Ernest Hemingway made it out of World War I only because a soldier was "blown to bits," as the Telegraph puts it. Now you have Fedele Temperini to thank in part for classics like For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Researchers have identified the 26-year-old private from Tuscany as the Italian soldier who unwittingly saved 18-year-old Hemingway's life near the Austria-Hungary border on July 8, 1918. A Red Cross volunteer, Hemingway was delivering cigarettes and chocolate to soldiers in the trenches along the Piave River when a mortar exploded. Badly injured, Hemingway was spared the brunt of the blast by conscripted Temperini, according to American author James McGrath Morris and Italian amateur historian Marino Perissinotto, who analyzed military records to give credit where credit is due.
They initially discovered that 18 Italian soldiers had died in battle on the front on the night in question, including three in the vicinity of the mortar. Of those three, two were deployed in support trenches roughly two miles behind the front. That left Temperini of the 69th infantry regiment, described in military records as having died on July 8 "from wounds sustained in combat." Per the Telegraph, a report describing Hemingway's treatment at a Red Cross station behind the front also mentions that a soldier from the 69th infantry regiment died, making the researchers "very confident" in their assertion. A monument to Hemingway at the site of the blast—later a setting of A Farewell to Arms—on the other hand, makes no mention of Temperini. It's "a cold reminder of history's cruelty," Morris writes at the Washington Post, calling for "the distinction he deserves." (Read more World War I stories.)