The True Story of Catch-22


After publication of Catch-22, Joseph Heller chose to deny that his richly drawn characters were based on his actual war mates. However, to those who served with him in the 340th Bomb Group, the novel’s characters were indeed recognizable – the hard-drinking, vengeful, and disillusioned Chief White Halfoat, cleaved-in-half Kid Sampson, shrieking Hungry Joe, and a slew of others.

In this book, we finally encounter the real men and combat missions on which the novel was based. This book blends fact, fancy, and history with rare, previously unpublished photos of these daring USAAF flyers and their Corsican-based B-25 Mitchell. The work also includes twelve men of the Bomb Group relating twelve splendidly told tales of their own. While Heller’s characters stand solidly on their own merits, The True Story of Catch-22, written by the daughter of the 340ths final commander and seed for Heller’s Colonel Cathcart, proves that any resemblance to persons living or dead is, in fact, actual.

From Scott Carpenter, NASA /astronaut:

“ In these pages it is a great pleasure to finally see the real story behind the fictionalized account, and to be even more impressed.  Fact is indeed better than fiction and this book is a great read about fact.”

George w_2 books

George Wells (Captain Wren) holding his 488th squadron yearbook from which most of Catch-22’s characters were drawn. He flew 102 bombing missions, a WWII record.

Sample text:

P. 18

As Adolf Hitler moved into power he promised his country an end to the humiliating conditions caused by World War I.   He began re-creating and preparing the German army for a war of conquest. Here was rising a man, unimposing at 5’9” and 150 pounds, with a flattened haircut, a scrap of a moustache, and dead-serious eyes. A father-thwarted artist’s passion had simmered inside of him but now he was mutating into a fanatical and tyrannical alpha male who, in the ensuing few years, would declare, “Brutality creates respect.” “Go ahead,” he commanded, “kill without mercy. After all, who remembers today the Armenian Genocide.” He was to decree that the Nazi Party “ should not become a constable of public opinion, but it must dominate it. It must not become a servant of the masses, but their master!”


With disbelief and great curiosity, Chapman arrived just in time to experience one very rare and very mammoth volcanic eruption as it (Vesuvius) hurled and spewed its molten guts directly over their airfield. The thundering, sky-splitting explosion proceeded to bury everyone and everything under a foot and a half of black, basketball-sized rock, clinkers, and ash. It was as if Vesuvius the Magnificent had just been waiting to display its awesomeness. The force of its punch was of such magnitude that bombs and flak seemed the merest of play toys by comparison.

Two months later Joseph Heller arrived, perhaps grateful to miss this scarring event that he would have relished.

p. 28

The B-25s operated during the entire winter months of 1944 from the island of Corsica. This winter was not to be taken lightly at altitude. Mother Nature may have railed against man’s weakness for wars by trying to clear her skies with icy, finger-freezing, mind-numbing cold, to which George’s 98th mission attests.


“With sweat and tears and the sand of character for mortar, out of the stepping-stones of misfortune the 340th has built itself a great foundation. Nothing can happen to it anymore – both Vesuvius and Hitler have become incidental.” –Gil Robb Wilson

6”x9”     *240 pages     *Abundance of rare, previously unpublished photos.