In the spring of 1917, the United States became an active participant in World War I, and massive recruitment of American soldiers began. Hemingway wanted to enlist, but between parental objections and an eye condition that would probably have precluded his acceptance, he never tried. Still, he was determined to be part of the war. By early May 1918, he was in New York waiting to sail for Italy as a member of the Red Cross ambulance corps.
His stint with the ambulance corps proved brief, however. On July 8, shortly after midnight, Hemingway was in the frontlines distributing coffee, candy, and postcards to soldiers. Suddenly, an Austrian trench mortar arced down, spewing its metal shards in all directions. Among the wounded was Hemingway, who sat out the rest of the war as a convalescent.