Chapter 31 Summary
When Colonel Cathcart discovers that Doctor Daneeka died in the plane crash with McWatt, he raises the number of required missions to seventy. Sergeant Towser is the first in the squadron to learn that Daneeka’s name was on the passenger list McWatt filed, he is sad and goes to tell others, “discreetly avoiding any conversation with Doc Daneeka himself” as he walks past the physician. Now Towser has two dead men to deal with: the one in Yossarian’s tent who is not there and Daneeka who is certainly alive and will provide a “still thornier administrative problem” for Townsend.
Daneeka’s temperature is even more below normal than usual; someone suggests that may be because he is dead. Daneeka is outraged, but the records do show that he was killed in the crash. When he rages at Towser, Towser suggests that Daneeka stay out of sight for a while, at least until a decision is made about what to do with his remains. The War Department informs Mrs. Daneeka of her husband’s death.
Mrs. Daneeka grieves loud and well for a week—until she receives a letter from her husband, in his own handwriting, telling her to ignore any letter she may have just received. She writes the War Department about the mistake, but it remains unmoved. She sends a letter to her husband, but it is returned to her unopened with “Killed in Action” stamped on it. Mrs. Daneeka is morose until she learns she is the sole beneficiary of her husband’s ten thousand dollar GI insurance policy.
Now she and her children will no longer have to struggle financially. The Veterans’ Administration informs her she is also entitled to a burial benefit as well as her husband’s pension and monthly support until her children turn eighteen. She uses these official letters as documentation of her husband’s death and she claims the benefits from her husband’s three life insurance policies, totaling fifty thousand dollars.
Every day brings Mrs. Daneeka new and unexpected treasure which is hers because her husband has supposedly dies. Soon her closest friends’ husbands begin to flirt with her, and she delightedly dyes her hair. While she is amazed that so many organizations want to help her bury her husband, Daneeka is busy in Pianosa trying to keep from being buried and wondering why his wife has not answered his letter. He is ostracized by his squadron who curse his memory for not doing more to fight Cathcart’s rising mission quota. Everyone in authority refuses to see him, and no one plans to replace him.
Daneeka is beginning to look like an “ailing rodent.” When he is turned away from the medical tent, Daneeka is beginning to realize he really is dead. He writes an impassioned plea to his wife asking her to write the military authorities on his behalf; instead she and her children move to Lansing, Michigan, and leave no forwarding address.