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At the time of Hemingway\'s graduation from High School,World War I was raging in Europe and despite Woodrow Wilson\'s attempts to keep America out of the war, the United States joined the Allies in the fight against Germany and Austria in April, 1917. When Hemingway turned eighteen he tried to enlist in the army, but was deferred because of poor vision; he had a bad left eye that he probably inherited from his mother ,who also had poor vision. When he heard the Red Cross was taking volunteers as ambulance
drivers he quickly signed up. He was accepted in December of 1917, left his job at the paper in April of 1918, and sailed for Europe in May. In the short time that Hemingway worked for the Kansas City Star he learned some stylistic lessons that would later influence his fiction. The newspaper advocated short sentences, short paragraphs, active verbs, authenticity, compression, clarity and immediacy. Hemingway later said: "Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing. I\'ve never forgotten them."
Hemingway, upon reaching Europe, first went to Paris, then in early June, after receiving his orders, travelled to Milan, Italy. The day he arrived ,a munitions factory exploded and he had to carry mutilated bodies and body parts to a makeshift morgue...it was an immediate and powerful initiation into the horrors of war. Two days later he was sent to an ambulance unit at a the town of Schio, where he worked driving ambulances. On July 8, 1918, only a few weeks after arriving, Hemingway was seriously wounded by fragments from an Austrian mortar shell which landed just a few feet away. At the time Hemingway,
was distributing chocolate to Italian soldiers in the trenches near the front lines. The explosion knocked Hemingway unconscious while killing one Italian soldier and blowing the legs off another. What happened next has been debated for some time. In a letter to Hemingway\'s father, Ted Brumback, one of Ernest\'s fellow ambulance drivers, wrote that despite over 200 pieces of shrapnel being lodged in Hemingway\'s legs, he still managed to carry another wounded soldier back to the first aid station, along the way being hit in his legs by several machine gun bullets. Whether he carried the wounded soldier or not, doesn\'t diminish Hemingway\'s sacrifice. He was awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Valor with the official Italian citation reading: "Gravely wounded by numerous pieces of shrapnel from an enemy shell, with an admirable spirit of brotherhood, before taking care of himself, he rendered generous assistance to the Italian soldiers more seriously wounded by the same explosion and did not allow himself to be carried elsewhere until after they
had been evacuated." Hemingway described his injuries to a friend of his: "There was one of those big noises you sometimes hear at the front. I died then. I felt my soul or something coming right out of my body, like you\'d pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket by one corner. It flew all around and then came back and went in again and I wasn\'t dead any more."
Hemingway\'s experiences in Italy, his wounding and his subsequent recovery at a hospital in Milan, his relationship with his nurse Agnes von Kurowsky and their eventual breakup, all inspired his great novel A Farewell To Arms.
A Soldier\'s Home
When Hemingway returned home from Italy in January of 1919 he found Oak Park dull compared to the adventures of war, the beauty of foreign lands and the romance of an older woman. He was nineteen years old and only a year and a half removed from high school, but the war had matured him beyond his years. Living with his parents, who never quite appreciated what their son had been through, was difficult. Soon after his homecoming they began to question his future, began to pressure him to find work or to further his education, but Hemingway couldn\'t seem to muster interest in anything. He had received some $1000 dollars in insurance payments for his war wounds, enabling him to avoid work for nearly a year. He lived at his parents house and spent his time at the library or at home reading. He spoke to small civic organizations of
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Ernest Hemingway, Hadley Richardson, A Farewell to Arms, Soldiers Home, Agnes von Kurowsky, Big Two-Hearted River, In Our Time
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