You Too Can Be a General




Hemingway with Lanham on September 18, 1944, after the breakthrough of the Siegfried Line in Western Germany.

From Ernest Hemingway’s letter to Colonel Charles T. Lanham, April 2, 1945. Hemingway described Lanham as “the finest and bravest and most intelligent military commander I have known”; he did, in fact, go on to make general. Original spelling and punctuation retained.

Now I just feel homesick, lonely and useless. But will pull out of it. Because have to.

Also have cut out heavy drinking … and since Liquor is my best friend and severest critic I miss it. Also have explained to my old girls there is nothing doing—and this light drinking, righteous Life isn’t comparable to always haveing at least two bottles of Perrier Jouet in the ice bucket and the old Kraut Marlene [Dietrich] always ready to come in and sit with you while you shave […]

Am so glad you are happy where you are. Hope the [general’s] star comes through quickly and then that you have a Division. Am very selfish in this because figure once you have a Division there will be that liquor ration and I will come and drink it for you (thus saveing you from any possibility of rummy-hood) and I can run errands and do any odd jobs the Geneva Convention authorizes such as entertaining Gen. Rodwell when he calls (I’ll have my own trailer) and all the time will be working on my new Great Book YOU TOO CAN BE A GENERAL with all its exhaustive studies in Rummyhood and Its Effect on the General. Bourbon or Scotch—Their Effect on the General. Map Reading For Generals. Security or Sleep—A Problem In Generalship. Hormones For The General—Their Use and Abuse. All this time I will be giveing you my almost pathetic devotion with one hand and booby trapping your trailer with the other. It is the only career I really look forward to. So don’t just bog down in your military career because we ought to get started.