When WWI was declared and the US became involved, Ernest Hemingway was eager to join the fight. However, the Army rejected him because of his poor vision. Hemingway volunteered to become an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Italy, and he ended up getting injured by a mortar and machine gun. Young men were eager to join the fighting, and Hemingway wrote in a letter, "I can’t let a show like this go on without getting in on it."
Unlike Krebs, who saw action in fiercely fought battles at Belleau Wood, Soissons, the Champagne, St. Mihiel, and in the Argonne, Hemingway sat out most of the war in a Milan hospital. Krebs's experiences might represent the action that Hemingway craved. It would have made him a war hero, but at a steep price. Krebs is psychologically damaged from the war, and because he has arrived home much later than other veterans, he never had a chance to engage in war stories with other veterans, the only men who could really understand what they'd experienced. He finds himself telling lies about the war and being sickened by them. By putting names to the battles, Hemingway emphasizes the depth and extremity of Krebs's and other soldiers' experiences and perhaps expresses a bit of envy along with his admiration.