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CORRESPONDENT OR WARRtOR? HEMINGWAY'S MURKY WORLD WA R I I "COMBAT" EXPERIENCE \ WILLIAM E. COTÉ Michigan State University RECENT PUBLISHED ANALYSES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S Significant record as a correspondent in World War n confirm that he lied under oath about not commanding French irregulars against retreating Germans near Paris. Indeed, it also is apparent that high military authorities urged him to lie and coached him on his testimony during an official interview. As illuminating and valuable as those analyses are, however, they do not tackle another long-lingering question: Did Hemingway ignore his status as a supposedly unarmed, noncombatant journalist, take up arms, and kill enemy soldiers? Hemingway's own assertion is that he did kill on several occasions during his approximately eight months in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) in 1944 and early 1945. According to Hemingway himself, he killed either twenty-six or 122 men. These are the conflicting claims he makes in relatively unstudied letters in the Hemingway Collection of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Princeton University's Harvey S. Firestone Library , and in Carlos Baker's Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961} However, scrutiny of those -letters, as well as transcripts of interviews with another correspondent who accompanied him, cast serious doubt on how many enemy he killed or could have killed. Pinning down the truth of the particular claims is elusive, as with many aspects ofHemingway's life". It is necessary to try to sift what he said from the exaggerations and total fabrications that sometimes infused his accounts of his wartime exploits. As in many other activities during his life, he often THt HFMiNUWAY luviiw. vol. 22, no. i. IALi. 2002. Copyright T 2002 The Ernest Hemingway Foundation. Published by the University ofIdaho Press, Moscow, Idaho. WILLIAM E. COTÉ · 89 viewed the war—and the portrayal he sought ofhis own personal involvement —through a storyteller's eyes. Knowing exactly what Hemingway claimed about being a killing warrior provides valuable ammunition for understanding more about this relatively briefbut important time in his personal life, a period often slighted by biographers . Such exploration also sheds more light on how the arguably most influential American writer of the 20th century used real-life experiences and observations to create fiction as well as journalism. Finally, the study suggests new clues to how his post-war psychological status developed. With those multiple insights at stake, it is striking what little attention biographers have given in print to claims by Hemingway or others that he killed, or tried to kill, Germans. Baker records only one alleged incident in his biography (404), although he includes four letters with such claims in Selected Letters. Jeffrey Meyers has one paragraph summing up the claims, without specific numbers or quotations (400). Kenneth Lynn has a single footnote that quotes Hemingway implying that he had killed armed men (514). James Mellow records two reputed incidents (537, 547). Michael Reynolds's now-definitive account ofHemingway'sWorldWar 11 experiences has one sentence on verbal claims by Ernest himself (154) and one quotation from his favorite officer, Colonel Charles Lanham, stating that Hemingway fired arms at least once (120). None of those biographers notes either the specific number of killings Hemingway asserts in various letters or assesses their likelihood in any detail. Baker's account is of the time Hemingway reportedly tried to kill Germans in the French town of Villedieu-les-Poêles. The occupiers had just been driven out—except perhaps for a cellar full ofS.S. men bypassed by advancing American infantry. (S.S. troops, all Nazi party members fanatically devoted to Hitler, were the most despised German military units.) Townspeople directed Hemingway and his Army driver, Archie Pelkey, to the cellar. According to Pelkey, when nobody answered Hemingway's yells in German and French for anyone below to come out with their hands raised, the correspondent said,"AU right. Divide these equally amongyourselves,"and tossed three grenades down into the cellar (404). Baker asserts that Hemingway did not hang around after the explosions to find out for certain whether S.S. troops were actually there. The French figured he must be an officer—an assumption Hemingwayoften did not discourage...


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