Twenty-five years after the war Billy gets onto a private plane with twenty-eight other optometrists including his father-in-law, Lionel Merble. Billy knows the plane will crash but doesnt say anything because he doesnt want to seem like a fool. Outside Valencia is eating a candy bay while she waves goodbye. There is a barbershop quartet of optometrists on board and once the plane is in the air Billys father-in-law asks them to sing his favorite dirty song. The other optometrists go wild and the quartet sings another colorful piece about Polish miners. The song reminds Billy of a Pole he saw hanged in public while he was working in Dresden. The Pole was hanged for having sex with a German woman. Billy knows the plane is going to crash and he travels in time to the moment when Roland Weary is shaking him against a tree prodding him to move on. The barbershop quartet is in mid-song when the plane hits Sugarbush Mountain in Vermont. Everyone but Billy and the co-pilot are killed. The skiers who find them are instructors from Austria and they speak to each other in German. One of the skiers hears Billy say “Schlachthof-funf.”
Billy, delirious and uncertain of the time, is taken to the ski resort on a toboggan and he believes that all the colorfully dressed vacationers are simply a new phase in the war. A famous brain surgeon travels from Boston to operate on Billy at a small private hospital. Billy sleeps for two days during which he dreams fictions and travels in time to the true parts of his life. He travels to the war when he and Edgar Derby and a young German guard named Werner Gluck stumble upon a group of young female refugees. The men are seeking the kitchen so they can receive their groups ration of soup and Gluck, who is actually a distant cousin to Billy (though neither know it), closes the door to the shower which he mistook for the kitchen. The woman waiting for them at the kitchen is impatient to leave. She is a war-widow and she asks if Gluck is too young to be soldier and asks if Derby is too old to be a soldier. They admit that they are. She asks Billy, clad in his ridiculous costume, what he is supposed to be. He says that he doesnt know and she observes that all the real soldiers are dead.
The POWs perform menial labor in the city and work in a factory that makes a vitamin enriched malted syrup for pregnant women. Billy and all the other workers secretly eat the syrup using spoons hidden around the factory.
Two story lines dominate this section. In one Billy and his fellow optometrists are flying into disaster even as they are serenaded with rowdy songs. In the other Billy and his fellow prisoners settle into their life in Dresden, a city at the heart of the war yet depicted as a place of soft colors and peaceful days. The juxtaposition of these two stories effectively relieves the tension associated with the doomed plane and adds suspense to the otherwise lackadaisical Dresden scenes.
In Dresden the American POWs are exposed to a domestic environment in which women play a larger role though their presence is tempered by the war. When Billy sees his first naked women they are scared refugees. He works in a factory that produces food for pregnant women but the food is merely vitamin enriched syrup made necessary by war shortages in regular food. The old war widow who gives them there soup has little regard for the quality of the soldiers and her commentary that “all the real soldiers are dead” carries the implication that in order to be a real soldier one must be dead.