Seven Famous Authors You May Not Have Known Were Military Veterans

Happy Veterans Day!

Paul Combs

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Tomorrow is Veterans Day in the United States (Remembrance Day in the U.K. and Commonwealth countries), a day when I try to do nothing except gobble up as many free meals as I can from every restaurant that offers them. I usually start with the free donut from Krispy Kreme because nothing says thank you for giving up four years of your life quite like a single donut. I will gorge myself all day while lamenting the fact that if I had just stayed in the Army I would either be dead or retired now, with either option being preferable to my current state.

Something else I have done for the past few years is write a story about my comrades-in-arms (from whatever generation) who were also successful in the Arts after their service. It started with a piece on Steve McQueen (the King of Cool) and last year focused on musicians who served. This year, I want to celebrate Veterans Day by highlighting authors you may not know served in the military.

The list of such authors is far longer than you might expect, especially from the First and Second World Wars. It would literally take a book to include everyone and thus I have left off some of the more obvious authors like Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five) and Joseph Heller (Catch-22). Also, while Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and Somerset Maugham all served in World War I as ambulance drivers, they were part of the Red Cross rather than the American or British military. In any case, below are seven famous authors who deserve recognition not just for their books but for their service to their country.

1. Edgar Allan Poe. The man who would go on to write the tales of the macabre that still terrify us today joined the U.S. Army for the same reason many still do: he couldn’t find a job and needed a way to support himself. He enlisted as a private in 1827 by lying about his age, and served as an artilleryman for two years, ultimately reaching the rank of Sergeant Major.

2. Leo Tolstoy. Though the legendary Russian author is best known for his novel War and Peace, he did not live during Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia; he was born 16 years later. However, 15 years before he wrote his most famous novel, Tolstoy was a young, unknown…

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Paul Combs

Writer, bookseller, would-be roadie for the E Street Band. My ultimate goal is to make books as popular in Texas as high school football...it may take a while.