Friday, 19 July 2019

Imperial War Museums - IWM's Catch-22


B-25 Mitchell 8U
“People think it quite remarkable that I was in combat in an airplane and I flew sixty missions, even though I tell them that the missions were largely 'milk runs'.” – Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller, an American author, wrote the novel Catch-22 about a fictional Squadron in Italy from 1942-44. Now a TV series on Channel 4, Heller was inspired by his own experiences of conflict.

Heller was 19 when he joined the US Army Air Force in 1942. Like Catch-22’s protagonist Captain John Yossarian, he was a bombardier aboard B-25 Mitchell aircraft - a widely used aircraft during the Second World War.

Heller called his aircraft 'L’il Critter From the Moon,’ after the popular US cartoon character, L’il Abner, which was painted on the aircraft.

The original painting was a baby's bottle, reflecting the term ‘milk run’, which crews called missions they thought were safe or easy. But a superstitious commanding officer ordered it to be changed.

Heller experienced heavy fire on over half of these missions, and ‘L’il Critter From the Moon’ was eventually lost in a mid-air-collision in 1945.
Summer Family Activities at IWM London
Join us at IWM London for storytelling and hands-on workshops throughout the summer.

Get hands-on with real artefacts, make your own trench football whilst learning about the role sport has played in conflict over the last 100 years, and meet war veterans and eyewitnesses who have lived through periods of conflict. 
In Catch-22, Yossarian dangles from the ceiling of his aircraft by the top of his head, unable to move. This was based on Heller's flight over Avignon in 1944, where under heavy fire, he was thrown from his seat and pinned against the dome of the aircraft by the G-force.

In another scene, Yossarian is unable to stop Snowden, an injured side gunner, from bleeding to death. A side gunner in Heller’s crew, Sergeant Carl Frankel, was also injured on the flight over Avignon but in this case Heller managed to save him.

At the end of Catch-22, Heller’s characters protest against attacking civilians in a bombing raid on a small Italian village, until they’re ordered to do so.

On 23 August 1944, Heller took part in a bombing mission to destroy the bridges around the Italian town of Pont-Saint-Martin. The attack devastated the town.

To learn more about the inspiration for Catch-22, visit IWM Duxford. See the B-25 Mitchell, the remains of ‘L’il Critter From the Moon’ and discover more stories about Pont-Saint-Martin in the American Air Museum
Rebel Sounds, Culture Under Attack
Culture Under Attack is a season of three free exhibitions, live music, performances and talks at IWM London, exploring how war threatens not just people’s lives, but also the things that help define us.

Telling stories spanning 100 years, Culture Under Attack reveals why some try to erase or exploit culture, while others risk everything to protect, celebrate and rebuild it.