The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-Boats

By Shaw, Jeff | Naval War College Review, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-Boats


Shaw, Jeff, Naval War College Review


Mort, Terry. The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-boats. New York: Scribner's, 2009. 272pp. $26

The Battle of the Atlantic has been thoroughly researched and exhaustively studied, especially by students attending the Naval War College. However, rarely has the epic campaign to defeat the German U-boat menace been viewed through the lens of the life and personality of one of America's greatest literary figures. In The Hemingway Patrols, Terry Mort offers a well researched account of this great campaign, one that reads almost like an actual Hemingway novel.

For students of military history, Mort's account of the titanic struggle between the Allied navies and German U-boats in the early months of 1942 will be somewhat familiar. It is the juxtaposition with Hemingway's decision to participate in the campaign that provides the strength of this narrative. Mort depicts Hemingway in 1942 as at the zenith of both his life and his professional career. Likewise, the German U-boat campaign would reach its zenith during this year: American shipping suffered grievous losses at the hands of only a dozen or so U-boats in the early months. Why would Hemingway, living in luxury in Cuba at the time, risk everything, with his drinking buddies, to hunt U-boats in his wooden fishing trawl Pilar? Having studied at Princeton with Hemingway biographer Carlos Baker, Mort provides one of the most convincing explanations yet offered for Hemingway's decision to place himself in harm's way.

It would be easy simply to ascribeHemingway's decision to that of a writer living out the life that he had illustrated in his art. Mort takes a more scholarly approach, however. One of the most interesting elements of this book is its description of the three stages through which each of Hemingway's characters pass in his novels-the stage of innocence, then suffering, and finally an existential stage, in which the hero creates meaning out of nothingness. …

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