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The True Story of Catch-22

February 07, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 155

In 1944, as the Allied Forces in Italy press toward the War's European resolution, the U.S. 488th Bomb Squadron is keeping doggedly to its mission. The lives of these men of this 488th are following the dictates of the war; there are skills to learn and hone, fears to conquer, and, of course, missions to fly. What they are unaware of is that, as they focus on their daily lives, one of their members is focusing upon them. He is absorbing a different type of information; information that is to serve him well years after the war claims its last son and daughter. Keeping all of his senses alert to his surroundings, 488th bombardier Joseph Heller is absorbing impressions that will later astonish the literary world when he pens a phenomenal novel that explodes across the planet in the 1960's. Welcome, world, to Catch-22!

This richness of memories, of knowledge that he has absorbed fuels his pages. In varying degrees his war-mates morph into wildly factitious characters trapped in the chaos of Catch-22 while deadly missions become... well, still, deadly missions.

While Heller usually chooses to deny similarities between his clever fictional characters and his war-mates, to the men of the 340th Bomb Group, of which Heller's 488th is a part, Heller's offspring are instantly recognizable. In a wild and imaginative frenzy, characters such as the hard-drinking, vengeful, and disillusioned Chief White Half Oat, young, sliced-in-half Kid Sampson, shrieking, frenzied Hungry Joe, and a slew of others blast skyward from the solid roots of their real life counterparts.

It is now more than half of a century since Catch-22's publication. Currently, the surviving men of the 57th Bomb Wing, who comprise the 310th, 319th, 321st, and Heller's 340th Bomb Groups, will still chuckle or grimace as they discuss or deride this book while celebrating at their annual WWII reunions. It is a book that has become an American classic as it pokes huge fun at a circumstance that took a monumental toll on the lives of these men. While they acknowledge and can even respect the profound impact of Catch-22, still, it is at too great an expense of those who steadily have put their lives on the line, as has Joe Heller, mission after mission, for a cause of such magnitude. They find it difficult to embrace this levity even decades after the fact.

Now nearly all the characters upon whom Heller drew for his masterpiece are gone - Cathcart-Chapman, Dreedle-Knapp, Piltchard-Dyer, Daneeka-Marino, Havermyer-Myer, Major Major Major Major- Major Major, Tappman-Cooper, and the rest. All have passed now.

All but one: Wells-Wren Catch-22's sole survivor.

It is Captain George L. Wells, an extraordinary pilot, who weaves throughout a new book by Casemate Publishing, The True Story of Catch-22, is due to be released this Spring, From his first mission, October 26, 1943, to his last on March 19, 1945, George kept a small black mission book, now well-thumbed. Every one of his historic 102 missions is accurately recorded and, with the regularity of almost daily flights, each of these missions will keep step with the pages of this book. True-life George, Bill, Bob and, creator Joe funnel into the loopy, rogue, and ripe-to-bursting factitious personalities of the humble, capable CAPT. WREN, the naked-in-the-ranks Lt. Yossarian, the 'Black-Eye' or 'Feather-in-my-Cap' Col. Cathcart and the arbitrary, unpredictable Gen. Dreedle. Even though Heller's fully developed characters stand solely, solidly, and uniquely on their own merits, still it must be acknowledged that any resemblance to persons living or dead is, in fact, actual.

The True Story of Catch-22 is divided into thirds. Part 1 highlights four solid Air Force officers who Joseph Heller blindsided when he creatively massaged them into four of Catch-22's heavy hitters. But to paraphrase slightly, "Truth is as fascinating as fiction." Part 2 rewards our brain's right side with full-color illustrations of Catch-22's factitious spawn contrasting strongly, on facing pages, with our actual WWII heroes brought to life in previously unpublished photos and accompanied by first person narratives. Lastly, Part 3 goes to the heart of this book as twelve men of the 340th relate twelve true tales. In miniature, here lies the true story.

George speaks for all of these aging warriors, these passing threads of our history, when he says,

"I am surprised at being among the last of these men standing. I am being allowed to bid a respectful and loving farewell to each of these brave, honorable, and dedicated men, these friends and brothers with whom I am forever bonded.

And that, of course, includes you, Joe."

Patricia Chapman Meder is an author and a nationally and internationally exhibiting artist. She combines her artistic skills with her current literary focus centering on a segment of the Second World War. She holds a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Colorado with post-graduate studies throughout Europe.

Source: EzineArticles
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Article Tags:

Catch 22




340th Bomb Group


Joseph Heller




World War Ii



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