Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2015

Thesis Advisor(s)

Veronica Makowsky

Honors Major

American Studies


American Literature | Other American Studies | Political History | United States History


While fighting in Europe during WWII, Kurt Vonnegut was taken prisoner and sent to work at a German prison camp where he witnessed one of the most destructive events of WWII, the firebombing of Dresden, Germany by the Allied forces. Although Vonnegut was liberated in 1945, the novel about the events he witnessed was not published until 1969. What happened in the intervening years to shape the novel that would eventually become Slaughterhouse Five? As Vonnegut grappled with his experiences for two decades, American leaders increased American involvement around the world. The explanations used to justify these interventions have become known collectively as the Munich Syndrome, which led American policymakers to believe that any aggression in the world had to be met with swift and unfaltering force. From his own experiences, Vonnegut knew that the Munich Syndrome and its application in WWII and after were fallacious, so while American policymakers led U.S. forces into more and more remote places around the globe, Vonnegut crafted a story, Slaughterhouse Five, that would undermine the assumptions that the policymakers relied on and reveal the true nature of war.