Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Part Two

Continuing thoughts on the book by Nicholas Reynolds: 

A good portion of the new book deals with Hemingway’s participation in World War II and the liberation of Paris. As those of you who follow this blog know, Hemingway had been working out of Cuba as the “crook factory” and it actually was more than fun and games. He kept very careful journals/records of what he and his gang saw. His crew ran from the former military people, friends, Jai Lai players, gamblers etc., and all kept alert for German submarines that were trolling the Caribbean.

trolling for German subversives


However, when wife Martha Gellhorn became more actively involved as a war correspondent for Colliers, she very much wanted him to join her in Europe.  He initially resisted, but finally did accept a position as a war correspondent.

Hem and Marty


Based on Reynold’s research, Hemingway actively participated in the fighting and in pitching in wherever needed. It was there that he met a friend who would be very close to him for the rest of his life, Colonial Lanham, a British officer known as “Buck” Lanham. Lanham was forever grateful for the friendship and was shocked that Hemingway, as a journalist who did not have to go into dangerous situations where he could be killed nevertheless did.

With Buck

On one occasion, Hemingway had to cross a line of fire in order to get a message to the other side. Many had been shot trying. Hemingway was a lot of things that weren’t good and he could be a fairly obnoxious drunk. However, he was not lacking in true courage or in caring about other soldiers or people suffering. Lanham indicated in his writings that he would remember that moment for the rest of his life, seeing the big man – thus a large target – darting and running to get across.

Hem and Buck
Colonel Charles T. Lanham aka Buck


Hemingway was so involved in the actual doing of things – his regiment of irregulars thought he was their leader despite knowing of course that he was the author and journalist, not a military commander – that charges were brought against him for violations of the protocols of war journalism. He ultimately was cleared of any wrongdoing but there’s no question that other journalists resented him and his notoriety and fame and his jumping into the action.

At the liberation of Paris


Hemingway was on the FBI watch list as a result of his activities in Spain and was eyed with suspicion by J. Edgar Hoover for that, as well as for living in Cuba. That surveillance which many thought was imagined by Hemingway was in fact real and fed into the paranoia he had in the last year of his life.

J. Edgar Hoover

All in all a very good book that concludes Hemingway was not a spy per se. At moments, he was sought out by the Russians who would have liked to recruit him but who did not learn anything harmful to the U.S. Hemingway was too much of a dedicated American for that.

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