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B-25J-2 - Catch 22 and the Joseph Heller connection.

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B-25J  - Research on Joseph Heller and the Catch 22 connection. (12th Airforce, 57th Bomb Wing, 340th Bomb Group 488th Bomb Squadron)


A year ago, when I was starting my build of HK Models B-25J, i was trying to find a connection between Joseph Heller (author of Catch-22) and the real planes on which he served. But the only link I found, was a photo of Joseph Heller from when he was stationed at the Alesani airbase on Corsica. And I was not able to find any links to a specific plane.




Inspired by you Guy's here at the Forum of LSM, I started from scratch again. I began doing some research looking for a Catch-22/Joseph Heller/B-25J Mitchell connection. And after searching a lot of pages on 12th Airforce, 57th Bomb Wing in Corsica, I finally found something.


I was looking into planes from 340th Bomb Group/488th Bomb Squadron, based at Alesani Corsica. This was the Squadron Joseph Heller was assigned to. But the only plane I was able to find a photo of and identify, was “Old Ironsides III” Serial No 43-27474 (8 R).




But in the beginning of my search, there were no apparent links to Heller. 

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At this time I “struck gold” when I found “The Unwritten Record” Blog, of The National Archives. Here i found a link.

Last year they had tracked down some unedited footage of a military training film Shot by Wilbur Blume in 1944, at the Alesani base in Corsica.

This footage is starring our famous Catch-22 author Joseph Heller, in many scenes!  

I could not believe my luck, moving pictures of B-25’s together with Joseph Heller.


And most amazingly, the footage shows the same plane “Old Ironsides III” together with Joseph Heller!




This is a capture from the military training film Shot by Wilbur Blume in 1944, showing Joseph Heller in the middle of the crew and with “Old Ironsides III” right behind him!




Captures from the footage: Joseph Heller at work at his Bombardier station on the B-25J. I later found information, of Heller being assigned to several of the

planes of the Squadron, including “L’ll Critter from the Moon” and “Duration Plus”. He flew 60 combat missions during his service.

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I had a lot of help from other people, through Facebook and e-mail:


Dominique Taddei (author of USS Corsica) supplied me with an additional photo showing “Old Ironsides III” with the 488th Insignia still intact:




Mike Lacey (Facebook B-25 group) added some further interesting pieces to the puzzle:


“Old Ironsides was one of the first J models to arrive to the group...a lot of the pilots were wary of the new model, since they were used to the reliability of the C/D models, so Colonel Chapman ordered a flight of 3 J models to demonstrate they are good planes, and you will note that the right props are feathered on all 3 planes showing they can fly well on one engine...and there was much rejoicing amongst the pilots and combat crews. This was in April 44, so the air raid that necessitated the need to cover the upper surfaces of the natural metal planes with OD paint had not occurred yet.”





An aerial shot of the three "promonitonal" planes, in the middle B-25J-2 Serial No 43-27474 (8 R) - later to become “Old Ironsides III” 


The incident that necessitated the painting of the upper surfaces with Olive Drab, was due to the heavy losses of the german raid on May 16th.

The report states: "Of approximately 90 planes on the field, 65 were put out of commission, of which 30 will be totally lost to the group, though parts of approximately 24 of them can be salvaged. The death toll of the raid has now risen to 20 and a couple of other boys are still in a bad way".


I also had help from Don Kaiser (http://www.warwingsart.com/57thWing/index.htm) identifying the squadron insignia and painting details of 488 Squadron planes.




   This is as far as my research into finding a subject for my modelling of the HK Models B-25J went, and i am really exited to be doing this!

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Fascinating story Kent,


Sometimes history works like this, in that the exact individual aircraft you are researching turns out to be the very one you already have images of. I often find this researching Luftwaffe pilots and airframes; but unfortunately it tends to lead me down a path where I find less and less time available to actually make the models!



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Yes of course! I allmost forgot because of all the excitement! 

I have been watching the films continuously since i found them, they are amazing!

Lots and lots of interesting details, i never had seen before, it's a Goldmine for modellers!


The footage was to be used for a film that was to be named "Training During Combat"

There are 9 Reels of film, Reel 1 8:43, Reel 2 8:08, Reel 3 8:04, Reel 4 7:55, Reel 5 7:53, Reel 6 8:26, Reel 7 6:42, Reel 8 8:17, and Reel 9 8:44.

Around 80 minuttes of high quality footage! No sound. Here you go! 



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By the way, she survived the war, Mike Laney added an end to her story:


"Also, she flew her first mission on May 16, 1944 (the day after the 340th bomb group was bombed by the Germans at Alesani, Corsica...and flew her last on April 25, 1945 and flew back to the states and was eventually scrapped".

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  • 3 weeks later...

Look what the postman delivered: "The True Story of Catch-22"




"Joseph Heller usually chose to deny that any of his richly drawn characters were based on his actual war mates. However, to those who served with Heller in the 340th Bomb Group the novel’s characters were indeed recognizable—the hard-drinking, vengeful, and disillusioned Chief White Half Oat, young, sliced-in-half Kid Sampson, shrieking, frenzied Hungry Joe, Colonel Cathcart, General Dreedle, Yossarian and that capitalist supreme, Milo Minderbinder"


"In this book, written and colorfully illustrated by the daughter of the 340th Bomb Group’s commander, Colonel Willis Chapman, we finally encounter the real men and combat missions on which the novel was based. While Heller’s fully developed characters stand solely, solidly and uniquely on their own merits, The True Story of Catch-22 proves that any resemblance to persons living or dead is, in fact, actual".


Library Journal Verdict: "Less concerned with Heller's novel than with the history behind it, Meder's book will appeal more to readers of military history than to literary fans of Catch-22, who can follow Heller's war years in his autobiography.


Looking forward to getting to know the real characters...

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  • 5 months later...

That is my dad's plane. He was with the 488th Sqdn. of the 340th Bomb Group, 57th Bomb Wing, 12 AF from Feb-Nov 1944. He  met up with Heller when Heller joined the sqdn after dad's outfit was moved from Paestum outside Pompeii to Corsica. All the crews flew in multiple ships, but this one dad and his crew considered theirs. Don't know what the tail number was and there were in fact three of them, the first got its hydraulics shot out and had to belly in and the second was lost to Vesuvius. I believe the third one, pictured here is a B-25 J.


I'm including a picture of my dad and Heller standing next to the sign outside the 340th's HQ at Alesan aerodrome on Corsica.






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Wow, amazing connection. Thanks for sharing this information!


Sorry but I cannot see your picture?


I havent been able to decipher the names on the side of the cockpit maybe you know them?


Airplane Commander ???


Crew Chief ???




Regards: Kent Karlsen

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I can't make it out either but I don't think it's the commander and crew chief. My dad's crew consisted of: Pilot 2nd Lt. lark.R. Hagerman, Co-pilot 2nd Lt. Alf D. Hemstad, Bombardier 2nd Lt. John C. Jones, EG (tail gunner) Sgt. Thomas L. Higgins, RG (radio gunner) S/Sgt Bernard Greenbaum (dad), AG (turret gunner)  Sgt Carmen J. Mascuille. The crews rotated between planes a lot so the whole crew rarely flew all together on any one mission.

I am currently transcribing my dad's diary from Feb-Nov 1944. I have also found a treasure trove of declassified documents detailing the crews on planes for missions the 488th was involved in. These can be found at http://57thbombwing.com/340th_History/488thSquadronHistory.php

I am only up to early May so far and while these entries are from Corsica there is not yet any mention of Heller. I'll be happy to post those if there is any.


Also I figured out how to upload photos here so have edited the previous post. You should see the picture now.




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