Chapters 13-14 Summary
As they fall down the hole, Paul Berlin and Sarkin Aung Wan hold each other’s hands. There was time only to yell a warning and grab for his weapon before Paul started pinwheeling downward. Below he sees the buffalo, the cart, and the two women falling and disappearing. Sarkin Aung Wan smiles as she falls. Paul sees objects falling, then his fellow soldiers pass him. He wonders what happened to his march to Paris. He cannot control his bladder and wets his pants. Sarkin Aung Wan is amazed at how lovely it is. They land softly. Oscar Johnson lights a match; the tunnel is lined with red stone. They hear a high crazy giggling. It is Paul Berlin, and he cannot stop. Doc tries unsuccessfully to calm him.
The tunnel complex curves and empties into a large, lighted chamber. A small man in a green uniform with a pith helmet peers through a periscope, taking no notice of them. The lieutenant holds his rifle against his neck. The man turns and welcomes them, introducing himself as Major Li Van Hgoc, known as Van, of the 48th Vietcong Battalion. Ignoring the rifle, Van leads them into an adjoining chamber where a banquet table is set. He invites them to talk of war. Paul feels another sense of falling. This is the first living enemy he has faced. He asks Van how they hide, what motivates them, why the land is so scary. Van explains that the soldier is but the land's representative, so the land is the true enemy. After exploring the chambers, Van invites Paul to look through the periscope. Paul sees fuzzy forms of a man on his hands and knees, leaning partway down into the tunnel.
Paul observes his past, when French Tucker and Bernie Lynn got shot in the tunnel. First Lieutenant Sidney Martin said that someone had to go down, but no one volunteered. Oscar complains that, after all the fighting, it comes down to crawling down a hole after the enemy. Martin says this is what war is. Frenchie Tucker is pressured into going. A shot is heard, then silence. Bernie Lynn is sent against his will to retrieve Tucker. He is only partway in when another shot is heard; Bernie Lynn’s feet start to kick. They drag him out, and he is shot through the throat into his chest. Conscious, he can only say, “Holy Moses.”