Patti Scafidi represented the AMMV at a book signing in New Orleans. The objective was to meet the book author and offer any support that AMMV could offer to promote the sale of his book and to get this Merchant Marine story out to the public.
THE MATHEWS MEN –The Untold Story of an Epic World War II Sea Battle Just Off the Coast of America
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 the extraordinary Hodges family and their seven seafaring sons.
The Hodges and their neighbors in Mathews 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 in merchant ships. After Pearl Harbor, those unprotected ships instantly became the U-boats’ prime targets, and the Navy lacked the inclination or resources to defend them until the beginning of 1943. The U-boats aimed to 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. 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 the traditional battlefields-often the U.S. merchant mariners’ life-and-death struggles took place just off the U.S. coast-and also takes us to the landing beaches on 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.” Their achievements and sacrifices, however, went largely unheralded- Until now.
WILLIAM GEROUX wrote for the Richmond Times-Dispatch for twenty-five years.
His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Associated Press, and various regional
magazines. He has also worked for Maersk, the largest container-shipping company in the world.
He lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia.