Regular price: $31.50
Buy Now with 1 Credit
Buy Now for $31.50
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 US 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), US merchant mariners all, suddenly found themselves squarely in the crosshairs 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 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 US merchant mariners' life-and-death struggles took place just off the US 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Gillian on 04-22-16
Engaging Read Not About Brothers, but Men
"The Mathews Men" is a fine tribute to merchant mariners and to the sacrifice of one small county. While the subtitle to the book says it's about seven brothers, it isn't really. Don't expect something about one valiant family and seven brave brothers; don't expect "Unbroken" with seven young men to root for. Rather, it's a compilation of the heroic endeavors of a community of men and their families, a history of the heroic endeavors of the merchant mariners.
This is research at its humane best. What happened to these young men is extraordinary, and Geroux writes so well we're right there with them as horrors and heroism and freak coincidences of man and nature occur: torpedoes slamming into the boat, oil slicks causing the sun to scorch skin, surviving a harrowing blockade run only to be engulfed in a more harrowing storm, one mariner giving up his place on a lifeboat so that another, desperately injured, has a place out of the water.
There are lifeboats galore in this book because the mariners were at the mercy of the U-boats, forsaken by the military, forsaken by Congress. They went by the book, "How to Abandon Ship" as their guide (seriously, it's scary), and went by the leadership of their captains.
While the text is utterly fascinating and engaging, I found Arthur Morey's narration to be a tad grating, as in slow and plodding. He works MUCH better at x1.25 speed, the book flows much better, the action is more breathless. Plus, he has an annoying tendency to attempt accents that are laughably halfhearted, or unfortunately offensive (see: Filipino nurse...). But at least he doesn't detract from a really good story.
And, yes, this is a good story, and I feel ashamed that neither I, nor my nation, has honored these men.
Until now... Fine job, Mr. Geroux. Thank you...
20 of 23 people found this review helpful