The chapter begins with the death of Frenchie Tucker. Tucker has just stepped into the tunnel, and been murdered while trying to secure the area. Sidney Martin calmly says, “Somebody’s got to go down.” Oscar, furious with Martin, says that there’s no point in sending a single soldier into the tunnels—it would be better to blow up the entire tunnel first. Martin’s only response is, “It’s a war.”
The tautology that “War is war” can be used to justify almost anything, including Martin’s seemingly heartless actions in the name of protocol. In a larger sense, the idea of “war is war” was used to justify all sorts of atrocities that the U.S. army committed in Vietnam (see Background Info).
Martin had ordered Frenchie Tucker to climb into the tunnel. At first, Tucker refused to endanger his life. Many of the other soldiers murmured their agreement, but Martin insisted that Tucker go underground, or be court-martialed later on. Tucker climbs into the tunnel, and soon afterwards there is a gunshot. Martin calmly says that another soldier will have to climb into the hole. Bernie Lynn volunteers to explore the hole. He climbs in, but before he’s made any progress, he’s shot. The other soldiers pull Bernie out. His face is bleeding, and he says, “Holy Moses.”
In the conflict between duty and survival, the soldiers choose duty. Amazingly, even after it’s obvious that, whoever goes inside the tunnel will probably die, Bernie Lynn volunteers. It’s as if the bravest and most selfless soldiers are the ones most likely to be murdered in a senseless way. When obligation overcomes one’s desire to escape, the results are “nobler,” but often more tragic.