“The Winds of War,” by Herman Wouk

A masterpiece of historical fiction, this is the great novel of America’s “Greatest Generation.”

“Please tell Field Marshal Goring for me, to stick his Swiss bank account up his fat ass.”
–Victor Pug Henry

Discussion Questions:

1). While the main characters of the book are fictional, Victor Henry meets the famous players of WW 2 including F.D. Roosevelt, Goring, Churchill, Mussolini, and Stalin. Did this aspect of the book work for you? How much do you trust the author’s characterizations of this historic figures?

2). There is a lot romantic intrigue in this novel involving virtually all of the major players. Is this a plus or a negative for the novel?

3). Did you find the situation with Natalie Henry, nee Jastrow and her uncle Aaron Jastrow believable? Should Natalie have returned to the U.S. regardless of her uncle’s situation?

4). What did you think of General Von Roon’s “World Empire Lost” sections?

Brigadier General Armin Von Roon

5). American isolationism in the face of Axis atrocities is well-illustrated by “The Winds of War.” While this used to be shocking, perhaps not so much anymore. Why is it that we appear to have forgotten the hard-learned lessons of WW II?

6). Finally, is this book appropriate for a non-fiction book club? Why or why not?

“Winds of War” Quiz:

Check your reading comprehension: https://www.funtrivia.com/playquiz/quiz35015028159d8.html

Still Needs it!

About the Author:

Herman Wouk was a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Jewish American author with a number of notable novels to his credit, including The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance.

Herman Wouk was born in New York City into a Jewish family that had emigrated from Russia. After a childhood and adolescence in the Bronx and a high school diploma from Townsend Harris High School, he earned a B.A. from Columbia University in 1934, where he was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity and studied under philosopher Irwin Edman. Soon thereafter, he became a radio dramatist, working in David Freedman’s “Joke Factory” and later with Fred Allen for five years and then, in 1941, for the United States government, writing radio spots to sell war bonds. He lived a fairly secular lifestyle in his early 20s before deciding to return to a more traditional Jewish way of life, modeled after that of his grandfather, in his mid-20s.

Wouk joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific Theater, an experience he later characterized as educational; “I learned about machinery, I learned how men behaved under pressure, and I learned about Americans.” Wouk served as an officer aboard two destroyer minesweepers (DMS), the USS Zane and USS Southard, becoming executive officer of the latter. He started writing a novel, Aurora Dawn, during off-duty hours aboard ship. Wouk sent a copy of the opening chapters to Irwin Edman who quoted a few pages verbatim to a New York editor. The result was a publisher’s contract sent to Wouk’s ship, then off the coast of Okinawa. The novel was published in 1947 and became a Book of the Month Club main selection. His second novel, City Boy, proved to be a commercial disappointment at the time of its initial publication in 1948.

While writing his next novel, Wouk read each chapter as it was completed to his wife, who remarked at one point that if they didn’t like this one, he’d better take up another line of work (a line he would give to the character of the editor Jeannie Fry in his 1962 novel Youngblood Hawke). The novel, The Caine Mutiny (1951), went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. A huge best-seller, drawing from his wartime experiences aboard minesweepers during World War II, The Caine Mutiny was adapted by the author into a Broadway play called The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and was later made into a film, with Humphrey Bogart portraying Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg, captain of the fictional USS Caine. Some Navy personnel complained at the time that Wouk had taken every twitch of every commanding officer in the Navy and put them all into one character, but Captain Queeg has endured as one of the great characters in American fiction.

He married Betty Sarah Brown in 1945, with whom he had three sons: Abraham, Nathanial, and Joseph. He became a fulltime writer in 1946 to support his growing family. His first-born son, Abraham Isaac Wouk, died in a tragic accident as a child; Wouk later dedicated War and Remembrance (1978) to him with the Biblical words, “He will destroy death forever.”

In 1998, Wouk received the Guardian of Zion Award.

Wouk died in his sleep at the age of 103 in his home in Palm Springs, California, on May 17, 2019, 10 days shy of his 104th birthday.


One comment

  1. Hi I’m a big fan of Herman Wouk, but it’s been a long time since I read Winds of War. Have you read Youngblood Hawke? That’s my all-time favorite book. Also loved Marjorie Morningstar. Nice to have found your blog, too. Happy reading!


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