Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 492
Corporal Kolodny receives surprising news on the telephone and shares it with Captain Black who is longing at his desk. Black immediately brightens and laughs in amazement. He cannot wait to see the reaction when the squadron realizes they will have to fly a mission to Bologna. It is the first laugh Black has had since Major Major “outsmarted him and was appointed squadron commander.”
His amusement continues as the bombardiers come for their flight maps and are incredulous to learn that they are flying to Bologna. Black relishes their horror and assures them they are all going to die this time. When he goes outside where the men are preparing to fly, Black gloats over their “dark consternation.” This is the happiest day in Black’s life since the day Major Duluth was killed and Black was almost chosen to replace him.
Black was the squadron intelligence officer and he believed he was the logical choice because he was the most intelligent man in the squadron. It seemed inevitable to him; however, before he could do anything to promote himself, Colonel Cathcart appointed Major Major to be squadron commander. In his bitterness, Black spread the rumor that Major was a Communist and started the Glorious Loyalty Oath Campaign.
Everyone had to sign a series of loyalty oaths to get the equipment to complete their missions. Soon Black became paranoid, assuming any officer who supported his loyalty oath program was somehow competing with him, and made everyone sign multiple oaths. To Black, the more loyalty oaths a man signed, the more loyal he was, which is why he made Kolodny sign hundreds of them a day.
Several captains hated the oath-signing because it slowed down every mission and made any emergency actions impossible. Despite their displeasure, the captains did not speak out against Black, who now implemented the “doctrine of ‘Continual Reaffirmation’” designed to trap any who might have changed their loyalties since yesterday.
Milo was opposed to Black’s programs and did not believe Major was a Communist; he refused to deny Major food because he would not sign a loyalty oath—which Black would not allow Major to sign. Black ordered Milo to speak directly to Major Coverly about Major’s refusal to sign a loyalty oath; Milo says nothing when Coverly comes to eat and finds his way blocked by lines of men signing loyalty oaths. When Coverly cannot get his meal without signing an oath, he is furious and thunders that he and all the others must be given food immediately. This was a devastating betrayal in Black’s mind, but he claimed he succeeded in exposing Major as a Communist.
Black despises all these men, so seeing their fear as they prepare for an “appalling, interminable Great Big Siege on Bologna” is quite satisfying to him. He keeps his letter of commendation from Cathcart to prove to newcomers that he had once been someone important.