July 1918

Farewell to Arms

Attracted by hostilities, in 1918 Ernest Hemingway decided to reach Europe wearing the uniform of a second lieutenant, despite a problem in one eye. He joined the Red Cross and, passing through France, he arrived in Milan, where, as soon as he arrived, he had to witness with horror the devastating consequences caused by the explosion of a munitions factory: Ernest and his companions were forced to recover reduced bodies in tatters. After three days, he moved to Schio: even in the mountains the conflict reaped victims and young Hemingway had the task of transporting the wounded to be evacuated by ambulance. In the Veneto region he met John Dos Passos, originally from Chicago and also destined to become a famous American novelist.

During the last year of the war, the Italians had entrenched themselves along the western side of the Piave. Here the volunteers had to supply the Red Cross food stations in the towns that were behind the lines: Ernest, who wanted to be always in the heart of the action, was sent to Fossalta, one of the countries along the river most marked by military maneuvers . One night, while he was going to bring chocolate and cigarettes to the men in the trenches, an Austrian mortar fell among the Italian soldiers and he, in a desperate attempt to carry on his shoulders a severely wounded man, became the target of an enemy machine gun, that threw his leg apart. After being operated in a place of medication in Fornaci, where he was extracted only some of all the splinters that had been stuck in the limb, he was taken to the American Red Cross hospital in Via Manzoni in Milan. The war for Hemingway could be said to have ended. Once back home, he felt overwhelmed by dissatisfaction, despite being considered a hero: he continued to wear the Italian cape, drank wine, sang the Piave songs and did not look for work.

The war experience in Italy deeply defined Ernest as a man and as a writer, so much so as to push him to tell it in one of his most famous works: A Farewell to Arms.