Chapters 15-16 Summary
In the tunnel, Li Van Hgoc explains that things may be viewed from many angles, just as the incident of the two men killed at the tunnel is different from the perspective seen through the periscope. He takes Paul into a chamber resembling a patio, complete with birds and butterflies. He escorts the lieutenant into the room. Corson is impressed but explains that it is time for the Americans to live. Van explains that they cannot; they are now prisoners of war. Corson explains that the American soldiers are armed; Van is not. Corson orders Stink to tie him up after pointing a rifle at Van. Van explains he is a prisoner of war, just as the Americans are. He tells them of his life, how he was a promising student in electronics when he was drafted.
Van ran but was arrested as a deserter. His sentence was to spend ten years in these tunnels. He knows no way out. Sarkin Aung Wan explains she can lead them out. As they fell in, now they must fall out. Corson invites Van, but Van refuses to try to escape his fate again. He has learned to accept the fact that the land cannot be beaten. Sarkin Aung Wan leads the men through the maze of tunnels. Paul Berlin fears they are all lost and wonders what had gone wrong.
The previous July, there was little to occupy the soldiers. Frenchie Tucker and Rudy Chassler play endless word games, while Oscar mends his hammock. Paul Berlin writes letters to his parents, telling them it is a nice quiet time with no casualties or noise. The men begin to kill time playing basketball. They go on a march through fourteen villages, taking the basketball with them.
Paul begins to feel uneasy, that the silence is an imposed peace with an end in sight. In the meantime, they play basketball. The men begin to bicker. Ben Nystrom asks Doc Peret about self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and where the best place is to have one. Ben begins crying and cannot stop. Stink and Bernie Lynn begin fighting. In August, the lieutenant said they would search a nearby village. If tunnels were found, they would be searched. Cacciato gets on everybody’s nerves bouncing the ball. Paul Berlin dreams about tunnels. The squad eventually reaches the village, and Rudy Chassler hits a mine, which brings relief from the silence.