Henry goes the next day to Bainsizza, a mountainous region that has seen heavy fighting. There, he meets Gino, a local Italian youth. They talk military strategy and Gino then dismisses talk of defeat, saying that they cannot let the losses the Italians suffered be in vain. Henry is embarrassed by the expression "in vain," as well as by other abstract words like "sacred, glorious, and sacrifice." He considers these words to be meaningless and even obscene in comparison to objective details like the names of places and dates.
Henry now views anyone who is optimistic about the war as naïve. The words "sacred, glorious, and sacrifice" mean nothing to him because he sees how the army uses them to get men to fight and die for no real reason. The expression "in vain" means nothing to him because, to Henry, everyone who dies for an abstract idea like "glory" dies in vain.
Rain begins to fall and an enemy bombardment begins. Word races through the Italian lines that Germans are among the attacking soldiers and that the Italian lines have broken. The Italians begin a massive retreat. When they reach Gorizia, Henry sees the girls from the soldiers' brothel being loaded into a truck. Bonello, one of Henry's drivers, says that he'd like to ride in that truck and "have a crack at them for nothing." Everyone has evacuated, including Rinaldi. After briefly resting and eating, Henry and the other ambulance drivers join the retreat.
The retreat marks a major defeat for the Italian army, and even the former safe haven of Gorizia, to which the soldiers could go to escape the war, must now face the realities of war and evacuate. In this time of heightened danger and confusion, the soldiers cling even harder to the basic pleasures of food, alcohol, and sex.