Hemingway’s Hunt for U-Boats
During World War II, German submarines were a big problem in the Caribbean, with scores of American and Latin American merchant ships bound for Europe being sunk. To help counter the threat, the US Navy and the Cuban Government created the “Hooligan Navy”, a fleet of civilian boats equipped with direction finding equipment and long range radio gear, which were to radio in if they spotted a German U-Boat. Between 1942 and 1943, the famous writer Ernest Hemingway took part in the Hooligan Navy with his 38 foot fishing boat the Pilar. However, Hemingway took his duty one step further. Equipping the boat with Thompson submachine guns and crates of hand grenades, Hemingway intended to take the fight to the enemy.
Hemingway reasoned that his small boat would go unnoticed, thus he could sneak up on a U-Boat, throw grenades down the hatches, then him and his buddies could storm the submarines with their machines. He also believed that at some point a U-Boat crew might attempt to board him, at which point he could unleash his surprise.
Hemingway never spotted any submarines, nor then a U-Boat ever attempt to board his fishing boat. In the end, Hemingway’s U-Boat patrols amounted to northing but fishing and drinking cruises with his friends and quality time with his son. At one point, he began to use the grenades for fishing rather than fighting Germans. Some claim that Hemingway did it for extra fuel rations, others that he doing it to avoid drunk driving charges by the Cuban government. In 1943 the Hooligan Navy was de-activated as the U-Boat threat had mostly been mitigated. Hemingway later became a war journalist, being present at the Normandy Invasions and liberation of Paris.