In the narrator’s quest for information about the bombing of Dresden, he wrote to the Air Force, hoping to gain more knowledge about what went into the decision. His only official response at the time was “that the information was top secret still” (11). How bombing of Dresden could ever be considered classified when it had such a devastating effect on so many people is just one of the many absurdities pointed out by the narrator in his quest to provide a balanced view of the war.
One novel, The Execution of Private Slovik by William Bradford Huie, details the only execution of an American soldier for desertion during World War II. The narrator quotes from the opinion of a staff judge advocate who supported Slovik’s sentence, stating: “If the death penalty is ever to be imposed for desertion, it should be imposed in this case, not as a punitive measure nor as retribution, but to maintain that discipline upon which alone an army can succeed” (45). The view that a soldier should have to die in order for the military to maintain unit cohesion and essentially teach a lesson to other draftees who may want to desert their post is a hard one for those not in the military to sympathize with. Furthermore, it illustrates the paradoxical nature of militaristic actions, where one is forced to fight against enemies who wish to do them harm, or face death at the hands of their fellow servicemen if the choose not to fight.
During a Lions Club luncheon meeting Billy attends back in Ilium, a Marine Corp Major who had served in Vietnam addressed the attendees. The Marine spoke of his experience serving in Vietnam, and his view that “the Americans had no choice but to keep fighting… until the Communists realized that they could not force their way of life on weak countries” (59). The Marine spoke of his belief that North Vietnam should be bombed “back into the Stone Age, if it refused to see reason” (60). This juxtaposition of clearly contradictory views illustrates the justification by those in the military in regards to their own actions. To the Marine, it is implausible that the United States would be “forc[ing] their way of life on weak countries” such as Vietnam by “bombing [them] back into the Stone Age” (59-60). This inability of those in the military to see their actions as anything less than divinely just is illustrated throughout Slaughterhouse-Five.
In one particularly poignant passage, Billy views a World War II film on television late at night in reverse. The film, in its backwards view, shows fires going out, buildings being restored, and wounded men being made...