"Slaughterhouse-Five /or The Children's Crusade/ A Duty-Dance with Death/ by Kurt Vonnegut/ A Fourth-Generation German American/ Now Living in Easy Circumstances/ On Cape Cod/ [And Smoking Too Much]/ Who, As An American Infantry Scout/ Hors De Combat/ As A Prisoner Of War/ Witnessed The Fire-Bombing/ Of Dresden, Germany,/ "The Florence of the Elbe,"/ A Long Time Ago/ And Survived To Tell The Tale./ This Is A Novel/ Somewhat In The Telegraphic Schizophrenic/ Manner of Tales/ Of The Planet Tralfamadore,/ Where The Flying Saucers/ Come From./ Peace."
A quote from the book:
"It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:
American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.
The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.
When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.
The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn't in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed."
Vonnegut described Slaughterhouse-Five as a novel he was compelled to write, since it is based on one of the most extraordinary and significant events of his life. During World War II when he was a prisoner of the German Army, Vonnegut witnessed the Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, which destroyed the city and killed more than one hundred thirty-five thousand people. One of the few to survive, Vonnegut was ordered by his captors to aid in the grisly task of digging bodies from the rubble and destroying them in huge bonfires. Because the city of Dresden had little military value, its destruction went nearly unnoticed in the press. Slaughterhouse-Five is Vonnegut's attempt to both document and criticize this event.