After graduating from cadet school as a first lieutenant early in 1944, Heller was assigned to the 488th Squadron of the Twelfth Air Force in Corsica. Heller later said that, as a twenty-one-year-old officer, he initially had no serious complaints about his life in a combat unit. He enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow airmen on the base and the pleasures of visits to the group's officer apartments in Rome, following the city's liberation in June. The bombing runs went well enough.All that changed on Heller's thirty-seventh mission, a raid on Avignon, on the Rhone River in southeast France, the basis of a fictionalized account that is central to Catch-22. During the bombing run, a co-pilot panicked and set the B-25 into a dive, causing Heller to be pressed against the top of the bombardier's compartment. After the plane was again under control, the co-pilot called over the
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