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Friday, May 24, 2013

Military History Photo Friday: Hemingway at the front

Hello from Gorizia, where I'm a guest speaker at the èStoria annual history festival. Today Gorizia is on the Italian-Slovenian border, but during World War One it was on the border between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

Just east of Gorizia flows the Isonzo River, and to the east of the river rise steep mountains. Go a little north of here and there are mountains on both sides of the river. Both armies wanted to advance, but that meant crossing an exposed valley to storm entrenched positions on usually steep terrain. Mostly it was the Italians trying to push east, again and again. There wasn't just one Battle of Isonzo, there were twelve.

Most were utter failures leading to heavy loss of life. Only during the sixth Battle of Isonzo did the Italians actually make any significant gains, and then they lost it all and more in battle #12, also known as the Battle of Caporetto. It was this battle that Ernest Hemingway immortalized in A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway was an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. Here he is, young and unknown.

This painting by R.A. Höger (1873-1930) shows some of the fierce fighting between the Austro-Hungarians and the Italians on a front that is rarely discussed in the English speaking world. Tomorrow I'm touring the battlefield. Stay tuned for a full article!

Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Oh, I love that. I don't think I've seen a photo of Hemingway that young before. Nor did I know about this fierce fighting at the Isonzo river valley. I should probably read A Farewell to Arms. :)

  2. Like that photo of Hemingway, he looks young. I've read several of his books, including A Farewell to Arms.

  3. Having a grand time, Sean?
    And that is one young Hemingway.

  4. What a sad thing to be remembered for -- 12 battles and tremendous loss of life. But I bet the countryside is beautiful in Spring, and I hope you find time to enjoy yourself a bit. :-)


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