The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-Boats
Publication date: August 2009
Digital Book format: ePub (Adobe DRM)
A fascinating account of a dramatic, untold chapter in Ernest Hemingway's life -- his passionate pursuit of German U-boats during World War II From the summer of 1942 until the end of 1943, Ernest Hemingway actively patrolled the Gulf Stream and the waters off Cuba's north shore in his wooden fishing boat, Pilar, looking for German submarines. His patrols were supervised by the U.S. Navy and served as a part of antisubmarine warfare at a time when U-boat attacks were decimating Allied merchant shipping in the region. The huge, long-distance subs ultimately sank hundreds of ships in the Atlantic theater, killing thousands of seamen. They were deadly and efficient, and to confront them in a small wooden fishing vessel was to court instant annihilation. Yet Hemingway and his crew of friends were prepared to do just that. Armed with only grenades and submachine guns, they planned to attack any U-boat they encountered. While almost no attention has been paid to these patrols, other than casual mentions in standard biographies, they became the foundation of some of Hemingway's future work, especially The Old Man and the Sea and Islands in the Stream. Onshore, the patrols were a source of mounting friction between Hemingway and his wife, the writer Martha Gellhorn, who was brilliant, difficult, and skeptical of Hemingway's pursuit. Martha was not particularly beautiful but possessed that certain something that drove men -- Hemingway included -- to distraction. He had divorced his second wife to marry Martha, and yet by the time he began patrolling in Pilar, the love affair was doomed, perhaps pushing him more intently toward a confrontation with the U-boats. Terry Mort's incisive portrait of Hemingway is a combination of biography, military history, and literary commentary that draws not only from his work, letters, and wartime documents, but the unofficial yet highly revealing log of the Pilar, a calendar that Hemingway annotated with observations of tides, fishing successes, supply purchases, target practice, ship movements, and most crucially, his pursuit of what he suspected was a German U-boat secretly rendezvousing with a Spanish passenger ship. Hemingway's patrols gave him the opportunity to exercise his well-known taste for bravado, tall tales, and male camaraderie. But he was at the top of his professional game when World War II began, a novelist with wealth, international acclaim, and many works ahead of him. Mort's provocative portrait of one of America's greatest writers reveals why he went to sea and courted death in the high season of his most remarkable life.