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Hemingway, the Red Cross, and the Great War

Steven Florczyk

Publication Year: 2013

Ernest Hemingway’s enlistment with the American Red Cross during World War I was one of the most formative experiences of his life, and it provided much of the source material for A Farewell to Arms and his writings about Italy and the Great War. As significant as it was, Hemingway’s service has never been sufficiently understood. By looking at previously unexamined documents, including the letters and diary of Hemingway’s commanding officer, Robert W. Bates, official reports of the ambulance and canteen services, and section newspapers published by volunteers, author Steven Florczyk provides crucial insights into Hemingway’s service.

The book opens by sharing tales of the volunteer ambulance units from the Western Front, which also led to the involvement of the American Red Cross in Italy. This was where Hemingway came to know many of the experienced drivers from France. In the spring of 1918 the young writer enlisted, serving first with an ambulance unit in Schio and then as a canteen worker at the Piave River until he was wounded. After the war when the volunteer outfits disbanded, Hemingway returned home where he took up his plan to earn a living as a writer.

Hemingway’s Red Cross experience was a major influence on his development as a writer and a thinker. Through the power of words, Hemingway’s journalism, short stories, and novels exposed the falsehoods of World War I propaganda. His involvement with the Red Cross led to some of the finest American literature on the Great War.

Published by: The Kent State University Press


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pp. C-C

Maps and Images

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pp. A-X

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This project began after a conversation with Tim and Ginny Bliss, who told me about the connection between Robert W. Bates and Ernest Hemingway. Tim and Ginny shared with me stories of the famous writer that had become part of local lore, stories known mostly to Bates’s descendants and some farmers in central California where Bates eventually...

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pp. xi-xvi

In chapter 4 of Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway describes his free associations reading Leo Tolstoy’s Sevastopol during a respite from hunting, noting in particular that he thought...

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Chapter 1: Esprit de Corps

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pp. 1-16

The story of Ernest Hemingway’s involvement in the Great War begins with the formation of volunteer ambulance services at the outbreak of hostilities in August of 1914. During the summer before Hemingway’s sophomore year in high school, Americans in charge of the hospital in the Paris suburb of Neuilly instituted a plan to provide aid for...

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Chapter 2: Journey to War

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pp. 17-42

Ernest Hemingway describes the naïve disposition of a novice heading off to combat in his introduction to Men at War: “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. It can happen to other people; but not to you. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it...

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Chapter 3: Active Duty

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pp. 43-69

After Ernest Hemingway left New York in the spring of 1918, he told his parents that his period of active duty would begin “from the day we start driving” and “probably carry us pretty well into the winter.”1 Instead, his term as an ambulance driver lasted for only fifteen days. When...

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Chapter 4: Hero if the Piave

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pp. 70-97

On July 8, 1918, in the frontlines beyond Fossalta di Piave, Ernest Hemingway was wounded by fragments from a mortar shell explosion. Shortly thereafter, he received additional injuries from machine-gun fire and apparently carried to safety a soldier hurt from the same blast. Once at a...

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Chapter 5: Dopo la Guerra

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pp. 98-125

As the war came to a close, the men who formed the ambulance units moved on to other endeavors. After Richard Norton had a falling-out with U.S. officials during militarization on the Western front, he took an assignment with the French government to investigate rumors of German espionage. In December of 1917, he returned to his home in London and died of meningitis the following August. Robert W. Bates was...

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pp. 126-142

Ernest Hemingway’s enlistment with the American Red Cross was one of the most formative experiences of his life. In conjunction with existing scholarship, the official reports, letters, and other papers of key figures from that period tell the full story of the ambulance drivers and...


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pp. 143-185


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pp. 186-195


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pp. 196-199

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781612776958
E-ISBN-10: 1612776957
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606351628

Page Count: 276
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867770506
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hemingway, the Red Cross, and the Great War

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Subject Headings

  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • American Association of the Red Cross -- Biography.
  • Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Literature and the war.
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