The World at War


Ernest Miller Hemingway

...novelist, short story writer, journalist. Ernest Hemingway was the preeminent American author of his time. He was a restless soul who wandered the globe in search of adventure be it on the battlefield, in the bullring or at the bistro. Paris, Key West, Africa, Spain, Cuba, Idaho... wars, marriages, life amongst the literati, hunting and fishing all fired his imagination. Writing brought wealth and celebrity, le bon vie from Sloppy Joe’s in Key West to Paris’ Les Deux Magots to the Casino in Ketchum.


     Hemingway was born into an upper middle class family in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park on July 21, 1899. His father was a physician, his mother an opera singer. His boyhood summers were passed at the family cottage near Traverse Bay in the northwoods of Michigan and there he acquired his love of the outdoors.

Hemingway’s parents encouraged collegiate endeavors but Ernest opted for a job as a cub reporter on the Kansas City Star after graduation from high school in 1917. America had just entered the First World War but hereditary vision problems disqualified Hemingway from service. Still, the lure of adventure on the field of combat shone brighter than that offered by the newsroom. Hemingway was accepted by the Red Cross for service as a volunteer ambulance driver and was off to the Italian front in 1918.

He was carrying a wounded man off the battlefield when the fragments of an Austrian mortar shell ripped through his legs. His wounds were severe enough to require a lengthy convalescence in Milan during which he fell in love with nurse Agnes von Kurowsky. They planned to marry but a short while after Ernest returned to Oak Park the postman delivered a "Dear Ernest..." The incident was the basis for his later novel A Farewell to Arms.

Hemingway’s adjustment to postwar life was anything but smooth. His parents continued to encourage academic pursuits but a restless Ernest preferred drinking and swearing. He was ousted from the family home. He was a member of the "lost generation" but several years would pass before Gertrude Stein would officially label Ernest and other disaffected World War I veterans as such. He bounced between Toronto and Chicago making a living as a tutor, a freelancer for the Toronto Star or sponging off friends. In Chicago, he worked for a small political magazine and met his first wife, Elizabeth Hadley Richardson. They were married on September 3, 1921.

The newlyweds planned to head for Italy where Ernest had heard the living was cheap but Sherwood Anderson recommended Paris. Hemingway secured a job with the Toronto Star’s Paris bureau and the couple left for the city of light.

... hobnobbing with Gertrude Stein, Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. Shakespeare & Company, Sylvia Beach’s small bookstore and lending library on the Rue de l’Odeon, was the classroom where Hemingway pursued his graduate course in the art of writing. Ernest enjoyed the racetrack, boxing and bicycle races. The Hemingways lived on a pittance but assignments from the paper and good luck at the pari-mutuel provided the wherewithal for skiing in the Alps and travels to Italy, Greece and Turkey. Ernest was introduced to Bullfighting during a tour of Spain and the sport so captured his imagination that he would later write three books on the subject.

The Hemingways gave up the Parisian life Ernest would later title A Moveable Feast in 1923. Hadley was pregnant with their son John and they decided to return to North America. They planned to stay a year but Ernest so hated his job with Toronto Star that they returned to Paris after only four months.

Hemingway’s literary career became firmly established with the publication of In Our Time, The Torrents of Spring and The Son Also Rises during the second Parisian interlude but his marriage to Hadley ended with a 1927 divorce. Pauline Pfeiffer who covered Paris for Vogue Magazine had already become the object of Hemingway’s affections..

Hemingway climbed aboard the roller coaster of triumph and tragedy as the Jazz Age gave way to the Dirty Thirties. He married Pauline in 1927. Pauline’s pregnancy prompted a return to the states in the spring of 1928. A stopover in Key West introduced Hemingway to the outdoor and outlaw ways of the Conchs and he decided to return after a planned trip to Wyoming. The return trip was interrupted by the birth of Hemingway’s second son, Patrick, and news of his father’s death. He would not learn that Doctor Hemingway’s death was a suicide until reaching Oak Park. He took it hard but assumed responsibility for the financial support of his mother and siblings and began to insist that everyone call him Papa. A Farewell to Arms was published in 1929. The latest literary success was followed by excursions to Paris, Key West and Pamplona for the bullfights. The last trip of the year was a hunting expedition to Wyoming. The return trip to Key West suffered a lengthy interruption when an automobile accident in Montana left Ernest with a broken arm. He spent seven weeks in hospital recuperating.

The Hemingways settled into a Key West home purchased for them by Pauline’s uncle in 1931. They passed the summer in Spain following the bullfighting circuit. Ernest was gathering material for his next book, Death in the Afternoon. A third son, Gregory, was born that fall in Kansas City. The next two years were spent planning an African safari. Ernest was off to Kenya in 1933 to reprise the big game hunting adventures of boyhood hero Teddy Roosevelt. The safari provided inspiration for his first excursion into nonfiction writing, The Green Hills of Africa, and one of his best know short stories, The Snows of Kilimanjaro. It was time for a respite. Hemingway returned to Key West and bought a 38 foot fishing boat, he named Pilar. Writing and fishing trips to Cuba, Bimini and the Dry Tortugas consumer the next few years.

Hemingway’s domestic life and the dry plateaus of Spain were swept by the winds of discord in the waning years of the decade. Fascism, communism and anarchy were giving the democratic world a preview of the horrors to come. Hemingway became an outspoken advocate for the Loyalists. If fascism was to be stopped then it must be stopped in Spain. Common cause with anti-clericals and communists did little to endear him to this Catholic wife and in laws. Four trips to the front in the company of young, blond, journalist Martha Gellhorn who Hemingway first met at Sloppy Joe’s in December of 1936, did even less.

Martha rented a house in Havana after they returned from Spain in 1939 and the affair intensified. The Hemingways went to Wyoming on a reconciliation vacation. It failed and Ernest moved on to Sun Valley, Idaho where he and Martha rode out the storm. Bird hunting, tennis with the Gary Coopers and writing the final draft of For Whom the Bell Tolls filled the time while the legal niceties sorted themselves out. Hemingway entered his third marriage in the fall of 1940. The couple began 1941 with a working honeymoon covering the war in China and ended it with the purchase of a Christmas gift, Finca Vigia. Hemingway purchased the Cuban estate where he and Martha had been staying for 18500 Cuban pesos.

A second world war was raging. Martha was off to the Far East to report on it but Ernest preferred to fight from Cuba. Hemingway organized the "Crime Shop" a counterespionage network to provide Ambassador Braden with information on Nazi agents attempting to infiltrate the island. The Pilar, now an armed "Q-boat", patrolled Cuban waters for German U-boats but Martha disparaged the effort as a silly excuse to get extra gas for fishing trips. Martha insisted he join her in reporting the war from Europe. Ernest remained reluctant but finally agreed to become a correspondent for Colliers and arrived in London in the spring of 1944. Martha’s victory turned hollow. Ernest spent the weeks before D-Day making the rounds of London’s celebrity social circuit, survived a nasty encounter with a windshield after a party at Robert Capa’s and made the acquaintance of Mary Welsh with whom he fell instantly in love.

Martha was the only woman and one of the few correspondents to come ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Ernest had been scooped but two months later he was not only reporting the big story but making it. The Parisian resistance had staged a premature uprising and upset the allied command’s plans to bypass the city on its way to Berlin. By the time DeGaulle secured Eisenhower’s approval for a march on the capital Hemingway was half way there. Papa had been directing the activities of the FFI in Rambouillet for several days when Le Clerc’s 2nd Armored Division arrived from Chartres.

On August 25, 1944 Ernest Miller Hemingway became the first allied war correspondent to enter Paris. Hemingway in the company of OSS Colonel David Bruce and military historian S.L.A. Marshal stood atop the Arc de Triomphe while the battle still raged. He would later claim with some justification that he personally liberated the Travelers Club, the Ritz Hotel and Sylvia Beach’s bookstore. After a few weeks of celebrating, renewing old friendships and recuperating from the happiest day in the history of France, Hemingway returned to the front to cover the fighting in the Ardennes.

Hemingway was called on the carpet for his activities in Rambouillet. His rivals had complained to the Army about violations of the Geneva Convention rules that prohibited the active participation by correspondents in the war they were covering. Hemingway put on a skillful defense and was exonerated. After that he concentrated on his romance with Mary and returned to Cuba in March of 1945. Martha continued to cover the war until its final conclusion in Japan. Bitter divorce proceedings followed in both the Hemingway and Welsh households. Hemingway entered his final marriage in March of 1946.

The critics were less than kind in the postwar years. Age, alcohol and years of hard living had taken their toll on Hemingway’s talent and temperament. The literary world was about to write him off as a "has been" when he once more astounded it. Papa had one more masterpiece left in him. The Old Man and The Sea, his saga of man against marlin came off the press in 1952. It won a Pulitzer in 1953 and a Nobel Prize in 1954. The book turned out to be somewhat of a last hurrah. Look magazine sent Ernest and Mary to Africa to do a feature article, a reprise of his 1933 safari, at the beginning of 1954. The trip was a disaster. The Hemingways survived two plane crashes. Ernest was badly injured in the second. The years that followed were a steady downhill journey for both mind and body. Trips to old European haunts became sad reminders of happier times. The violence of Castro’s Cuban revolution forced him from his beloved Finca Vigia. The deaths of old friends and contemporaries, paranoia of FBI surveillance (later proved quite justified) and financial worries produced a pall of depression that neither Mary nor the Mayo Clinic could lift. Ernest Miller Hemingway ended his own life with a gunshot on July 2, 1961.


L. Gurko Ernest Hemingway and the pursuit of heroism New York 1968
J. Meyers Hemingway - a biography New York 1985

By Ernest Hemingway

  • In Our Time, 1925
  • The Sun Also Rises, 1926
  • The Torrents of Spring, 1926
  • Men Without Women, 1927
  • A Farewell to Arms, 1929
  • Death in the Afternoon, 1932
  • Winner Take Nothing, 1933
  • The Green Hills of Africa, 1935
  • To Have and Have Not, 1937
  • The Fifth Column, 1938
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1940
  • Across the River and Into the Trees, 1950
  • The Old Man and the Sea, 1952
Published Posthumously
  • A Moveable Feast, 1964
  • Islands in the Stream, 1970
  • The Nick Adams Stories, 1972
  • The Garden of Eden, 1986
  • Selected articles and dispatches, 1967
  • Selected letters 1917-1961


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