Catch-22: A Zeitgeist

Topics: World War II, Catch-22, Italy Pages: 10 (2921 words) Published: April 24, 2014
Matz 1
Carly Matz
Mrs. Kabboord
AP Literature Period 6
5 February 2014
Catch-22: A Zeitgeist of World War II
World War II was one of the most widespread wars ever conducted. Over 100 million people, coming from about 30 different countries, participated in total war (Connaughton 41). As the violent and passionate war went on, there was barely any distinction between civilians and soldiers as the war affected everyone so much. The airmen of World War II were treated unfairly and put through extremely harrowing conditions throughout their experience as part of the United States Army. Such a significant war has been widely documented from many different perspectives to bring nonparticipants into the war and give them a first-hand experience. Catch-22, a novel based on an actual experience, by Joseph Heller, a WWII bomber pilot himself, accurately discussed the mistreatment of troops, the poor decisions made by authority, and the horrors such as disease and rape that occurred throughout the Italian Campaign of World War II.

The Italian campaign of World War II was one of the most momentous efforts of the war. The Allied forces traveled to Italy to invade Sicily as a decoy for the Allied forces so they could march through Nazi-occupied northern Europe without as much opposition from German troops. They were determined to stay in Italy until the Germans surrendered. Nearly 650,000 men, from Allied forces and German forces combined, died during the Italian campaign alone. The campaign was crucial to the outcome of the Second World War due to the fact that the Allied

Carlyle Matz

Friday, February 21, 2014 7:50:41 PM Eastern Standard Time

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forces were able to push not only Italy to surrender, but Germany as well (Connaughton 42). Yossarin, the main character of the novel Catch-22, was a bomber pilot during the campaign. He flew missions over Sicily and Rome, dropping bombs on unsuspecting German forces. Throughout the novel he talks about the missions planned to divert the attention of the Germans and draw their troops to Italy to try to take down the Axis forces. The Italian campaign was both a politically and militarily strategic war.

To add to the complication of the campaign, not only were the Allied forces trying to divert the German’s attention, but to hopefully get Axis powers to step down from the war. The Allied forces wished to remove Italy from the war and narrow down the Axis powers they were fighting (Forlenza 98). The campaign was the United States and Britain’s final push in efforts to defeat Italy and Germany, the leading Axis powers. Italy was known as the “soft underbelly of Europe” and the Allies thought it would be the easiest place for a victory (Connaughton 42). The campaign’s main goals were to remove Italy from World War II, take control of the Mediterranean Sea, and disperse the German army so the Allies could march through Northern, Nazi-occupied Germany.

The Italian campaign was the most bitter and costly fighting of the war (Forlenza 73). Hundreds of thousands of men, from each side, were killed during the attacks on Italy (O’Hara 58). The amount of men injured and killed during the campaign, reaching over a half of a million, was described as an “unimaginable slaughter” (Beevor 25). The Italian campaign began in 1943 and lasted until the end of the war on May 2, 1945. This long, drawn out campaign resulted in the highest ratio of casualties in the war. In the novel, this is made known due to Yossarin’s description of the hospital. Whenever he spends time in the hospital to avoid flying

Carlyle Matz

Friday, February 21, 2014 7:50:41 PM Eastern Standard Time

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missions, the hospital is congested with strangers he has never seen before (Heller 42). New people are always coming in with horrible illnesses or injuries in need of repair. With the high amount of causalities during the campaign, the hospitals were always overcrowded with men in the worst conditions they...
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