Summary and Analysis
General Peckem is a pseudo-intellectual pedant who cares more about his own career than he does about his men or the civilians who sometimes fall victim to war. Colonel Scheisskopf, formerly Lieutenant Scheisskopf, whose wife entertained Yossarian one memorable Thanksgiving, joins Peckem's command and seems to fit in well. Both men are concerned with appearances. Scheisskopf wants to schedule Sunday parades; barring that, he insists on being in charge of canceling the Sunday parades that do not exist in the first place. Peckem is in charge of Special Services but thinks he should run the war and is jealous of General Dreedle, a combat officer. A raid is planned on a small, defenseless Italian village. Yossarian, Dunbar, and McWatt protest bombing innocent civilians; but the mission is carried out. McWatt's fearless aeronautics result in disaster.
Pedantry, military logic, and romance contrast with the horrors of death in these chapters. The first two can be amusing; the romance is touching; but death is never far away.
Peckem likes to think of himself as a superior intellect, and he does have some education, which should not be confused with wisdom. He likes to be precise with words. Words are to Peckem what parades are to Scheisskopf. Peckem never writes "memorandums," for example, because "memoranda" should be the proper plural. He likes to "augment," not just "increase." Events in his command are "upcoming," never just "coming" or "approaching." He is fastidious about insignificant matters, quick to see fault in others, and blind to his own failings. He finds the prose of other officers to be laughably "turgid, stilted, or ambiguous." They are likely to say "verbal" when, of course, they mean "oral"; Peckem is never so sloppy. He quotes glibly from Nietzche, Montaigne, or Warren G. Harding and is especially pleased with himself for inventing the term tight bomb pattern.
Heller satirizes military logic once more, this time regarding a raid on a small Italian village, which happens to be uphill from a road that the Germans supposedly will use to transport two armored divisions from Austria to Italy. The plan is to have debris from the village slide down on the road, blocking it. The villagers pose no threat and are all civilians. Dunbar argues that they won't even take cover; they will run into the streets to wave at the pilots. The bombs will just be killing "children and dogs and old people." The village will be reduced to rubble, but the road will be cleared in a couple of days anyway. The raid would be more efficient if the bombs were spread out along the hills, away from the village, blocking more of the road; but that will not do. Colonel Cathcart, always trying to impress General Peckem, calls for a tight bomb pattern "for me, for your country, for God, and for that great American, General P. P. Peckem."
Love and death are juxtaposed on Pianosa. Apparently overlooking Yossarian's rude assault on her private parts in the hospital, Nurse Duckett has become quite enamored of the complicated captain. Joining a long line of misled lovers, she thinks she can "change him." They are enjoying a romantic interlude on the beach when McWatt, up to his usual tricks, suddenly buzzes the area. He heads for the raft where Kid Sampson, naked and clowning, jumps up a little as if to touch the plane as it skims by. Perhaps that is just enough to cause the problem. Perhaps it is a gust of wind, lowering the plane slightly. Perhaps McWatt simply miscalculates. At any rate, the plane's propeller slices Kid Sampson in two. His legs and hips stand on the raft for what seems like a full minute while the rest of him rains upon the swimmers and those on the beach. McWatt's plane begins to climb. Two passengers parachute to safety. The aircraft goes into a high, oval spiral, dips its wings in salute, and flies directly into a mountain. Colonel Cathcart is so upset that he raises the number of missions to sixty-five.
incorrigible can not be corrected or improved; set in bad habits.
Mais c'est la guerre (French) "But such is war."
erudite learned; scholarly; having or showing a wide knowledge.
fastidious very critical or discriminating; refined in too dainty a way.
capricious tending to change abruptly and without apparent reason; erratic.