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How Many Times Did Ernest Hemingway Cheat Death?

By Kevin Hellyer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Legendary author Ernest Hemingway lived life to its fullest, whether it was driving an ambulance for the Italian Army during World War I or hunting German submarines from his fishing boat during World War II. There was also the time he shot himself in both legs while attempting to subdue a shark during a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico.

The hulking, hard-drinking adventurer also survived two plane crashes in Africa, on two consecutive days. The first came when a chartered single-engine Cessna carrying Hemingway and his wife went down in a crocodile-infested scrub near Murchison Falls. The Hemingways weren’t injured, and the next day, after being rescued, they boarded another small plane, which caught fire on takeoff and crashed, again. “My luck, she is running very good,” the author explained later.

Here's to Hemingway:

  • Hemingway’s writing was rife with raw and sometimes unrelenting violence, including bullfighting in Death in the Afternoon, big game hunting in The Green Hills of Africa and war in A Farewell to Arms.

  • As an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, Hemingway was badly wounded in a burst of exploding shells that left him with 237 bits of shrapnel in his body, an aluminum kneecap – and two military decorations from the Italians.

  • His short novel The Old Man and the Sea won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He wrote several novels on his experiences covering the Spanish Civil War, including For Whom the Bell Tolls.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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