Monday, April 26, 2021

Hemingway and JFK

Hemingway and JFK - Hemingway at Dealey Plaza? 

OSS Col. David Bruce (Left) and Hemingway on the way to Paris 

Ken Burn's new three part PBS documentary on Ernest Hemingway sparked me to write about the aspects of Hemingway's life as they reflect on the assassination of President Kennedy. 

While they actually never met in person, Hemingway and JFK are intimately entwined. For one, many of Hemingway's papers and artifacts are housed at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, there at the reqest of his fourth wife, Mary, and for good reasons. 

The key connection between Hemingway and JFK, as it is with JFK, Oswald and Ruby, is Cuba. My favorite book about Hemingway is Arnold Samuelson's With Hemingway - One Year in Key West and Cuba. Samuelson, a college student during the Depression, hopped a freight train to Key West to visit Hemingway, and was promptly arrested when he arrived. Eventually he got to see Hemingway, who took him down to the docks and permitted him to stay aboard his fishing yacht, The Pilar. 

Samuelson's manuscript however, even though Samuelson became an English teacher, wasn't discovered by his daughter in the attic until after his death, and she arranged for it to be published. One of the things Hemingway taught Samuelson I found useful, was his advice to not write everything in one sitting, as if you know where the story is going, save some for the next day, and you will have something to begin with. 

Hemingway's military intelligence life began when he ventured to China, then engaged in war with Japan, and reported back on what he learned. Then he began working with ONI - the Office of Naval Intelligence, who supplied him with gasoline and weapons for the Pilar in order for Hemingway to report on any Nazi submarine sightings in the Caribbean while he was fishing. 

One of Hemingway's sons became a JEDBURG - a British trained commando parachuted behind the enemy lines in order to organize bands of anti-Nazi partisan resistance. Unfortunately young Hemingway was captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war.

Then Hemingway became a war correspondent for Colliers and NANA - the North American Newspaper Alliance, that also included at various times, others involved in this story - Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Ian Fleming of 007 fame, and JFK's paramour Inga Avid. 

For more info on NARA here's a link to an article I wrote with John Judge - JFKCountercoup2: Bottlefed by Oswald's NANA

Although such correspondents were not supposed to have weapons or engage in combat, Hemingway sported a pistol and a machine gun, much to the dismay of other correspondents. 

At some point - probably in the village of Rambouillet, 30 miles southeast of Paris, Hemingway hooked up with OSS - Office of Strategic Services Colonel David Bruce, as there is a photo of them together there. Bruce found Hemingway had accumulated a band of French partisan fighters - some 60 or so, who Hemingway provided intelligence to in order for them to fight the Germans. In a few trucks and Bruce's jeep they made their way to Paris, stopping at every cafe and hotel bar for a drink along the way. 

Bruce would be a major player in this story, as he would be Hemingway's best man at his fourth wedding, and be JFK's ambassador to the Court of St. James in London, where he would be briefed by Art Lundahl of the NPIC - National Photo Interpretation Center on the Soviet missiles in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bruce also served as US Ambassador to France and West Germany. 

While the French Army entered Paris and accepted the surrender of the German generals, Hemingway wanted to liberate the bar at the Ritz Hotel, where he had spent many hours drinking and eating with his pal F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 20s and 30s. 

Lee  Harvey Oswald even mentions Hemingway in his letter from Russia to then Navy Secretary John Connally, saying that he went to the Soviet Union as Hemingway went to Paris. Priscilla Johnson assumed that Oswald was referring to Hemingway's life in Paris as a writer, but he also could have been referring to Hemingway's visit with David Bruce, the colonel in the OSS - General Donovan's predecessor to the CIA. 

On August 25, 1944 they arrived at the Ritz, they say Hemingway entered the small alcove bar where there is now a statute of him, and knew the bartender. He placed his machine gun on the bar, looked around at Bruce and his motley group of partisans, and ordered sixty martinis, shaken not sturred. 

The hotel manager, who knew Hemingway, said that the German generals had just left a few hours previous, and that he had kept the best wines from them, so Hemingway said, "Lets have some." 

After the war Hemingway went back to Key West and Havana, where he kept homes, but after the Bay of Pigs disaster, never returned to Cuba. Instead he went to Ketchum, Idaho, where he enjoyed hunting and fishing, though his health was failing and he was being treated for depression with electro shock therapy. In an act of depression, Hemingway killed himself, in a manner very similar to the way George deMohrenschildts committed suicide - shotgun to the head. 

After Hemingway's death, his wife Mary received special permission to travel to Cuba to go to their house there and retrieve manuscripts, art and artifacts that she wanted to keep, and later donated to the Kennedy Library. While there, she was visited by Castro himself, who drove up in a jeep and informed Mary Hemingway they had plans to make the home a museum. 

When Mary informed Edward R. Morrow, head of the US Information Agency, he informed the CIA and Ed Lansdale, then head of Operation Mongoose assigned to get rid of Castro. They discussed a plan to use this information as part of a plot, possibly a plot to kill Castro, as described in an article The Old Man and the CIA: A Kennedy Plot to Kill Castro (The Nation - March 26, 2001). 

The Old Man and the CIA: A Kennedy Plot to Kill Castro? | The Nation

While I distrust David Corn and Gus Russo's interpretation, I will attempt to get a copy of the original Lansdale memo from Larry Haapanen, the person who found it, and report back. 

Okay, I've obtained scanned copies of the Lansdale memo from Larry and have posted them here: 

JFKCountercoup2: Lansdale Memo 16 March 1962 Re: The Hemingway Plot

More to Come on this. 


Unknown said...

Bill you say deMohrenschildts killed himself. Is that what you believe?

William Kelly said...

I dont know. I know he died of shotgun to the head.