The pacifist author Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five in the late 1960's as the Vietnam War was ending. He used his own military experience from World War II to write this particular book. The main character is Billy Pilgrim who is actually Kurt Vonnegut himself. Vonnegut, like Billy Pilgrim, emerged from a meat locker beneath a slaughterhouse into the moonscape of burned-out Dresden. His surviving captors put him to work finding, burying, and burning bodies. His task continued until the Russians came and the war ended. Dresden is a city in Germany that was heavily bombed during World War II, it is known as the greatest European massacre in recorded history because over 130,000 civilians lost their lives on February 13, 1945.
In chapter one Vonnegut writes in his own voice, introducing his experience of the firebombing of Dresden in World War II while he was a prisoner of war and his attempt for many years to complete a book on the subject. He begins with the claim that most of what follows is true, particularly the parts about war.
With funding from the Guggenheim Foundation, Vonnegut and his wartime friend Bernhard V. O'Hare return to Dresden in 1967. In a taxi on the way to the Dresden slaughterhouse that served as their prison, Vonnegut and O'Hare strike up a conversation with the cab driver about life under communism. It is to this man, Gerhard Muller, as well as to O'Hare's wife Mary, that Vonnegut dedicates Slaughterhouse-Five. Muller later sends O'Hare a Christmas card with wishes for world peace.
Vonnegut relates his unsuccessful attempts to write about Dresden in the twenty- three years since his return. He is very proud of the outline of the story that he draws in crayon on the back of a roll of wallpaper. The wallpaper outline represents each character in a different color of crayon, with a line for each progressing through the story's chronology. Eventually the lines enter a zone of orange cross-hatching, which represents the firebombing, and those that survive the attack emerge and finally stop at the point when the POWs are returned.