The chapter begins in the middle of a battle scene. Lieutenant Sidney Martin has just commanded his soldiers—who include Doc, Rudy, Stink, Bernie Lynn, and Frenchie Tucker—to clear out a tunnel, and Frenchie has been seriously injured while doing so, seemingly by an enemy soldier. Martin has also ordered Bernie Lynn to drag Frenchie’s body out of the tunnel—and Bernie Lynn was seriously injured while doing this.
We see the basic conflict between duty and survival in this section: by following orders, the soldiers are knowingly risking their own lives. This conflict, of course, is only a more particular version of the conflict apparent in the Vietnam War itself, where soldiers were shipped overseas to fight for something they didn’t understand.
Doc tends to Frenchie, who has been shot “through the nose.” Doc gives Frenchie special painkillers and whispers that he’s “going home” because of his tunnel wound. Frenchie slowly dies, and Doc turns to Bernie Lynn. Bernie is bleeding profusely, from his throat down to his chest. Seeing that Bernie will never survive, Doc whispers to Stink Harris to inject painkillers into Bernie Lynn’s body immediately. Stink refuses and tells Doc that he should do this instead, since he’s the medic. After some argument, Rudy takes the needle and injects an unnamed painkiller into Bernie Lynn’s body. Bernie smiles and slowly loses his life.
In this section we learn about Doc’s character. Although he’s something of a pseudoscientist, Doc is also a brave, even gentle man, who uses his training and experience to make his patients’ final moments less painful and more satisfying. The scene itself is tragic, however—Doc’s skills, like the soldiers’ lives, are being wasted in a situation of meaningless violence, where men are killed simply to fulfill the standard routine of “clearing the tunnels.”