathews is a county in West Virginia and this book is about the many men who in the merchant marines gave their lives in WWII. It focuses on one family of seven brothers and the neighbor who all experienced U Boat attacks. Hitler ‘s U boat wanted the merchant marine boats to sink and made it his mission to take down as many as possible. The Mathews men sailed all around the world and their experiences are chronicled in this book. Some came home, some were lost as sea, but all were heroes. I loved e Mathews is a county in West Virginia and this book is about the many men who in the merchant marines gave their lives in WWII. It focuses on one family of seven brothers and the neighbor who all experienced U Boat attacks. Hitler ‘s U boat wanted the merchant marine boats to sink and made it his mission to take down as many as possible. The Mathews men sailed all around the world and their experiences are chronicled in this book. Some came home, some were lost as sea, but all were heroes. I loved every page of this book and would recommend it to anyone, especially anyone who is interested in history.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Surprisingly I enjoyed this true story about U Boats and the devastation they cause right off the Atlantic coast of the United States. The story centers around Mathews County, Virginia and the men who manned the merchant ships and lost their lives feeding and supplying America and the troops with all the things needed to live. I was totally unaware of how close the U Boats came to US shores and sometimes even landed men and sailed in the mouth of the Mississippi. It was totally eye opening and s Surprisingly I enjoyed this true story about U Boats and the devastation they cause right off the Atlantic coast of the United States. The story centers around Mathews County, Virginia and the men who manned the merchant ships and lost their lives feeding and supplying America and the troops with all the things needed to live. I was totally unaware of how close the U Boats came to US shores and sometimes even landed men and sailed in the mouth of the Mississippi. It was totally eye opening and something I had never thought about before.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer McMurtrie

    This book opened my eyes to a part of WWII I knew nothing about. It is a good read topic wise, however I wasn't too keen with the writing style of the book. There were a few instances where I felt I read the same story 2-3 times. I would recommend this book to learn more about the Merchant Marine's role during WWII and the war's impact on Mathew's County.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jerel Wilmore

    This book is a great read for anyone with ties to Virginia Watermen and the Chesapeake Bay. It tells the story of Mathews County, Virginia in World War Two and how the seamen of that county kept the supplies the Allies needed flowing despite the lethal threat of German U-boats.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    I learned so much from this book about the Merchant Marines and the U-boats during World War II. I never knew about any of this; I especially didn't know that ships were being blown up right in the Caribbean and off the U.S. coast. It is especially appalling to me that no Navy convoys were sent to escort and protect these ships -- so vital for trading and for providing supplies to the Allies -- until after many mariners' lives were lost and many ships destroyed. It is also a disgrace that the U. I learned so much from this book about the Merchant Marines and the U-boats during World War II. I never knew about any of this; I especially didn't know that ships were being blown up right in the Caribbean and off the U.S. coast. It is especially appalling to me that no Navy convoys were sent to escort and protect these ships -- so vital for trading and for providing supplies to the Allies -- until after many mariners' lives were lost and many ships destroyed. It is also a disgrace that the U.S. Merchant Marine wasn't provided many of the benefits that were enjoyed by the branches of the U.S. Military, as the mariners were vital to the war's success. The book tells about the backwater of Mathews County, VA as the birthplace of many able-bodied seamen. Men here had been mariners long before the war, but once the war started, they found themselves in the cross-hairs of a battle with Germany for the sea. The story is mostly in chronological order, and tells stories about the main families who sent their men to navigate the treacherous seas, most notably the Hodges family. It tells stories of battles waged, ships sunk, men lost, and men who survived. There are multitudes of characters involved in the story, so I think the subtitle (Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-Boats) does not encompass fully the stories that were told here. There were a lot more men from Mathews involved than the "seven brothers." It took me a long time to read this book mainly because I rarely read history, or much non-fiction at all. It also was difficult to get into because of the episodic nature of the stories. The main thread holding the book together was the War, Mathews County, and the German u-boats. So many men were aboard so many ships and involved in so many attacks that it was hard to keep people and events straight. The author did a great job of showing photos, a map where ships were lost, and a list of all the families from Mathews who had a stake in the Merchant Marines. I'm not sure if I could have figured out a better way to tell the story. The only thing I can think of that might have helped would have been a kind of family tree for each family, with birth and death dates, that I could have referred to throughout. Maybe this could have been at the front of the book. Despite this, it is a deeply researched book that brings to light a part of WWII history that seems to have been mostly ignored. I'm thankful to have read it and learned something about the unsung heroes who served our country.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    I didn't like this as much as I had thought I would, but it did keep my attention and I learned quite a bit about a variety of subjects. Particularly interesting was the military responses to U-boats off American shores. Particularly sad, was the treatment of these merchant marine men after the war.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Harsany

    Such an amazing factual read. I stayed up way too late many a night. Merchant marines displayed heroic courage time and time again, during WWII. They would get sunk and get right back on a vessel.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Colt

    Yes, the subtitle is misleading. But this book is very much worth reading. The story of the men from Mathews, and of the merchant mariners generally in WWII, is not well known, but their contributions to the Allied victory were crucial.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This was an extremely well researched book, but despite its title, for me the book failed to focus sufficiently on a single or even a small enough number of characters to allow me to connect and sympathize with the story. I think it would have been better if, with all of the wealth of knowledge the author collected in preparing to write this book, he had actually centered in on the seven brothers earlier in the book, shortened up the book, and considered writing more than one book.

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