Bernard V. O’Hare is the narrator Kurt Vonnegut’s friend and “war buddy,” and a sounding board for Vonnegut as he works on writing his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. While the Bernard of the novel is ultimately a fictional character, he and his experiences are based on a real man of the same name. Bernard humorously has little advice for Vonnegut when it comes to his Dresden novel, at one point responding simply, “Um,” as Vonnegut brainstorms what the climax of the book should be. Bernard serves as a device for returning to the past, providing important experiences to the narrator – such as introducing him to Mary O’Hare, to whom the book is dedicated – and sharing useful information that gives context to the novel. Bernard and Vonnegut were both held in the same slaughterhouse that would later house the fictional Billy Pilgrim during the bombing of Dresden, and he accompanies Vonnegut on his travels back to Germany, where they retrace their steps from their time in WWII. Like many of the characters in the novel who have experienced the traumas of war, Bernard shows symptoms of PTSD, including his claim that he can’t remember much of what happened to him in Dresden.

It is because of Bernard and his wife Mary that Vonnegut comes up with the novel’s subtitle, “The Children’s Crusade.” Mary states that Bernard and Vonnegut were “just babies” when they fought in the war, and she urges Vonnegut not to romanticize war or those who fight it in his book. As Mary suggests, Bernard and Vonnegut, as well as Billy Pilgrim, are all members of a Children’s Crusade: boys sent overseas to fight and kill other boys, and witness terrible inhumanity, for reasons that they will never truly understand.