Ernest Hemingway was known for many things. Certainly, he was a gifted author, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He terse, muscular prose had an immense effect on 20th Century fiction. He’s also the sort of author that purposefully cultivated an image — that of a “man’s man” who hunted, fought, and drank all across the globe. That image has only grown since his death by suicide in 1961.
The fun and game-worthy thing about that image is that it wasn’t much of a stretch from the truth. Regardless of Hemingway’s inner demons, he did hunt, drink, fish, and fight across three continents. He was involved in both world wars, driving an ambulance in World War I and returning to Europe during the Normandy landings. Although he was a correspondent, he ended up leading a group of French Resistance fighters as the Allies fought their way across France.
This wasn’t “Papa’s” first encounter with the Nazi menace, however. Dispatch Ultra has uncovered secret documents detailing Hemingway’s exploits in Cuba during the early 1940’s!
Hemingway lived in Cuba during much of the 1930’s. Here he wrote, drank, and fished on his boat Pilar. When the United States entered the war in 1941, President Roosevelt called on volunteers to patrol the Caribbean and help the U.S. Navy spot U-Boats. Called the “Hooligan Navy”, these civilians were supposed to radio for naval help if and when they spotted Nazi submarines.
Hemingway, of course, signed up as the only American patrol boat operating from Cuba. And he wasn’t about to just radio for help. He loaded the Pilar with grenades and a tommy gun, expecting to engage the Nazi’s if he ever stumbled upon a surfaced U-Boat. This, of course, would have been suicide. Even Papa couldn’t take on a U-Boat with a machine gun and a couple of grenades.
Unless those were experimental weapons! I can easily see the Navy outfitting Hemingway with some “technology of unknown origin” and turning him loose in the Caribbean. He may have been the sort of guy who knew a guy (or knew some dirt on some guy) to get ahold of some of this technology despite the Navy’s better judgment. From the Navy’s point of view, why not? They don’t really know what this stuff does and Hemingway wants it. If he blows himself up, the world just loses a blowhard novelist. If it works, great. The Nazi’s loose a U-Boat or two and the Navy takes it back from Papa.
Bonus alt-history points if this leads Hemingway to writing pulp fiction post-war. The Old Man and the Sea and the Giant Megalodon!
The PC’s encounter one of the world’s great writers fighting Nazi submarines in the Caribbean. With lasers.
(Random aside — who wins in a bar fight between Ernest Hemingway and Henry Jones, Jr.?)
A nice reference about this period in Hemingway’s life is The Hemingway Patrols. A brief interview with it’s author can be found here.