|Birth Day:||May 27, 1915|
|Birth Place:||New York City, United States|
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He graduated from Columbia University in 1934. During the World War II Years, he joined the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific.
After his childhood and adolescence in the Bronx and a diploma from the original Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the age of 19 from Columbia University in 1934, where he was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. He also served as editor of the university's humor magazine, Columbia Jester, and wrote two of its annual Varsity Shows. 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.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wouk joined the U.S Naval Reserve in 1942 and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, 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 while holding the rank of lieutenant. He participated in around six invasions and won a number of battle stars. Wouk was in the New Georgia Campaign, the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign, the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, and the Battle of Okinawa. During off-duty hours aboard ship he started writing a novel, Aurora Dawn, which he originally titled Aurora Dawn; or, The True history of Andrew Reale, containing a faithful account of the Great Riot, together with the complete texts of Michael Wilde's oration and Father Stanfield's sermon. Wouk sent a copy of the opening chapters to philosophy professor Irwin Edman, under whom he studied at Columbia, 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. Wouk finished his tour of duty in 1946.
In late 1944 Wouk met Betty Sarah Brown, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Southern California, who was working as a personnel specialist in the navy while the Zane was undergoing repairs in San Pedro, California. The two quickly fell in love and after his ship went back to sea, Betty, who was born a Protestant and was raised in Grangeville, Idaho, began her study of Judaism and converted on her twenty-fifth birthday. They were married on December 10, 1945.
His second novel, City Boy, proved to be a commercial disappointment at the time of its initial publication in 1948; Wouk once claimed it was largely ignored amid the excitement over Norman Mailer's bestselling World War II novel The Naked and the Dead.
His first novel after The Caine Mutiny was Marjorie Morningstar (1955), which earned him a Time magazine cover story. Three years later Warner Bros. made it into a movie starring Natalie Wood, Gene Kelly and Claire Trevor. His next novel, a paperback, was Slattery's Hurricane (1956), which he had written in 1948 as the basis for the screenplay for the film of the same name. Wouk's first work of non-fiction was 1959's This is My God: The Jewish Way of Life.
While writing his next novel, Wouk read each chapter to his wife as it was completed. At one point she remarked that if they did not like this one, he had better take up another line of work (a line he would give to the character of the editor Jeannie Fry in his novel Youngblood Hawke, 1962). The novel, The Caine Mutiny (1951), went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A 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, in 1954, Columbia Pictures released a film version with Humphrey Bogart portraying Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg, captain of the fictional USS Caine.
In the 1960s, he authored Youngblood Hawke (1962), a drama about the rise and fall of a young writer modeled on the life of Thomas Wolfe, and Don't Stop the Carnival (1965), a comedy about escaping mid-life crisis by moving to the Caribbean (loosely based on Wouk's own experience). Youngblood Hawke was serialized in McCall's magazine from March to July 1962. A movie version starred James Franciscus and Suzanne Pleshette and was released by Warner Brothers in 1964. Don't Stop the Carnival was turned into a short-lived musical by Jimmy Buffett in 1997.
In the 1970s, Wouk published two monumental novels, The Winds of War (1971) and its sequel, War and Remembrance (1978). He described the latter, which included a devastating depiction of the Holocaust, as "the main tale I have to tell." Both were made into successful television miniseries, the first in 1983 and the second in 1988. Although they were made several years apart, both were directed by Dan Curtis and both starred Robert Mitchum as Captain Victor "Pug" Henry, the main character. The novels are historical fiction. Each has three layers: the story told from the viewpoints of Captain Henry and his circle of family and friends, a more or less straightforward historical account of the events of the war, and an analysis by a member of Adolf Hitler's military staff, the insightful fictional General Armin von Roon. Wouk devoted "thirteen years of extraordinary research and long, arduous composition" to these two novels, noted Arnold Beichman. "The seriousness with which Wouk has dealt with the war can be seen in the prodigious amount of research, reading, travel and conferring with experts, the evidence of which may be found in the uncatalogued boxes at Columbia University" that contain the author's papers.
In 1995, Wouk was honored on his 80th birthday by the Library of Congress with a symposium on his career. In attendance were David McCullough, Robert Caro, and Daniel Boorstin, among others.
Wouk kept a personal diary from 1937. On September 10, 2008, Wouk presented the Library of Congress with his journals, which number more than 100 volumes as of 2012, at a ceremony that honored him with the first Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction (now the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction). Wouk often referred to his journals to check dates and facts in his writing, and he was hesitant to let the originals out of his personal possession. A solution was negotiated: a scanning service bureau was selected to scan the entire set of volumes into digital formats.
The Wouks lived in New York, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (where he wrote Don't Stop the Carnival) and at 3255 N Street N.W. in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. (where he researched and wrote The Winds of War and War and Remembrance) before settling in Palm Springs, California. His wife, who served for decades as his literary agent, died in that city on March 17, 2011.
Wouk's memoir entitled Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author was published in January 2016 to mark his 100th birthday. NPR called it "a lovely coda to the career of a man who made American literature a kinder, smarter, better place." It was his last book.
Wouk died in his sleep in his home in Palm Springs, California, on May 17, 2019, 10 days shy of his 104th birthday.
Currently, Herman Wouk is 108 years, 0 months and 9 days old. Herman Wouk will celebrate 109th birthday on a Monday 27th of May 2024.
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