born May 27, 1915
Herman Wouk is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and a former US Navy officer, most famous for his bestsellers The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.
Herman Wouk – An Officer And A Novelist
Herman Wouk was born in New York City, to the Jewish family of Esther and Abraham Isaac Wouk, who came to America from the Russian empire. His parents were not very religious, so the boy grew up in a secular environment. Much later, Herman would rediscover his religious heritage and try to model his life after the life of his grandfather, a deeply religious man. Up to this day, he starts every day from reading the Scripture! His studies of Judaism never interfered with his social life, though, and in 1934 he successfully graduated with a B.A. from Columbia University, where he studied philosophy.
Trying to find his place in life, in 1941 Wouk became a radio dramaturgist, writing and voicing government ads for war bonds. Soon he joined the US Navy and was deployed in the Pacific, serving as an officer on two destroyer minesweepers, USS Zane and USS Southard. While at sea, he spent his free time writing his first novel, tentatively named Aurora Dawn.
He sent the first chapter to his former philosophy professor Irwin Edman, who read it aloud to a friend in a publishing house... Several weeks later, while at anchor in Okinawa, Japan, Wouk received mail that contained a signed contract for publication of the novel! The novel, published in 1947, brought Wouk fame - it was picked into the main selection of the influential Book of the Month Club.
After the war, Wouk married Betty Sarah Brown, who would give him three sons. To be able to support the growing family, Herman became a full-time writer.
His second novel, City Boy (1948), was not a commercial success, mainly due to the publication of Norman Mailer's excellent The Naked And The Dead the same year. Wouk's third novel, The Caine Mutiny, a semi-historical novel based on episodes from real events and on Wouk's personal experiences, was published in 1951.
Before sending each finished chapter to the publisher, he read it to his wife and ask her for critique. Her conclusion after she heard the whole book was simple: "If they don't appreciate even this one, you should change your line of work!"
The novel had overwhelming success, becoming a huge bestseller and bringing Wouk the Pulitzer Prize. Later it was adapted into a Broadway play called The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and also made into a film, with Humphrey Bogart in one of the main roles.
In 1987 Wouk was awarded the Lone Sailor Award by the U S Navy Memorial Foundation for his naval career and his literary achievements. And in 2008 he handed over to the Library of Congress his personal diary which he has kept since 1937 (!) and which contained at least 100 volumes!
Beichman, Arnold, Herman Wouk: The Novelist as Social Historian