The Mathews Men

William Geroux

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William Geroux’s book tells the largely forgotten story of the US Merchant Marine in World War II through the adventures of merchant mariners from Mathews County, Virginia. Mathews, a rural outpost on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, has been a cradle of merchant sea captains and mariners for centuries. When America entered World War II in December 1941, Mathews mariners were scattered on freighters and tankers throughout the war zones, hauling vital cargo. They and their ships became prime targets for German U-boats trying to choke off the Allied supply line. The US Navy initially lacked the forces and inclination to protect the unarmed merchant ships and the U-boats exacted a terrible toll. The mariners faced torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, firgid water, shark attacks, and harrowing lifeboat odesseys — only to ship out again as soon as they had returned to safety. The civilian US Merchant Marine suffered a higher casualty rate than any branch of America’s armed forces. Nearly every family in Tiny Mathews (whose wartime population was roughly 7,500) had a personal stake in the fight, and none more so than the family of Capt. Jesse and Henrietta Hodges and their seven sons, who would expereince the U-boat war to its fullest.

William Geroux

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 also has worked for Maersk, the largest container-shipping company in the world.

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