Herman Wouk was born on May 27, 1915, in New York City. He earned an A.B. from Columbia Univeristy in 1934. Soon thereafter, he became a radio scriptwriter, working in David Freedman’s “Joke Factory” and later with Fred Allen (1936-1941) and in 1941, for the United States government writing radio spots to sell war bonds.
Wouk joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific Theatre, an experience he found educational. Wouk served as an officer aboard two destroyer minesweepers, the USS Zane and USS Southard. He started writing his first novel, Aurora Dawn, during off-duty hours aboard ship. 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 1952, after nearly giving up literature as a career, Wouk won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Caine Mutiny (1951). A best-seller drawing from his wartime experiences, The Caine Mutiny was adapted by the author into a Broadway play and later a film. His novels after The Caine Mutiny include Marjorie Morningstar (1955), Youngblood Hawke (1962), and Don’t Stop the Carnival (1965). In the 1970s, Wouk published his two most ambitious novels, The Winds of War. (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978). In the 1990s, Wouk wrote two novels set in Israel, The Hope (1994) and The Glory. (1995).
Following the publication of Marjorie Morningstar, Wouk temporarily put aside his career as a novelist to write a very personal account of his Jewish faith, in the book This Is My God (1959); it too became a best-seller.
Wouk hired highly-qualified historians to assist him with the research for his later historical novels, and their details are highly accurate. Many of Wouk’s works have Jewish characters or themes and explore moral dilemmas facing modern men and women.
Wouk has also written for the stage. His two-act play, The Traitor, was produced on Broadway in 1949 and his two-act comedy, Nature’s Way, opened in 1957.
In 1998, Wouk received the Guardian of Zion Award.