Catch-22 tells the story of Yossarian, a bombardier with the US Army Air Corps during WWII. Yossarian becomes convinced that the military will never let him go home as they keep raising the required number of missions – so he seeks another way out. In 2011, we finally found my grandfather’s war diary; this was the diary my father always said I should compare to Catch-22. What followed was years of research and a realization that Papa Julie’s World War II story was known by millions, but somehow eluded those of us closest to him.
My research received a huge boost when I came across a paper written by Daniel Setzer, titled “Historical Sources for the Events in Joseph Heller’s Novel, Catch-22.” Daniel’s father, Hymie Setzer also served with the 340th Bombardment Group.
The paper outlines the real life missions that are depicted in Catch-22.
With my wife sleeping next to me, and occasionally waking to ask what I was reading so late into the night, I worked through the Setzer paper frantically comparing each date referenced with the corresponding journal entry from my grandfather’s diary.
- Ferrara Highway Bridge missions during July 1944
- Avignon Highway Bridge during August 1944
- The Cruiser Taranto in La Spezia Harbor on September 23, 1944
Each matched Papa Julie’s missions in his diary. I was compelled to dig deeper.