Tuesday, September 2, 2014

With Hemingway in Paris - Liberating the Ritz - August 1944

OSS Officer David Bruce (Left) with Ernest Hemingway and French Resistance Partisans 30 miles outside Paris, August 1944

                                  Lee Harvey Oswald – Like Hemingway Went to Paris

In trying to discern how and why Lee Harvey Oswald went to Russia, there are a few interesting references in the files. Oswald himself once said that not even his wife Marina knew why he defected to the Soviet Union, and in a letter to Navy Secretary John Connally, who he was later accused of shooting, Oswald said that he went to Russia like Hemingway went to Paris.

Oswald’s offhand reference to Hemingway in Paris led John Judge and myself to write an article – Bottlefed by Oswald’s NANA – which explores how many American journalists worked undercover as agents and assets of the CIA, MI6 and other intelligence services, including Hemignway, who worked closely in Key West and Cuba with the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and in Europe with the OSS – Office of Strategic Services.

Now those who have studied Ernest Hemingway know that the renown American writer lived in Paris in the 1920s, before he was famous and when he was broke, and couldn’t afford the cost of a martini at the Hotel Ritz bar.

But as those who have read the history of the Office of the Strategic Services (OSS) know, Hemingway also went to Paris with Captain David Bruce, of the OSS, America’s wartime espionage and special operations agency before the CIA.

Bruce and Hemingway hooked up in a small town outside of Paris, and drank their way to the Ritz Hotel, where Hemingway accomplished his self-proclaimed mission of being the first American in Paris and to liberate the bar of the Ritz Hotel.

David Bruce went on to become Hemingway’s best man at his wedding, and to serve honorably as John F. Kennedy’s Ambassador to the Court of St. James, the post his father had held under Roosevelt, and also as distinguished ambassador to France and Germany under other presidents.

Oswald, while working at Jaggers/Chiles/Stoval graphics arts firm in Dallas who placed arrows and captions on “US Army Map Service) photos of the missiles taken by the U2, and it was Bruce who was briefed in London by Arthur Lundel of the CIA’s National Photo Interpretation Center (NPIC) on the presence of Soviet missile in Cuba.
Did Oswald know that it was Capt. David Bruce of the OSS who accompanied Hemingway to Paris in August 1944, and his reference to going to Russia like Hemingway went to Paris was more like Hemingway going to Paris with the OSS rather than as an emerging literary giant?

Many of Hemingway’s papers can be found at the JFK Library in Boston, and Oswald’s good friend George deMohrenschildt – a “Hemingwayesque” character, killed himself with a shotgun in the same fashion as Hemigway, who managed, even in death, to get involved in the CIA plots to kill Castro.

As an example of the determination of JFK and RFK to kill Castro, those who try to pin the blame for JFK’s assassination on his brother Robert point to the “Hemigway Plot,” which is documented in CIA records released under the JFK Act. They show that Hemingway’s widow Mary received a visit from Fidel Castro while she was collecting his papers and belongings from their Cuban beach house. Castro arrived in an open jeep, and offered Mary Hemingway any assistance, and then climbed the elevated cabin where Hemingway went to write. The CIA papers indicate RFK took particular interest in Mary Hemingway’s account, and the CIA itself thought that if Castro’s travel destinations were known, such as a visit to Hemingway’s house, he could be ambushed and shot by a sniper, just as JFK was.

I don’t know what was going through the mind of Oswald the defector when he claimed to have gone to Russia like Hemingway went to Paris, or Oswald the Fall Guy, who claimed he was a patsy, but I found the story of how Hemingway and David Bruce liberated the bar at the Ritz very interesting, if not inebriating.
The day Hemingway liberated the Ritz bar

Culture Aug. 22, 2014
Claude Casteran| Agence France Presse

PARIS: The liberation of the bar of the Ritz Hotel in Paris by the writer Ernest Hemingway 70 years ago, as the French capital was freed from its Nazi occupiers, is the stuff of legend. When he discovered the bar in the late 1920s in the company of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway was broke; this was before he became known for such works as “The Sun Also Rises” and “A Farewell to Arms.”

He would later develop a special attachment to the luxurious Ritz Hotel and its bar, where he spent a great deal of time before the war.

“When I dream of afterlife in heaven,” Hemingway was later to say, “the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz.”

During the war, he worked as a correspondent for the American “Collier’s” magazine, and was embedded with U.S. 4th Division troops who landed on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944.

Over the next two months, he stuck with the soldiers as they marched toward Paris in support of the French 2nd Armored Division, which entered the capital August 25.

“He did not talk about anything else,” one Resistance fighter said, but “to be the first American in Paris and liberate the Ritz.”

Hemingway managed, using his name and with the help of the American army, to wrangle a meeting with French commander General Philippe Leclerc.

His request: To be given enough men to go and liberate the Ritz’s bar.

To the writer’s surprise, he got a frosty reception, and was dismissed.

But Hemingway persevered and on Aug. 25, dressed in his correspondent’s uniform, he arrived in a commandeered jeep with a machine gun and a group of Resistance fighters at the hotel, on Paris’ lovely Place Vendome.

He burst into the hotel and announced that he had come to personally liberate it and its bar, which had been requisitioned in June 1940 by the Nazis and occupied by German dignitaries, including Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels.

The manager of the hotel, Claude Auzello, approached him and he asked: “Where are the Germans? I have come to liberate the Ritz.”

“Monsieur,” he replied, “They left a long time ago. And I cannot let you enter with a weapon.”

Hemingway put the gun in the jeep and came back to the bar, where he is said to have run up a tab for 51 dry Martinis.

According to his brother, Leicester Hemingway, the writer searched the cellar with his men, taking two prisoners and finding an excellent stock of brandy.

Inspecting the upper floors and roofs of the hotel, they found nothing except for sheets, which they riddled with bullets.

Hemingway wrote later that he could not stand the thought that the Germans had soiled the room he shared with Mary Welsh, whom he would marry in 1946.

“He wore the uniform and gave orders with such authority that many thought he was a general,” the Ritz’s head barman Colin Field remembered.

The hotel, which has been closed for renovations ever since 2012, named a smaller bar after Hemingway in 1994.

2004-08-22 04:00:00 PDT Paris -- No, this is not another story about the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. This is about another 60th anniversary -- the anniversary of the day Ernest Hemingway and his private army invaded Paris and liberated the Ritz hotel.

It was in Paris that Ernest Hemingway and his copains of the Lost Generation had nurtured the myth of the rugged expatriate writer during the 1920s -- Sylvia Beach and her bookshop; lurching through the bars with Scott Fitzgerald; literary teas with Ford Madox Ford; earnest chats with Gertrude Stein. The Ritz was the fabled 19th century hotel on the Place Vendôme where Hemingway, before he was a best-selling author, could afford to drink only once a week. Later, after the royalties started rolling in, he more than made up for lost time.

In August of 1944, Hemingway was itching, if not dying, to get back to the "moveable feast" of Paris, particularly since the "Krauts," as he liked to call them, had rolled into Paris in 1940 and commandeered his beloved Ritz to quarter their generals. This did not sit well with the hotel's most famous prewar guest.
"My own war aim at this moment," Hemingway wrote in one of his dispatches for Collier's magazine in the fall of 1944, "was to get into Paris without being shot. Our necks had been out for a long time. Paris was going to be taken." And he was going to do it.

Hemingway had already had a brief sortie at the D-Day landings -- he was in a landing craft that zoomed into Omaha Beach on the seventh wave before charging back out to the relative safety of a transport ship, where the landing craft skipper could offload his famous passenger. Six weeks later, Hemingway made his way back to Normandy, by plane this time, and followed the infantry as it slogged down through northern France.
Ten years ago, during all the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, I went to France to research the tale of how Hemingway landed in France and took his own particular route to the liberation of Paris. The timing was right: Many of the people who had been with the author during this part of the war were getting on in years and were eager to share their reminiscences, and some of those interviewed have since passed away.

Staging ground

To see how Hemingway got back to the Ritz -- that is, "liberated" the Ritz -- you have to go to Rambouillet, a town about 30 miles southwest of Paris. This was Hemingway's staging area for his assault on Paris, the place where he formed his little army of partisans and Resistance fighters, numbering anywhere from 10 to 200, depending on the account. Here he was, the world's most famous writer, barreling down country roads in his Army jeep, clad in steel helmet and fatigues and running an arsenal out of a French hotel.

Nearly everybody who encountered Hemingway in that week before the liberation said the man was completely in his element -- sticking his neck out, testing his bravery, sweating and drinking and toiling around with soldiers.

"He enjoyed that whole time," Evangeline Bruce, then 74, told me, "more than he had enjoyed anything." Her late husband, OSS Col. David Bruce, who later was the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Paris and Bonn, was with Hemingway on the way into Paris.

"On nineteenth (of August 1944), made contact with group of Maquis who placed themselves under my command. Because so old and ugly looking I guess," Hemingway wrote to his about-to-be fourth wife, Mary Welsh. "Clothed them with clothing of cavalry recon outfit which had been killed at entrance to Rambouillet. Armed them from Div. Took and held Rambouillet after our recon withdrawn. Ran patrols and furnished gen (intelligence) to French when they advanced. They operated on our gen with much success."

I wondered how much of this was Hemingway on a roll, fiction getting mixed up in fact? What was he like as an ersatz commando? The best way to find out was to talk to some of the people who were with him. Some of the answers came from retired war correspondents and ex-OSS members now scattered around the United States. I found others in the countryside where Hemingway spent that week.

Several people around Rambouillet, a city of about 25,000, remembered the liberation quite clearly, but few knew about Hemingway. One of them was Jean Miserey, who had flown P-38s for the Royal Air Force. Miserey took me on a driving tour of the town, pointing out the Nazis' headquarters (now an office building) and the Hotel du Grand Veneur, where Hemingway and his band holed up (it's now a bank). Then, after about an hour, he said, "You know, you really ought to be talking to Monsieur L'Allinec. I think he may have met Hemingway."

Then 74, Jean-Marie L'Allinec and his wife, Jacqueline, live in a comfortable country house in a small town west of Rambouillet. A gardener was trimming the hedges when I drove in.

"Ah," L'Allinec smiled, "I'll bet you're here to talk about Hemingway. Of course. You know, we went to Paris together. To the Ritz!"

Finding L'Allinec was like striking gold. At a table on his terrace, he pored over a Michelin map showing the route he and Hemingway took from Rambouillet to the Ritz.

"It was all he could talk about," L'Allinec said of Hemingway's obsession to get back to the Ritz. "It was more than just being the first American in Paris. He said, 'I will be the first American at the Ritz. And I will liberate the Ritz.'

"He was wonderful to be with," L'Allinec said. "He was very sympathique, he was loud, he was drinking -- he'd tell me, 'Come on, have a drink. Hey, Jean-Marie, unless you have a drink, there'll be distance between us. We have a few drinks -- it closes that distance.' "

Playing soldier

Hemingway did love to drink -- his march on Paris seemed to be punctuated with long, winey stops at this cafe or that hotel. It's a wonder he ever got to the Ritz.

"A guerrilla chief named C said, 'Have a drink of this excellent white wine,' " he wrote in Collier's about his sojourn with the troops."I took a long drink from the bottle and it turned out to be a highly alcoholic liqueur tasting of orange and called Grand Marnier."

By now, Hemingway, who seemed to have an aversion to sleeping in ditches with the rest of the troops, had already found the best place in town, a small hotel with a good wine cellar.

The renowned author annoyed his colleagues in the working press. They were both awed by his fame and furious that he was playing soldier, in violation of all the standing rules about correspondents staying out of the war, even though the reporters were very much a part of the war effort.

"He was very gung-ho," Hans Trefousse recalled. Trefousse, now a history professor at Brooklyn College, was then a 22-year-old Army prisoner-of-war interrogator. One day, he said, as he was quizzing some reluctant Germans in Rambouillet, "This man comes along and says, 'My name is Hemingway.' I said, 'Ernest Hemingway?' and he said, 'Right. What are you up to?' "

The slightly startled Trefousse showed Hemingway how you get recalcitrant prisoners to talk: He would hang signs saying "Russia" around their necks.

In his helmet and sweat-drenched fatigues, and with his weight at close to 250 pounds, Hemingway looked more like a hefty master sergeant -- he had turned 45 that summer -- than a world-heavyweight writer. He had hooked up with David Bruce of the OSS and Army historians Lt. Col. S.L.A. Marshall and Lt. John Westover, and he was having a ball.

"He loved soldiering ... being in an armed camp exhilarated him, and he had a natural way with the military," Marshall wrote later. "He loved playing soldier on the grand scale, with shooting irons. Yet in him, it was not a juvenile attitude. I truly believe he played at it more because he enjoyed the game than because he was interested in studying men under high pressure."

Liberation libations

On Aug. 24, Hemingway, Bruce and the guerrillas left Rambouillet and started up the back roads toward Paris. Along the way, they ran into Marshall and Westover at a cafe on the outskirts of Paris. According to Marshall, Hemingway charged in and yelled, "Marshall, for God's sake, have you got a drink?" Westover found a bottle of Scotch in their jeep. The liberation of Paris -- or, at least, of the Ritz -- would have to wait.
That night, they camped near the Seine, and at noon the next day, Aug. 25, 1944, Hemingway and his partisans, along with several American officers, drove their jeeps across the river at the Pont de Sèvres. Dodging occasional German sniper fire, they made their way toward the Arc de Triomphe. Near the Bois de Boulogne, they came under fierce fire and immediately took cover. When one of their band finally looked up, he saw Hemingway on a third-floor balcony, yelling at his companions that the Germans were in a nearby house and to get the hell out of the way because French artillery was coming up to demolish it.

The Hemingway crew, which included Col. Bruce, stopped by the Arc de Triomphe for a few minutes, waited for sniper fire to end, then drove down the deserted Champs-Elysées and pulled up at the Travellers Club, a private men's club housed in a rococo 19th century mansion built by one of Paris's more famous courtesans. Task Force Hemingway chugged down a bottle or two of Champagne.

The libationed liberators piled into their jeeps and raced through the empty streets to the Place de l'Opera, where they stopped briefly at the Café de la Paix for another drink. Finally, they pulled up at the Rue Cambon entrance of the Ritz.

Storming the Ritz

"History says he jumped out of the Jeep, saying he'd come to liberate the Ritz," said Claude Roulet, a Ritz executive who doubles as the hotel's historian. "Of course, the manager, Claude Auzello, who had known him for years, said 'Leave your gun by the door and come in.' So Hemingway went to the bar and drank his first Champagne in Paris. Nobody knows what bar it was in, but we think it was the little bar." (Actually, it was his second bottle of Champagne -- maybe even his third, at the rate he was going.)

The "little bar" at the Ritz is a tiny alcove -- less than 300 square feet -- tucked away on the Rue Cambon side of the hotel. On the bar is a bronze bust of Hemingway, and on the walls are photographs of the writer and his son Jack, along with a big game fish of some sort, taken in the 1930s. "Bar Hemingway" is dark, and if you are quiet and you use a little imagination (and several martinis) you can picture Hemingway sitting over there in the corner, arguing with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had introduced him to the Ritz in the '20s.

("Many years later at the Ritz bar, long after the end of the World War II," Hemingway wrote in "A Moveable Feast," "Georges, who is the bar chief now and who was the chasseur (bellhop) when Scott lived in Paris, asked me, 'Papa, who was this Monsieur Fitzgerald that everyone asks me about?'"

Hemingway told Georges his pal Fitzgerald was "an American writer" who "wrote two very good books" and came to the Ritz bar a lot.)

L'Allinec, the Resistance fighter, said that when they got to the Ritz that day, "The manager was delirious, he was so happy. He said, 'We resisted the Germans -- we kept the best premiers crus from them. We saved the Cheval Blanc! ' Papa looked at him for a moment. Then he said, 'Well, go get it.' They brought up some bottles and Papa started slugging it down. Imagine! This great old Bordeaux, and he's slugging it down like water."

Literary license

And so by the afternoon of Aug. 25, the Ritz had been liberated by Ernest Hemingway. Paris, too, had been liberated, by Gen. Jacques Leclerc's 2nd French Armored Division and a number of American units, and there was bedlam in the streets. Marshall later said that by the time his jeep had crawled through the mob scene of ecstatic French citizens and reached the Seine, it had 67 bottles of Champagne in it.

"That evening," Westover, a 76-year-old retired history professor, told me, "Marshall and I went down to the Ritz and joined up with Hemingway and Col. Bruce for dinner. We all passed around a paper and each person signed their names. We said we were the first people (from the outside) in Paris." Carlos Baker's biography, "Ernest Hemingway, A Life Story," says the writer decreed, "None of us will ever write a line about these last 24 hours in delirium. Whoever tries it is a chump."

After dinner, Marshall wrote, the waiter "slapped a Vichy tax on the bill. Straightaway we arose as one man and told him: 'Millions to defend France, thousands to honor your fare, but not one sou in tribute to Vichy.' "

The next day, Hemingway hosted a lunch at the Ritz with several writers he knew -- Ira Wolfert, Irwin Shaw, Time-Life's chief of correspondents Charles Wertenbaker and Helen Kirkpatrick, a Chicago Daily News reporter.

"He was a loose cannon," Helen Kirkpatrick Milbank told me. "He had gathered all these forces around him. He was totally illegal, but that didn't bother him. The interesting thing was that both Marty (Martha) Gellhorn, who was then his wife, and Mary Welsh, who was later his wife, were in Paris at the same time. First, I'd hear from Marty what an impossible man Hemingway was to live with, and then Mary would be saying how impossible Marty was being.”

"During that lunch, I said I wanted to go watch the victory parade and Hemingway said, 'What for? You can always see a parade, but you'll never again lunch at the Ritz on the 26th of August, the day after Paris was liberated.'"

Later, Hemingway would write letters to Mary Welsh, telling her about fighting the Germans, but those who knew him say that when he talked about how many Germans he had killed he was simply exercising his creative juices.

"Sure, he always had a pistol," L'Allinec says, "but he never killed any Germans."

In the end, though, it's Hemingway the writer that everybody remembers -- or almost everybody.
On the convoy into Paris, Trefousse recalled, Hemingway was in a jeep behind him, and "I told the French there was this great writer in the jeep back there and they said, 'Never heard of him.' Still, it was pretty amazing. Hemingway and Paris on the same day."

If you go

Hemingway Bar, Ritz Hotel, 15 Place Vendôme, Paris. 011-33-1-4316-3070, www.ritzparis.com. Open 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Semi-formal attire requested. Doubles in the six-story luxury hotel start at 1,340 euros (about $1,657 US).

As the Allied forces prepared to take Paris in 1944, war correspondent Ernest Hemingway was so competitive in his quest for the big story that he poached another writer’s assignment for the prestigious magazine Collier’s.

In the long, cruel struggle of World War II, opportunities for celebration were scarce. But even among the era’s handful of “wish you were there” moments—Russian and American troops meeting at Germany’s River Elbe in April ’45; V-J Day in Times Square—for sheer, cathartic hope, none surpassed the Liberation of Paris. The capital was ultimately freed, on August 24-25, 1944, by a combination of troops from the 2nd French Armored Division, granted precedence by Eisenhower in his role as Supreme Allied Commander; resistance fighters, of many nationalities, who had been battling the Germans in and around Paris for years; and Americans, primarily from the 4th Infantry Division.

LIFE photographer Ralph Morse, now 96 years old, recalls being outside Paris in a press camp—he was covering George Patton’s Third Army and its sweep toward the Rhine for LIFE—when, he says, Ernest Hemingway, who was also in the camp, offered a suggestion.

“I knew Hemingway pretty well because his later wife, Mary, had worked for LIFE, and she had reported with me on a few stories,” Morse told LIFE.com. “So, we’re in this camp, waiting, and Hemingway says, ‘You know, the Germans can’t possibly have mined every road into Paris. Why don’t we find a back road? We can be at the Champs-Élysées before the troops get there.’ Of course, we did make it into Paris . . . but not the way Hemingway wanted.”

“Hemingway’s idea,” Morse recalls, “to get into Paris before U.S. troops headed in was scuttled because someone—Maybe a reporter who wasn’t invited along? Who knows?—someone leaked the plan to Patton, and before we knew it, the press camp was surrounded by military police. Patton walks in and says, ‘If any of you make a move toward Paris before the troops do, I’ll court martial you!’ Anyway, we went in shortly afterward. It was a quick trip from the outskirts, because there were so few Germans left to stop us.”

Strikes in Paris—by railway workers, cops, postal workers—and a relentless guerrilla resistance had shown that, by then, the Germans’ hold on the city was tenuous, at best. When word spread that the Nazi military garrison in the capital had surrendered, the streets erupted. Wine flowed. People laughed, sang “La

“It was an amazing sight, an amazing feeling,” Morse recalls. “So many people in the streets, holding hands, everyone headed for the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe, the same way that everyone in New York heads to, say, Times Square when something momentous happens. It really was . . . well, liberating.”
“One thing that really stands out,” Morse says of those indelible days in Paris more than six decades ago, “is the feeling of certainty in the air. Everyone knew it was over. And I don’t mean the battle for Paris. I mean the war. We all knew there was a lot of fighting left. The Battle of the Bulge a few months later proved that, and who knew what was going to happen in the Pacific? But when the Germans surrendered Paris, we all sensed it was only a matter of time, and not much time, before we took Berlin.”


Friday August 25 1944, a little over 68 years ago, marked the liberation of Paris by the Allies during World War II and one of the greatest parties of all time.  Ernie "Pyle was stunned by the 'pandemonium of surely the greatest mass joy that has ever happened.'  The matter-of-fact reporter, lyricist of the ordinary, found this extraordinary event hard to write about; he felt 'incapable,' 'inadequate' to describe the tide of emotion as they were 'kissed and hauled literally red in the face'. There seemed to be flowers everywhere: the women were all 'brightly dressed in white or red blouses and colorful peasant skirts, with flowers in their hair and big flashy earrings.  Everybody was throwing flowers.  And yet above the happy din he could still hear sporadic explosions, sniper sots and the rattle of machine-guns.  Celebration and killing danced together in an ecstatic fete folle."

"Making a nuisance of himself trying to supply what he called 'gen' was the heavily bearded and heavy-drinking American novelist Ernest Hemingway of Collier's, carrying an automatic pistol (quite against the Geneva convention) on the belt he had taken from a dead German with its old Prussian slogan GOTT MIT UNS ('God is on our side'), happily playing the guerrilla leader to a dozen FFI (Free French, Commander Kelly) youngsters, and eager to enter Paris, 'the city I love best in all the world'."

Hemingway, 1899 – 1961

The world famous Ritz hotel in the Place Vendomme "had actually been 'liberated' earlier that afternoon by the armed civilian Ernest Hemingway.  The author of The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls arrived in a convoy of jeeps carrying French FFI partisans, American officers, and numerous bottles. 

They crossed the Pont de Sevres, went through the sixteenth arrondissement -dodging the odd sniper - to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees to the Travellers Club for champagne, on to the Cafe de la Paix in the boulevard des Capucines for more of it, and eventually pulled up at the back entrance of the Hotel Ritz in Rue Cambon.  When Hemingway declared he had come to liberate the place, the manager Claude Auzello said, 'Leave your gun by the door and come in.'  Hemingway walked up to the bar and asked for yet more champagne.  Nobody really knows which bar it was, but the Ritz has subsequently renamed the little one by the Cambon entrance the Hemingway Bar.  The manager was soon assuring Hemingway and the others that the Ritz had done its bit for Resistance by keeping the very best wine, the premiers grands crus classe A, safe from the Germans.  We saved the Chateau Cheval Blanc!' he said happily.  'Well, go get it' said Hemingway, and the heavy sweating writer slugged down the great Bordeaux like fruit juice.

Friday 25 August was a warm, lovely night in the gardens and streets of liberated Paris.  Wine flowed like water, and grateful parisienne women were generous to the liberating troops."

Source all quotes: Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in World War II, Nicholas Rankin, 2011.  

Commander Kelly says, "War has moments of pure horror such as the Massacre at Malmedy (see earlier post, Massacre at Malmedy, 10/12/12), but also moments of ecstatic joy such as the liberation of Paris and the Ritz Hotel bar.  What a night that must have been!"

Commander Kelly notes sadly that the Ritz Hotel in Paris is now closed for a two year remodelling project.  
The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris
by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Then, when that same writer asked for assistance in getting a seat on the journalists’ plane to Europe, he refused, forcing the writer to instead spend 17 days as the only civilian aboard a weapons transport ship “loaded with explosives” — an incredibly risky move, as those ships had been high-value Nazi targets throughout the war, and “tens of thousands” of Allied soldiers died on them.

The writer in question, who later confronted Hemingway in a “spectacular” argument, was Martha Gellhorn — Hemingway’s wife.

“The Hotel on Place Vendome” by Tilar J. Mazzeo tells the tale of the Hotel Ritz, a landmark so imbued with glamour that it was the only hotel in Paris the Nazis ordered to stay open during the war.

The antics at and around it during World War II were often shocking, as one half was reserved for high-level Nazis — Adolf Hitler’s second-in-command, morphine-addicted cross-dresser Hermann Göring, lived in its grandest suite — while the other was open for business to sympathetic celebrities and socialites and citizens of neutral countries.

Hemingway, never one to tamp down his machismo, took it upon himself to not just report the war, but fight it as well, hoping to use the Ritz, his longtime favorite, as his base of operations.

Once it was evident that the Allies were retaking Paris, Hemingway, then 45, was determined not just to be the first war correspondent back at the Ritz, but to “liberate” it from the Nazis.(Although, Mazzeo writes, the bellicose, alcoholic author was really just “keen to be the first to liberate more or less anything.”)

“Sweet-talking the commander, General Raymond ‘Tubby’ Barton, with his war stories,” she writes, “he had cobbled together his own private brigade more or less through sheer personal charisma.”

Hemingway had “a public-relations officer, a private cook, a camp photographer and his own supply of Scotch whiskey.” Forbidden from carrying a weapon as a correspondent, he “made sure his personal platoon carried every weapon imaginable, both German and American.”

He called them his band of “irregulars,” and set out to “liberate” the French village of Saint-Pois. He showed his plan to a photographer friend, who later said he had a “bad feeling” about the operation.

“The Allied regiment, as Ernest showed him, was planning to take the village from a route shown on the left. His idea was to take a shortcut on the map and drive into the village from the right, beating the military to the glory.”

Hemingway “commandeered a motorcycle with a sidecar,” and “loaded up the sidecar with whiskey and machine guns.”

Riding toward Saint-Pois, it didn’t take long until the Germans attacked.

“One shell exploded 10 yards from the motorcycle,” and the motorcycle driver hit the brakes, sending Hemingway flying into a ditch.

Bullets landed all around him as a Panzer tank made its approach, but he was saved when the Nazis diverted their attention to “an Allied regiment on the other flank.”

Having failed to liberate the town, Hemingway set his sites back on the Ritz, hoping to arrive there to cover France’s liberation before the rest of the press corps.

He took a four-man crew, “met up with another dozen or so French Maquis fighters,” and decided that they would “fight their way into the capital as a private militia.” Despite their ragtag nature, this militia had uniforms, as Hemingway, he wrote to a paramour, “clothed them with clothing of cavalry recon outfit which had been killed.”

Hemingway was basically playing soldier — in opposition to every rule governing the behavior of war correspondents. His entourage having grown to also include a colonel in the OSS (the precursor to the CIA), two Army historians, and a resistance fighter, Hemingway even killed some Nazis, as he “had purportedly blown up with a hand grenade some Germans hiding in a cellar.”

As they fought alongside him, Hemingway’s crew began to take on his mannerisms.

“The ‘irregulars’ . . . went around spitting short sentences from the corners of their mouths in their different languages,” writes Mazzeo, “[and carried] more hand grenades and brandy than a full division.”

The famed author and his bizarre band of brothers went out nightly to “harass the remaining Germans between Rambouillet and Paris.” Later, Hemingway took his crew toward Paris via back roads, hoping to beat the US troops into the city and was finally stopped when someone informed Gen. George S. Patton of his activities.

The US Army commander surrounded the press camp with military police and told the reporters, “If any of you make a move toward Paris before the troops do, I’ll court-martial you!”

Ultimately, Hemingway was not the first journalist back to Paris, perhaps because “his march on Paris seemed to be punctuated with long, winey stops,” Mazzeo writes.

“By the time their Jeep had even reached the River Seine, [one of the war historians] counted 67 bottles of champagne in it.”

TUESDAY, SEP 7, 1999 12:00 PM EDT
Hemingway and me at the Paris Ritz

Throwing back a few martinis in memory of Liberation Day.

We were at the Ritz Bar. I was on my third martini and Hemingway was on his fourth when the bartender made a speech. Though the accolades were directed at him, Hemingway leaned into my ear and said, “Bartenders should stick to what they do best — bartending.”

I had to agree. The acoustics weren’t conducive to formal speeches, especially long ones. Besides, our cocktails were getting warm. We chinked glasses, exchanged nods and sneaked sips during the toast.

1929? 1949? Nope: Aug. 24, 1999. The Hemingway in question? Jack Hemingway, first son of Ernest and Hadley, father to Margaux and Mariel. The occasion? An exclusive party to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s “liberation” of the Ritz.For those of you who don’t know this particular footnote in Hemingway lore, just after the Allied troops declared victory on Aug. 24, 1944, Hemingway,
with a band of irregulars just outside the Paris periphery, sped straight to the Place Vendtme.

Their self-appointed mission was to relieve the Nazi officials of their occupation headquarters: the Hotel Ritz. That night, as word spread that the war was over, Papa and crew played host to one of the most jubilant parties the Ritz had ever seen. Fifty-five years later, people were still celebrating, and still remembering.
I was just happy I wasn’t paying for the $20 martinis.
ack Hemingway, now 75, looked strikingly like his father. The Hemingways are big men, with broad shoulders and strong arms. Jack was even sporting a neatly trimmed white beard, reminiscent of Ernest in his Cuba days. But more than anything, he sounded exactly like his father. When Jack told a story, right after the punch line, his head would fall back and a roar would burst out of his throat. And just as with his father, it was much more high-pitched than you would imagine a Hemingway to have.

How annoying it must be to be the son of Ernest Hemingway. How could anyone live up to a man who wrestled with bears, lions and bulls, won the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes and boasted of sleeping with every woman that he had ever cared to?

Still, Jack has held his own.

While his father was liberating the Ritz, Jack — an OSS officer — had just escaped from behind enemy lines. Over the years he has accumulated stories of his own to tell — and then he told them. Like Ernest’s brother and various ex-wives, Jack wrote his side of life with Papa, “The Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman: 
My Life With and Without Papa.” This biography of an absentee, alcoholic father is surprisingly well-written.
After shadowing him for a nervous half-hour, I finally got someone I had just met to introduce me.

“Jack, I’d like you to meet Gentry Lane. She’s writing a book on Paris in the 1920s.”

“Oh good! No one’s ever written anything like that before,” he laughed.

Normally I’d smack anyone who laughed at my aspirations. But seeing as Gertrude Stein was his babysitter, I let it slide.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Bumby,” I said. With gin-fueled courage I addressed him by his childhood nickname — the one by which Ernest refers to him in “A Moveable Feast.”

“I’ve grown a bit since anyone’s called me that,” he laughed and patted his

We talked about San Francisco, my hometown and his too for a while. He worked at the City of Paris department store and remembered when Playland was still open. I’m only 30, and know about these places only from a video I got for becoming a member of the local PBS affiliate, but I was thrilled to have a common connection to a real live Hemingway.

What impressed me most about Jack was that he wasn’t wearing shoes. Instead he was wearing slippers, little velvet ones with the Hemingway family crest embroidered in gold. They looked comfy. And they went with his suit. That made him the cooler Hemingway, I thought. Ernest, a man who favored a belt he pulled off a dead German, would never have the guts to wear little velvet slippers.

Switching easily from English to French, Jack flowed from conversation to conversation with guests anxious to talk about his father or his father’s works. Some of them were not as well-versed as they should have been.

“Ernest would be proud,” said someone during a lull in the speechifying.

“I don’t think he would’ve liked all this,” Jack whispered to me, motioning to the room full of Parisian society people, dainty hors d’oeuvres and a sleepy background band sporting berets and playing “La Vie en Rose.”

“He would have liked that we’re drinking,” I said.

“Yes, he would have liked that.”

But Jack Hemingway liked this party. The crowd was animated and the setting was pure Ritz, classy in every way. Ambassadors, journalists and Ritz regulars all vied for a bit of Hemingway’s attention. And, in true
Hemingway fashion, he seemed to be most pleased when talking to a pretty girl.

Gentry Lane is an American writer living in Paris

By John Follain, Reuter News Service
Published: Thursday, Aug. 25 1994 12:00 a.m. MDT

On the day Allied troops marched into Paris in August 1944, writer Ernest Hemingway, a war correspondent at the time, made straight for one of its most luxurious hotels and ``liberated'' the Ritz bar.
At least, that is how Hemingway liked to joke about the event at what became his favorite Parisian watering hole.

On the day Allied troops marched into Paris in August 1944, writer Ernest Hemingway, a war correspondent at the time, made straight for one of its most luxurious hotels and "liberated" the Ritz bar.
At least, that is how Hemingway liked to joke about the event at what became his favorite Parisian watering hole.As the French capital celebrates the 50th anniversary of its liberation from Nazi rule Thursday, the Ritz will pay tribute to him by reopening the bar named in his honor, cashing in on an exploit that has become a legend.

According to the Ritz official version, Hemingway, who was covering the war with General George Patton's 3rd Army for the American magazine Collier's, was greeted by the director of the prestigious hotel at the door.

He was asked to leave his gun outside and then escorted to the bar where he ordered a dry martini.
But one of the few surviving eyewitnesses has a much more colorful story to tell.

"It was incredible, incredible. It was breathtaking to see him behave as if the hotel was his home," Lucienne Elmiger, the 76-year-old widow of the former manager of the Ritz, said in an interview from her country house near Auxerre south of Paris.

At about 2 o'clock on the afternoon of Aug. 25, 1944, the day French troops rolled into the capital, Elmiger was busy in the lobby when the plush stillness of the august establishment on the 18th-Century Place Vendome was shattered.

A swashbuckling figure strode into the lobby of stately pink marble columns and mirrored panels.
"He entered like a king, and he chased out all the British people who had arrived an hour earlier. He was dressed in khaki, but his shirt was open on his bare chest. He had a leather belt under his big stomach, with his gun beating against his thigh."

Hemingway marched through the lobby and the restaurant, in a shouting match with his foes: "I'm the one who is going to occupy the Ritz. We're the Americans. We're going to live just like in the good old days."

He barked at the British in the language of the former German occupiers: "Raus, raus (get out, get out)!"
Hemingway's rivals quickly gave up and fled, and he made a bee-line for the bar where he ordered drinks for the fellow correspondents who had conquered the Ritz with him.

The Nazis, who had requisitioned the landmark to house German top brass on their visits to the capital, including air force head Herman Goering and propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, had deserted the hotel much earlier.

"He had presence, the way people know Hemingway, but no chic. My husband was not very happy to see this happening, in his Ritz," Elmiger said disapprovingly.

Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin, among those with Hemingway at the time, and now a professor of English Literature at Ottawa University, says he also swept through the cellars.

She recounts that he climbed to the roof where his party - intent on chasing Germans - fired bursts of gunfire which brought down nothing apart from a clothesline full of Ritz linen sheets.

That afternoon, philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre and his companion Simone de Beauvoir called on the American.

According to his brother Leicester, de Beauvoir and Hemingway did their utmost to persuade Sartre to leave them alone together and return home to the Left Bank.

"Look, why don't you get going? We're going to stay here and do a little drinking and serious talking," Leicester quotes de Beauvoir as telling Sartre.

In "The True Gen," a book about the writer by Denis Brian, a friend of Hemingway's reports de Beauvoir emerged from the Ritz only the following morning.

The Ritz was to become an essential part of Hemingway's Paris, the city where he began his career as a writer. "When you're in Paris, the only good reason for not staying at the Ritz is lack of money," he once said.

As in the writer's heyday, the small Hemingway Bar, which will reopen on Aug. 25 after a two-year closure, will once again serve his favorite cocktails, and the Spanish bite-size "tapas" he was fond of.

A bronze bust of Hemingway rests on the counter. The panel above the fireplace is hung with pictures of Hemingway, including two snaps of him shortly before he entered Paris.

Hotel owners are keen to build on Hemingway's legacy to turn the bar into the favorite haunt of literary Paris. Writers and poets will have the chance to receive their mail there.

This would give the place unrivaled standing as the only literary bar on the Right Bank of the river Seine, traditionally an affluent area whose bourgeois character contrasts with the more intellectual Left Bank.

After more than four years of Nazi occupation, Paris is liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. German resistance was light, and General Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the German garrison, defied an order by Adolf Hitler to blow up Paris' landmarks and burn the city to the ground before its liberation. Choltitz signed a formal surrender that afternoon, and on August 26, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a joyous liberation march down the Champs d'Elysees.

Paris fell to Nazi Germany on June 14, 1940, one month after the German Wehrmachtstormed into France. Eight days later, France signed an armistice with the Germans, and a puppet French state was set up with its capital at Vichy. Elsewhere, however, General Charles de Gaulle and the Free French kept fighting, and the Resistance sprang up in occupied France to resist Nazi and Vichy rule.

The French 2nd Armored Division was formed in London in late 1943 with the express purpose of leading the liberation of Paris during the Allied invasion of France. In August 1944, the division arrived at Normandy under the command of General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc and was attached to General George S. Patton's 3rd U.S. Army. By August 18, Allied forces were near Paris, and workers in the city went on strike as Resistance fighters emerged from hiding and began attacking German forces and fortifications.

At his headquarters two miles inland from the Normandy coast, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had a dilemma. Allied planners had concluded that the liberation of Paris should be delayed so as to not divert valuable resources away from important operations elsewhere. The city could be encircled and then liberated at a later date.

On August 21, Eisenhower met with de Gaulle and told him of his plans to bypass Paris. De Gaulle urged him to reconsider, assuring him that Paris could be reclaimed without difficulty. The French general also warned that the powerful communist faction of the Resistance might succeed in liberating Paris, thereby threatening the re-establishment of a democratic government. De Gaulle politely told Eisenhower that if his advance against Paris was not ordered, he would send Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division into the city himself.

On August 22, Eisenhower agreed to proceed with the liberation of Paris. The next day, the 2nd Armored Division advanced on the city from the north and the 4th Infantry Division from the south. Meanwhile, in Paris, the forces of German General Dietrich von Choltitz were fighting the Resistance and completing their defenses around the city. Hitler had ordered Paris defended to the last man, and demanded that the city not fall into Allied hands except as "a field of ruins." Choltitz dutifully began laying explosives under Paris' bridges and many of its landmarks, but disobeyed an order to commence the destruction. He did not want to go down in history as the man who had destroyed the "City of Light"--Europe's most celebrated city.

The 2nd Armored Division ran into heavy German artillery, taking heavy casualties, but on August 24 managed to cross the Seine and reach the Paris suburbs. There, they were greeted by enthusiastic civilians who besieged them with flowers, kisses, and wine. Later that day, Leclerc learned that the 4th Infantry Division was poised to beat him into Paris proper, and he ordered his exhausted men forward in a final burst of energy. Just before midnight on August 24, the 2nd Armored Division reached the Hótel de Ville in the heart of Paris.

German resistance melted away during the night. Most of the 20,000 troops surrendered or fled, and those that fought were quickly overcome. On the morning of August 25, the 2nd Armored Division swept clear the western half of Paris while the 4th Infantry Division cleared the eastern part. Paris was liberated.

In the early afternoon, Choltitz was arrested in his headquarters by French troops. Shortly after, he signed a document formally surrendering Paris to de Gaulle's provincial government. De Gaulle himself arrived in the city later that afternoon. On August 26, de Gaulle and Leclerc led a triumphant liberation march down the Champs d'Elysees. Scattered gunfire from a rooftop disrupted the parade, but the identity of the snipers was not determined.

De Gaulle headed two successive French provisional governments until 1946, when he resigned over constitutional disagreements. From 1958 to 1969, he served as French president under the Fifth Republic.

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