“Macho” in every sense of the word, Nobel Prize winning, American writer Ernest Hemingway had a passion for adventure and the great outdoors. The vast knowledge and experiences he gained on his travels abroad are reflected in his many stories and characters. Although a very dedicated, prolific writer, his work did not stop him from living a rich and daring life.
Hemingway’s notable masculine spirit and thirst for danger, thrill and excitement, drew him into battle, onto the waves of the sea and the lion hunting game reserves of Eastern Africa.
World War I
When Ernest Hemingway was eighteen years old, he tried joining the U.S. Army during the First World War but was rejected defective vision. Rather than give up and do nothing at all, he volunteered for the Red Cross ambulance division in Italy.
However, once over there, Hemingway desperately wanted to see more action and get closer to the fight. While delivering chocolate and cigarette rations to the Italian soldiers on the front line, an explosion riddled Hemingway’s leg with shrapnel. Despite his wounded leg, he carried another wounded soldier away from the battlefield, for which he was later awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor.
Before he returned to the United States, he fell in love with a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky, who inspired Hemingway's character "Catherine Barkley" in A Farewell to Arms. They planned to marry until she changed her mind in a letter.
Hunting Big Game in the American West
In the early 1930s, Hemingway lived in Key West, FL during the winter but would go to Wyoming in the summer to hunt big game, including deer, elk and grizzly bear. There, he also taught his three sons how to hunt.
African Safari Hunting Exhibitions
In 1933, Hemingway and his second wife Pauline went on a three month East African safari. They hunted lion in Serengeti, around Lake Manyara, and west and southeast of what is now Tarangire National Park.
His experiences inspired the works Green Hills of Africa and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."
Twenty years later, he returned to Africa with his fourth wife. They traveled through the Belgian Congo, Rwanda, and Kenya and brought home many big-game trophies.
Deep Sea Fishing & Rum Smuggling
A very accomplished deep sea fisherman, being out on the open sea was Hemingway’s favorite pastime. In 1934, he built his own boat, which he named Pilar. He won every organized fishing competition in Key West, Havana and Bimini, and in 1935, Hemingway reeled in the largest marlin ever caught at the time.
At night, during the Prohibition era, he also helped a local Key West bar owner smuggle rum into his establishment.
The Old Man and the Sea, the short novel in which Ernest Hemingway won a Nobel Prize in Literature and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was set in Bimini. It tells the story of an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin off the coast of Florida.
Spanish Civil War
In 1937, Hemingway left the Caribbean to report on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Rather than merely observe and report, he took sides and screen wrote The Spanish Earth, a republican propaganda film on the war. He also raised $20,000 for Spanish Republican ambulances at a screening of the film in Hollywood.
Hemingway’s time covering the Spanish Civil War provided the basis for his book For Whom the Bell Tolls, a grim depiction of the war.
World War II
Living in Cuba when World War II broke out, Hemingway patrolled the Caribbean in his boat Pilar looking for German U-boats.
In 1944, he became a war correspondent over in Europe and witnessed the D-Day Landings from a distance. While following the 22nd Regiment led by Colonel Charles Lanham from Normandy to Paris, Hemingway witnessed the capital city’s liberation from German occupation. He also, at one point, led a band of Resistance fighters to the village of Rambouillet to gather military intelligence, even though he wasn’t supposed to.
Apparently he did a decent job, too, for a civilian.
To learn more about Ernest Hemingway, listen to the sixteenth episode of Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, a Parcast Network podcast series, on your favorite podcast directory or at www.parcast.com.
Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths examines the lives and tragic deaths of people who changed history and influenced pop culture.