World War II was fought on the doorstep of the Outer Banks. The Battle for the Atlantic ravaged Allied shipping from the Caribbean to the North Sea and the coastal waters of North Carolina saw some of the heaviest losses.
In March of 1942 more than 70 ships were sunk off the coast of North Carolina, many of them within sight of the residents of the Outer Banks. Although that month saw the heaviest losses, the battle continued throughout the war.
The human cost of that battle was brought to life in a presentation at the Coastal Studies Institute by William Geroux. His book, The Mathews Men, Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-Boats, tells the story of the Hodges clan a family of seafarers from Mathews.
Mathews, a small city on the Chesapeake Bay just north of Norfolk was noted for its maritime traditions. Six of the seven Hodges brothers captained merchant ships during the war and two, Dewey and Leslie, gave their lives for the cause.
Geroux’s presentation highlighted the bravery and effort of the merchant marines—efforts that are often overlooked in telling the story of WWII. Geroux points out that the merchant marines suffered the highest casualty rate of any service group in war although the merchant marines were never recognized as a branch of the armed services and they never qualified for any veteran benefits.
The presentation was part of the CSI’s “Science on the Sound” series, once a month topics of interest to the Outer Banks.
The Mathews Men is available at Downtown Books in Manteo and Duck’s Cottage in Duck.