Summary and Analysis
Nately has completed his seventy missions, but he insists on flying more so that he can stay near his lady love. He should realize that Colonel Cathcart will soon raise the number of required missions to eighty anyway. Yossarian begs Nately not to fly any more, but his efforts are in vain. Chief White Halfoat has died of pneumonia, as he vowed to do, and Yossarian hopes that Nately can take the chief's place as an intelligence officer. Colonel Korn refuses the request; Nately must fly more missions. He doesn't have to wait long. The next mission, Nately's seventy-first, is an otherwise successful raid on La Spezia that ends tragically. Milo, meanwhile, has an apparent surge of patriotism and tells Cathcart that he wants to fly combat missions. To no one's surprise, Milo allows himself to be talked out of the idea.
Dedication conflicts with hypocrisy as the squadron enters December 1944. On the one hand, we have Nately who insists on flying more missions so that he won't have to leave the woman he plans to marry. His devotion is terminal. At the port of La Spezia, the Germans reportedly plan to sink a disabled Italian cruiser at the entrance of the harbor so that the Allies will be unable to use the port when they take over the city. The squadron's mission is to sink the cruiser as it is towed toward the entrance. The bombing raid is a success; every flight hits the cruiser. The flak, however, is tremendous. Taking evasive action, Dobbs zigs when he should have zagged, hitting Nately's plane. Both men and their crews, six in each plane, are killed.
By now, nothing that Milo does should surprise anyone. The syndicate has been selling fuel and ball bearings to the Germans for a very nice profit and to balance the power between the two sides in the war. The war is a good investment; the longer it lasts, the better for M & M Enterprises. Milo's popularity on the base, though, is at a low. His prices at the mess halls are so exorbitant that the men must give him all their pay just to eat. Some of the men are beginning to talk. When a rawboned major from Minnesota challenges Milo to produce the share that each man supposedly has in the syndicate, Milo virtuously scribbles "A Share" on a scrap of paper and hands it over. To further enhance his record, Milo approaches Colonel Cathcart and requests combat duty. When Cathcart asks him why he wants to take the risk, Milo reeks with insincerity:
Milo answered in a demure voice with his face lowered meekly. "I want to do my duty, sir. The country is at war, and I want to fight to defend it like the rest of the fellows."
Nevertheless, Milo allows Cathcart to talk him out of combat. They are two of a kind. For Cathcart and Milo, self-interest — glory and profit — are always more important than duty or even the lives of others. Their combat records are also similar. Milo has taken part in five raids, including the one on his own base. Cathcart, who raises the required number of missions to eighty in this chapter, has flown only two himself — one occurring when Aarfy mistakenly navigated the plane into enemy flak on a flight to Naples to pick up a water cooler. The two eventually agree that Milo will be listed for missions, but another man will take his place. Milo will receive full credit and any medals earned. If the substitute is killed, of course, he will have to do his own dying. As Cathcart says, "After all, Milo, what's fair is fair." It is Nately who is flying for Milo when he is killed over La Spezia the next morning.
As Cathcart and Milo discuss the progress of the syndicate, and what must be looked after if Milo goes to combat, Heller injects a lighter tone featuring more of the playful dialogue that enlivens the novel. The rhythm and rhyme are worthy of a vaudeville comic routine as Milo speaks of animal hides:
"Look after the hides."
"The hides. In Buenos Aires. They have to be tanned."
"In Newfoundland. And shipped to Helsinki N.M.I.F. before the spring thaw begins. Everything to Finland goes N.M.I.F. before the spring thaw begins.
"No Money In Front?" guessed Colonel Cathcart.
"Good, Colonel. You have a gift, sir. And then there's the cork."
"That must go to New York , the shoes for Toulouse, the ham for Siam, the nails for Wales, and the tangerines for New Orleans."
"We have coals in Newcastle, sir."
Cathcart has heard enough. Clearly, Milo is indispensable right where he is.
deferential yielding in opinion, judgment, or wishes; showing respect.
F.O.B. a commercial term standing for "free on board"; without charge to the buyer for placing goods on board a carrier at the point of shipment.
Piltdown Man One of the great hoaxes of the twentieth century, the Piltdown man supposedly was an early species of modern man postulated from bones found near Piltdown (Sussex, England) around 1911 but exposed as a forgery in 1953.
Messerschmitt a german fighter plane during World War II, manufactured by Willy Messerschmitt (1898–1978).
Hapsburg a noble German family furnishing sovereigns to Australia (1278–1918) and to Spain (1516–1700). Here, there is an ironic reference to their credit rating.
dissuade to advise against; to convince someone not to do something.