- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 21, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014310926X
- ISBN-13: 978-0143109266
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 232 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Paperback – March 21, 2017
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Goosebumps to see the picture of my uncle David.
Sad that my grandmother is no longer with us to see the tribute to her family. I know that she would have been very proud.
She had told us most of these stories when we were kids. I can say that the stories were so unbelievable that I truly didn't believe them until I read the newspaper clippings as an adult.
Really wish that she were here to see this.
However, I think Geroux detracted from his book by the endless put-downs of the Navy, and its WWII leader, Admiral King. It's kind of like he simply replayed the one-sided local Mathews County lore, which for all its pride, is still resentful of the fact that the Merchant Marine never received the recognition or benefits of those who fought the war in the Navy.
During 1942 we weren't just fighting the Germans. Yes, their submarine fleet was incredibly effective, but the bigger problem was the Japanese Navy in the Pacific, which at that time was the most potent Navy in the world. Simply blaming our Navy's leader, who was saddled with building his resources on the other side of the world, and also supporting our British allies at the time with all the convoy escort problems, is not only unfair, but simply wrong. Yet, again and again, Geroux seems to go out of his way to look for ways to put down the Navy, and Admiral King. Would our Navy, which triumphed over the Japanese in the Pacific, have been as good without him? I think not.
The Mathews Men made their choice. Geroux's book makes it clear that many of them didn't like the discipline of the Navy, some even complained of the food, and the fact that they had to go where and when they were told. On the other hand, the Merchant Marine men, brave as they were, could sign on for a trip (or not) as they chose, were better paid, and had a non-military life. It was their choice, and no fault of the Navy's, if they chose this also dangerous path. I'm sure they would have found the battle off Savo Island at Guadalcanal every bit as bad as their experiences.
What would be better, is for Geroux, Mathews County folks, and the rest of us, to appreciate the fact that everyone was trying to do their best in the early stages of WWII to cover all of the many areas of the world, with insufficient, unplanned-for resources. We should respect all of their roles, and not just belittle the others.
A good story was tainted by his totally unnecessary pounding of the Navy and Admiral King. Often not even supported by his research notes. I would have enjoyed his book much more if he had just told the great story of The Mathews Men.
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.