Back Ernest Hemingway, “A Veteran Visits the Old Front—Wishes He Had Stayed Away”

Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)
From Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises & Other Writings 1918–1926

Ernest Hemingway on crutches at an American Red Cross Hospital in Milan, Italy, during World War I, 1918. (American Red Cross/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Ernest Hemingway was born 121 years ago, on July 21, 1899.

In a memoir about her family, Marcelline Hemingway Sanford recalled one fall night in 1918, when she and a friend went to a movie theater in Chicago. After the movie a newsreel about the American Red Cross in Europe was shown. “Suddenly, in the silent film, Ernest appeared. He was in uniform, sitting in a wheelchair on the hospital porch, being pushed by a pretty nurse. . . . He smiled at the camera and waved a crutch.” She and her friend stuck around and convinced the manager to play the newsreel again when the theater was empty. She had not seen her brother for over six months; the prior spring, he left home to serve in the Ambulance Corps in Italy, where he was seriously wounded by a mortar shell and machine gun fire in July.

“My parents went to that theater the following night, and I joined them,” Marcelline recalled. “Mother told me later that Daddy followed that newsreel all over Chicago.”

Four years later, as a European correspondent for the Toronto Star, Ernest Hemingway returned to the site where he had been wounded and wrote about his visit for the paper. We present his story here as our Story of the Week selection.

Read “A Veteran Visits the Old Front—Wishes He Had Stayed Away” by Ernest Hemingway

Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Support our mission