Hemmingway Keeps Cuba Safe from the Nazi Menace!

A week or so ago, I posted a small factoid about Tolkien's almost-involvement in WW2 code breaking.  it inspired a number of comments and fun discussion.  I'm also slowly but surely developing some material for an alt-history World War Two game I'd like to run.  In that vein, I'm going to keep looking for some real history bits that, if tweaked ever so slightly, could be dropped into a pulp or WW2 game.  I didn't have to do much tweaking for today's entry.

That's author Ernest Hemmingway, with his Cuban fishing buddy  and guide Carlos Gutierrez aboard Hemmingway's boat, Pilar, in 1934.  Hemmingway lived in Cuba for much of the 1930's and 1940's.  When America entered WW2, President Roosevelt asked for volunteers to patrol the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, looking for German U-Boats.  Papa Hemmingway joined up, but set out to do a little more than just spot submarines.  He stocked up the Pilar with a Thompson machine gun and a bunch of hand grenades and went looking for Nazis.  Of course, he never found any, because if he had, he probably would have ended up at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.  Hemmingway was awesome, but even his Tommy gun isn't going to do much against a U-Boat.

Unless, of course, he was armed with some experimental weaponry.  Using his own brute force and cunning, perhaps Hemmingway was the sole reason Cuba did not fall into Nazi hands and used as a staging ground for their inevitable invasion of the U.S!  Aided by deciphered codes from a British source known alternately as J., Ronald, or Ruel, Hemmingway was able to track down and sink no less than four U-Boats almost single-handed.


  1. I dig. And pugilism rules are essential.

  2. I don't know if it's of interest, but the Irish writer Samuel Beckett was living in Paris at the start of the war, and in 1940 became a member of the French resistance. He was fluent in French, German, Italian and English, so his primary role was to translate official documents stolen by other resistance members.

    Not quite guns and grenades in the gulf, but an appreciated contribution, and it might fit your new history - which I look forward to hearing more about.

  3. @ Anonymous -- Perfect! I didn't know that about Beckett. It fits right in with almost no tweaking.

  4. I think JRR's code name should have been "Ruel Britannia".

  5. Most of the resistance didn't read German, so they would steal pretty much anything written in any language they couldn't read and take it to Beckett. So one day he might be presented with a shopping list or a letter from a soldier to his wife, the next it might be details of troop movements across northern France. Beckett translated anything relevant into French and English and it was disseminated to the allied forces.

    According to the stories, most of the members of the resistance were pickpockets, burglars, forgers and the like - I've always been fascinated by the idea that these anti-social members of society were the only ones with the skills necessary to mount such a movement.

    My favourite story is that of the man who was picked up by the nazis and tortured - he not only withstood all efforts to get him to name names, but he also managed to steal several blank forms from the desk of the interrogating officer. These were taken to Beckett, who quickly realised they were warrants of travel.

    Apparently many POW escapes were made possible by the bravery of that one man, because the escapees traveled across France using forms copied from the original masters he stole.

    That man definitely maxed out in Bluff (if you'll forgive the 3.5-ism).

  6. @ Matt -- I like it!

    @ Anon -- Great stuff about the resistance. Expect a Beckett entry soon.


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