Born on Armistice Day, November 11th, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. came of age as World War Two gained momentum and shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor and Adolf Hitler declared war against the United States. After struggling at Cornell University and being placed on academic probation, Vonnegut lost his eligibility for student deferment. Rather than waiting to be drafted, he enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1943. By late summer, 1944, Vonnegut was sent to Europe with the 106th Infantry Division and quickly found himself fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He was captured by German soldiers, along with about 50 other Americans and taken to a prison camp near Dresden.
During that time, Vonnegut lived in a slaughterhouse and worked in a factory in the city for several months. On February 13th, 1945, U.S. Allied forces bombed Dresden, leveled the city, and killed thousands and thousands of civilians. The young soldier survived by hiding in a meat locker far underground. Along with the other surviving American prisoners, Vonnegut was forced to search for bodies among the destruction until they were evacuated to another location near the edge of Saxony where they were eventually let go. By the end of May, 1945, Vonnegut returned to the U.S. where he continued his military service at Fort Riley, Kansas. Before he was discharged from the U.S. Army, he received a Purple Heart for frostbite.