It is generally well known that Joseph Heller served as a bombardier with a B-25 bomber group during World War II and that Catch-22 was based upon his experiences while serving on Corsica.
What is not as well known is the extent to which he made use of the events and the people that were part of that experience. Right from the publication date of Catch-22 and throughout his creative life, Heller always insisted that his novel was pure fiction and that, with a few minor exceptions, the characters portrayed in the book were not based upon real people.
Using resources that have only recently become available, it becomes clear that in reality Heller relied heavily on historic events and on the real people that he served with on Corsica for much of the content of his novel.
The 340th Bombardment Group consisted of four Bomb Squadrons, the 486th, 487th, 488th and 489th. During Heller's tour of combat duty the 340th was stationed at Alesani Aerodrome on Corsica.
To read Catch-22 is, in a very real sense, to read the history of the 340th Bomb Group on Corsica in 1944...
The Historical Sources for the Events in Joseph Heller's Novel, Catch-22 (2.9MB PDF)