Chapter 35 Summary
Milo the Militant
Yossarian prays for the first time in his life: he prays to Nately not to volunteer to fly more than seventy missions. Chief White Halfoat did die of pneumonia in the hospital and Nately has applied to take his job. Nately is unmoved by Yossarian’s plea. He has to fly more missions or he will be sent home, and he does not want to go home until he can take his girl friend with him. Yossarian then urges Nately to get himself grounded, but Colonel Korn has told Nately that he must either fly more missions or go home. Yossarian talks to Milo Minderbinder who then talks to Colonel Cathcart.
Minderbinder has “been earning many distinctions for himself.” He sells petroleum and ball bearings to the Germans to help maintain a balance of power between the “contending forces.” He has also raised the price of his food (for the mess halls) so high that everyone has to give him everything they earn just to eat. He has also been caught stealing from his own countrymen, which makes Cathcart exceptionally proud. Cathcart is shocked when Minderbinder magnanimously volunteers to fly more missions.
Minderbinder has only flown five missions—four, technically. He was in the control tower for the fifth, though his airplanes and supplies were used for the mission, which he planned and supervised. Cathcart assures Minderbinder that five missions in eleven months is a “very good” record. Minderbinder graciously refuses to count the time Cathcart contracted with Minderbinder to bomb the bridge at Orvieto, since he was in Orvieto directing the antiaircraft fire during the attack.
Cathcart assures Minderbinder that he is certainly doing more than his share in the war effort. When Cathcart finally agrees to schedule Minderbinder for more missions, Minderbinder proceeds to confound the colonel with a complicated, convoluted list of things Cathcart must do while Minderbinder is flying missions. Finally Cathcart stops him, claiming Minderbinder is indispensable and forbids him to fly any more missions. The devious Minderbinder convinces Cathcart to have the other men in the squadron fly his missions for him.
In order to be fair, the men can take turns flying his missions, but Minderbinder will of course get the credit and any medals which might be awarded. To accomplish this task, Cathcart increases the number of required missions to eighty. Minderbinder gleefully reports that Yossarian has been bragging that he has completed his missions, but he will certainly have to fly again now. Cathcart chides Minderbinder, reminding him that it is important to be fair and treat everyone the same, giving no special privileges.
There is no time for Yossarian to “save himself from combat” before he has to fly the mission after the number is increased to eighty. The mission is to sink a disabled Italian cruiser; the ship is successfully destroyed but the airplanes are immediately “engulfed in a great barrage of flak” from below. Dobbs, Nately, and their crews are killed in a mid-air collision.