West of Pianosa

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.

Catch-22 opens with a curious disclosure right before the dedication page stating:

“The island of Pianosa lies in the Mediterranean Sea eight miles south of Elba.  It is very small and obviously could not accommodate all of the actions described.  Like the setting of this novel, the characters too, are fictitious.”

(Catch-22 opening page)

Pianosa (Google map 1/4/2019)

Zooming in on Pianosa on google maps it is clear that the island’s chicken store most likely would have be insufficient to feed the thousands of soldiers in the 340thBombardment Group. 

More accommodating to the troops was Corsica, the much larger island due west where both Lt. Heller and Lt. Fish arrived during May 1944 and left on their first mission on May 24, 1944.

Corsica is due west of Pianosa

The original Catch-22 manuscript contained many references to Corsica which were revised toPianosa.

Portion of the original manuscript of Catch-22
(Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections at Brandeis University)
Among the edits made to the original manuscript were changing references of “Corsica” to “Pianosa”
(Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections at Brandeis University)

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