Ernest Hemingway, July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961, was an American writer, journalist, Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winner. He is known for works such as The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, A Moveable Feast, and others. Today marks fifty-nine years since the death of this influential author, and while his work is widely recognized, there are some parts of his life that remain unknown to many. Here are some facts about Ernest Hemingway that you have not known before:
1. He was a (bad) KGB agent
The book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev revealed Hemingway as being on a KGB list of agents in America. He was allegedly recruited in 1941 before a trip to China and was given the code name “Argo.” He was also allegedly very willing to help. But according to these documents, he wasn’t trained for espionage and he failed to deliver any useful political information.
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2. He probably didn’t write the “Baby Shoes” story
“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” A story that is often attributed to him. Rumor has it that he made a bet to his friends one drunken night that he could write a six-word short story. But there is actually no evidence of this ever happening. Variations of this short story had appeared in different newspapers since the 1910s, and Hemingway wasn’t attributed to any of them.
3. He was in two consecutive plane accidents
While vacationing with his wife in the Belgian Congo in 1954, their sightseeing charter flight clipped a utility pole and crashed. While trying to reach medical care the next day, they got into another plane that exploded upon takeoff. He made it out of the accidents with a concussion, cerebral fluid leaking from his brain, and burns. When they finally made it to Entebbe to be treated, journalists had already reported his death.
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4. He was an AMBULANCE driver during World War I
Hemingway tried to join the army during the Great War, but he was turned down because of bad vision. He served as an ambulance driver in Italy instead. On July 8, 1918, he was wounded by mortar fire, but he still managed to get other Italian soldiers to safety, which got him the Italian Silver Medal of Valor. This experience led him to write A Farewell to Arms.
5. He was a war CORRESPONDENT during World War II
Hemingway returned to Europe in 1944 as a correspondent, traveling with the 22nd Regiment to Paris. He was then awarded a Bronze Star in a small ceremony in Cuba for “having circulated freely under fire in combat areas in order to obtain an accurate picture of conditions. Through his talent of expression, Mr. Hemingway enabled readers to obtain a vivid picture of the difficulties and triumphs of the front-line soldier and his organization in combat.”
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6. He was accused of war crimes
Hemingway led a band of Resistance fighters in the French town of Rambouillet on a mission to gather intelligence as a civilian on June 6, 1944. According to the Geneva Convention, correspondents are not supposed to armed troops, and The Inspector General of the Third Army charged Hemingway with several serious offenses including removing patches from his clothing that identified him as a journalist, stockpiling weapons in his hotel room, and commanding a faction of Resistance operatives. He was later cleared of all charges.