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The Hemingway conspiracy involves Ernest Hemingway having been a Soviet sympathizer during the Cold War, in possession of papers that were of U.S. national security interest; papers secured in a bank vault in Havana, Cuba. Although the FBI maintained a file on Hemingway since 1942, it wasn't until Allen Dulles took office as head of the CIA, that Hemingway came under fire. In 1947, Hemingway was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery during World War II. But his connections to Cuba caused Allen Dulles to be alarmed with Hemingway's possible ties to the Soviet Union as a Fifth Columnist.


Second International Writers' Congress

Second International Writers' Congress, in Valencia

Hemingway bought a boat in 1934, and named it the Pilar. He first arrived at Bimini a year later, where he spent a considerable amount of time. Hemingway left for Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War in July 1937. He attended the Second International Writers' Congress, in Valencia. Many writers attended, including André Malraux, Stephen Spender and Pablo Neruda, to discuss the attitude of intellectuals to the war.

While in Madrid, Hemingway wrote, The Fifth Column, about an American-born secret agent. A "fifth column" refers to “domestic actors who work to undermine the national interest, in cooperation with external rivals of the state." The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. They may gather in secret or mobilize openly to assist an external attack.

The book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press), reveals that Ernest Hemingway was on the KGB's list of its agents in America, codenamed "Agent Argo". By early 1939, Hemingway crossed to Cuba where he established a home residence. He began writing For Whom the Bell Tolls in March. His pattern was to move around while working. He wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls in Cuba, Wyoming, and Sun Valley, Idaho.

By 1942, Hemingway negotiated with the Cuban government to help him refit the Pilar for use to ambush German submarines off the coast of Cuba. The Pilar was outfitted with communications gear including HF/DF or "Huff-Duff" direction-finding equipment. A huff-duff, is a type of radio direction finder (RDF) that was introduced in World War II as an early form of signals intelligence. High frequency (HF) radio band can effectively communicate over long distances; for example, between U-boats and their land-based headquarters. HF/DF was used to catch enemy radios while they transmitted, but was also used to locate friendly aircraft as a navigation aid.

Allen Dulles took an aggressive interest in Ernest Hemingway's relationship with Cuba, when Dulles became head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1953. J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, already had a file on Hemingway since 1942 when his boat the Pilar was outfitted with the "Huff-Duff" communications while in Cuba. As DCI, Dulles was funding clandestine revolutions, and coup d'états all over the world. The Cuban Revolution began 26 July 1953, led by Fidel Castro and fellow revolutionaries who operated along a clandestine cell system. Although a revolutionary socialist, Castro avoided an alliance with the communist Popular Socialist Party (PSP) of Cuba.

Six months later, Hemingway survives two successive plane crashes in Africa, the second plane crash being highly unusual that exploded at take-off; followed by a bushfire that broke out, in which he sustained second-degree burns. When Hemingway returned to Cuba in early 1957, he began working on his memoir A Moveable Feast. At around this time, U.S. federal agents began watching Hemmingway in Havana.[1]

Hemingway became increasingly aware of U.S. federal surveillance that forced him to leave Cuba July 25, 1960, in which he left behind art and manuscripts in a bank vault in Havana. Even after coming home to the states, Hemingway couldn't shake the paranoia of being surveilled. A. E. Hotchner visited Hemingway in Ketchum, Idaho, in November for an annual pheasant shoot, witnessing Hemingway's odd behavior of being watched.

The FBI knew that Hemingway was admitted to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, in which he was subjected to multiple electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments. Meyers writes that "an aura of secrecy surrounds Hemingway's treatment at the Mayo".[2] Hemingway commented to Hotchner, “What is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business? It was a brilliant cure, but we lost the patient.” Collecting information that Hemingway's father died of suicide, Mayo diagnosed Hemmingway with hemochromatosis before being released January 1961.

Eight years prior, Allen Dulles authorized MKUltra, which made use of "word triggers" and experimental pharmaceuticals connected to Harvard University and the Mayo Clinics. Regarding Ernest Hemingway's apparent suicided, Mary Hemingway told the press that his death had been accidental. When at Mayo, Hemingway expressed care for his mental faculties when he called it "my capital". After Hemingway's death, President Kennedy arranged for Mary Hemingway to travel to Cuba where she met Fidel Castro and obtained her late husband's papers and painting in return for donating Finca Vigía to Cuba.

In further MKUltra attacks against the Hemingways, Ernest's sister Ursula was diagnosed with cancer and depression, and died of a drug overdose in 1966, deemed "suicide".

Ernest's brother Leicester Hemingway came under the radar of the CIA when he created a micronation called "New Atlantis", which was a bamboo raft off the coast of Jamaica. Leicester wanted the United States to recognize New Atlantis as a constitutional republic as of July 4, 1964, when he mailed a letter to the White House claiming international recognition. In the 1980s, Ernest Hemingway's FBI file was released following a Freedom of Information request by Jeffrey Meyers, an academic from the University of Colorado. In 1982, Leicester reportedly "killed himself" with a gunshot to the head. Jeffrey Meyers' biography on Ernest Hemingway was published in 1985.


Fishing and drinking comes with the territory, and is not considered depressive. Hemingway, a popular fisherman, is described in bias, as "a thinly controlled alcoholic throughout much of his life. It wasn't until after the plane crashes in 1954, that Hemingway began to drink more heavily than usual to "combat the pain of his injuries."[3]


  1. Mellow, James. (1992). Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-37777-2, p. 597–598
  2. Meyers, Jeffrey. (1985). Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-42126-0, p. 547–550
  3. Beegel, Susan. (1996). "Conclusion: The Critical Reputation", in Donaldson, Scott (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ernest Hemingway. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-45574-9, p. 273