Short Geodesics of Unitaries in the $L^2$ Metric Let $\M$ be a type II$_1$ von Neumann algebra, $\tau$ a trace in $\M$, and $\l2$ the GNS Hilbert space of $\tau$. We regard the unitary group $U_\M$ as a subset of $\l2$ and characterize the shortest smooth curves joining two fixed unitaries in the $L^2$ metric. As a consequence of this we obtain that $U_\M$, though a complete (metric) topological group, is not an embedded riemannian submanifold of $\l2$ Keywords:unitary group, short geodesics, infinite dimensional riemannian manifolds.Categories:46L51, 58B10, 58B25