Professor Bertram Copeland Rumfoord of Harvard, official historian of the United States Air Force, is a comically energetic and herculean man with whom Billy shares a hospital room. He’s said to resemble Teddy Roosevelt in his physicality and his ruggedly masculine persona. Rumfoord’s successes are exaggeratedly impressive: he’s had many attractive wives, he’s at the top of his academic field, he’s a decorated veteran, he’s incredibly fit for his age, and he’s written an unbelievable number of books. And he has no patience for those – like Billy, his strange, quiet roommate – who do not live up to this robust, dominating form of masculinity.

Rumfoord isn’t a particularly empathetic person, a trait that’s exposed through both his interactions with Billy and his work on his Dresden book. His apathy isn’t actively malicious, but he insists that civilian deaths are necessary evils of war and worries that “bleeding hearts” will attempt to rewrite Dresden as an immoral tragedy rather than a “howling success.” He also has little patience for PTSD victims like Billy who succumb to their mental suffering. Rumfoord believes in survival of the fittest – easy for him to say since he is so clearly the fittest, and comedically so – to the extent that he admits he wishes that Billy would die. Billy’s mind is addled, he barely recognizes his own children, and he frequently speaks in unsettling ways – for Rumfoord, this is evidence that Billy is too weak to deserve life. This doesn’t make Rumfoord a very popular patient at the hospital, where doctors and nurses treat everyone’s lives as equally important and believe Rumfoord to be cruel for suggesting otherwise.

Billy eventually convinces a skeptical Rumfoord that he really was a POW in Dresden and provides him with a few small details of his time in Germany. But at this point, Billy is traveling in time constantly and has become increasingly convinced by the Tralfamadorians that everything is fine and nothing matters, so he has little to contribute to the conversation when Rumfoord questions him about the firebombing.