Veteran’s Day is a day to honor those who have served in the military. We thank them for their service and their sacrifice. Many beloved authors of classic works have served in the U.S military, and their experiences fighting in various wars have shaped the things that they write about. The five following authors were all shaped and inspired by their time in the military, and some of their works might not have ever been created if they did not serve.
KURT WONNEGUT VIA PINTEREST
1. Kurt vonnegut
The Slaughterhouse Five author, known for his satire, enlisted in the US Army in 1943. A year later, he was sent to Europe to the 106th Infantry Division. He was an intelligence scout. In Decemeber of 1944, Vonnegut fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was taken as a POW. He also lived through the bombing of Dresden. He was rescued in 1945 and awarded the Purple Heart for frostbite. Vonnegut’s experience in the war shaped his subject matter and the way in which he wrote. Slaughterhouse Five concerns a soldier that is taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge and survives the bombing of Dresden by being hidden in a slaughterhouse. Sure, there are also aliens and time-jumps galore, but it is easy to draw parallels in the book and Vonnegut’s own life.
2. Ernest Hemingway
An author who needs no introduction, Hemingway is famous for books like The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. In December 1917, Ernest Hemingway signed up to drive an ambulance for the American Red Cross, after being rejected from the army for poor eyesight. Two months after he was deployed in July 1918, Hemingway was injured by mortar fire. His books, especially A Farewell to Arms, reflect the anti-war sentiments that Hemingway fostered during his time in the First World War.
3. J.D. Salinger
Allegedly, J.D Salinger carried the first six chapters The Catcher in the Rye with him as he stormed Utah Beach on D-Day, his first day of combat. Salinger’s service during World War II was eventful. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hurtgen Forrest. He saw a concentration camp liberated and was part of a counter-intelligence division. While on leave in Paris, he met Ernest Hemingway, who encouraged him to keep writing. While on duty and in the hospital for combat-related stress, Salinger wrote short stories that would eventually culimnate into The Catcher in the Rye. According to Salinger, Holden Caufield helped him cope with all the death he witnessed.
4. Tim O’brien
Tim O’Brien, who penned the semi-autobiographical anthology The Things They Carried, was drafted to the Vietnam War just two weeks after he graduated college. He served in the 3rd Platoon, Company A, 46th Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to sergeant and wounded twice, awarding him a Purple Heart. He didn’t start writing until he was home from the war. While Writing The Things They Carried, O’Brien tried to remain as neutral as possible while writing about the military, but his tone often turns bitter.
5. Walt whitman
Famous poet Walt Whitman, who penned Leaves of Grass, replaced his brother George in the Union Army after George was injured during the Battle of Fredricksburg. Whitman spent three years fighting in the Civil War, aiding medics and tending to the wounded. His poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” as a rallying call to the north when the war began, and many of his poems reflected the horrors of war he witnessed as a medic.