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American Literature books summary

When Chief White Halfoat finally dies of pneumonia and Nately finishes his seventy missions, Yossarian prays for the first time in his life, asking God to keep Nately from volunteering to fly more than seventy missions. But Nately does not want to be sent home until he can take his whore with him. Yossarian goes for help from Milo, who immediately goes to see Colonel Cathcart about having himself assigned to more combat missions. Milo has finally been exposed as the tyrannical fraud he is; he has no intention of giving anyone a real share of the syndicate--but his power and influence are at their peak and everyone admires him. He feels guilty for not doing his duty and flying missions, and asks the deferential Colonel Cathcart to assign him to more dangerous combat duties. Milo tells Colonel Cathcart that someone else will have to run the syndicate, and Colonel Cathcart volunteers himself and Colonel Korn. When Milo explains the complex operations of the business to Cathcart, the colonel declares Milo the only man who could possibly run it, and forbids Milo from flying another combat mission. He suggests that he might make the other men fly Milo's missions for him, and if one of those men wins a medal, Milo will get the medal. To enable this, he says, he will ratchet the number of required missions up to eighty. The next morning the alarm sounds and the men fly off on a mission that turns out to be particularly deadly. Twelve men are killed, including Dobbs and Nately.

The chaplain is devastated by Nately's death. When he learns that twelve men have been killed, he prays that Yossarian, Hungry Joe, Nately, and his other friends will not be among them. But when he rides out to the field, he understands from the despairing look on Yossarian's face that Nately is dead. Suddenly, the Chaplain is dragged away by a group of military police who accuse him of an unspecified crime. He is interrogated by a colonel who claims the chaplain has forged his name in letters--his only evidence is a letter Yossarian forged in the hospital and signed with the chaplain's name some time ago. Then he accuses the chaplain of stealing the plum tomato from Colonel Cathcart and of being Washington Irving. The men in the room idiotically find him guilty of unspecified crimes they assume he has committed, then order him to go about his business while they think of a way to punish him. The chaplain leaves and furiously goes to confront Colonel Korn about the number of missions the men are required to fly. He tells Colonel Korn he plans to bring the matter directly to General Dreedle's attention, but the colonel replies gleefully that General Dreedle has been replaced with General Peckem as wing commander. He then tells the chaplain that he and Colonel Cathcart can make the men fly as many missions as they want to make them fly--they've even transferred Dr. Stubbs, who had offerred to ground any man with seventy missions, to the Pacific.

General Peckem's victory sours quickly. On his first day in charge of General Dreedle's old operation, he learns that Scheisskopf has been promoted to lieutenant general and is now the commanding officer for all combat operations: He is in charge of General Peckem and his entire group. And he intends to make every single man present march in parades.

Chapters 38-42

Yossarian marches around backwards so no one can sneak up behind him and refuses to fly in any more combat missions. When they are informed of this, Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn decide to take brief pity on Yossarian for the death of his friend Nately, and send him to Rome, where he breaks the news of Nately's death to Nately's whore, who tries to kill Yossarian with a potato peeler for bringer her the bad news. When he resists, she tries to seduce him, then stabs at him with a knife again when he seems to have relaxed. Nately's whore's kid sister materializes, and tries to stab Yossarian as well. Yossarian loses patience, picks up Nately's whore's kid sister and throws her bodily at Nately's whore, then leaves the apartment. He notices people are staring at him, and suddenly realizes that he has been stabbed several times and is bleeding everywhere. He goes to a Red Cross building and cleans his wounds, and when he emerges Nately's whore is waiting in ambush and tries to stab him again. He punches her in the jaw, catches her as she passes out and sets her down gently. Hungry Joe flies him back to Pianosa, where Nately's whore is waiting to kill him with a steak knife. He eludes her, but she continues to try to kill him at every opportunity. Yossarian walks around backwards; as word spreads that he has refused to fly more combat missions, men begin to approach him, only at night, and to ask him if it's true, and to tell him they hope he gets away with it. One day Captain Black tells him that Nately's whore and her kid sister have been flushed out of their apartment by M.P.'s, and Yossarian, suddenly worried about them, goes to Rome without permission to try to find them.