catch22_cover.jpgMany writers write about what they know, draw settings, character, and situations from their past including past experiences, either their own or others. Joseph Heller is no exception. He was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 1, 1923. At the age of nineteen he joined the U.S Army Air Corps and two years later he was sent to fly 60 combat missions as a B-25 Bombardier in Italy. He earned an Air Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation. His unit was the 488th Bomb Squadron, 340th Bomb Group, 12th Air Force. In Heller’s Satirical Novel Catch-22 he criticizes the military bureaucracy.
Like Heller, Yossarian in Catch-22 is a U.S Army Air Force B-25 Bombardier stationed in Italy during World War II. Yossarian flies over 60 combat missions during the course of the novel. He tries constantly to try to get out of flying the missions and retreats to the hospital several times complaining of a pain in his liver. Yossarian received a medal after flying one of the missions. Heller criticizes the way officials treat the soldiers. He uses satire to show that the officials are focused only on their own fame and not the safety or well being of the soldiers.
Heller took many character names for Catch-22 from people he knew white teaching at what was then Pennsylvania State College, now known as Penn State. For example the name Major Major Major came from an English professor, John Major, and the name Chaplain Tapman was based on Allen Tapman, a boxing champion.