Joseph Heller was born on
May 1, 1923, in Coney Island, New York.ï¿½ His father died when he was young, and
he was raised by his mother and two older siblings.ï¿½ When World War II began,
Heller became a blacksmith's helper in Virginia.ï¿½ He then entered the Army, and
finally the U.S. Air Force in 1942. ï¿½He graduated cadet school and became a
bombardier in Italy.
During a combat mission, he
experienced an incident similar to the flight in Catch-22 on which
Snowden dies. The co-pilot grabbed the controls from the pilot in a panic.ï¿½
When the pilot regained control and Heller plugged his headset back in, he
heard the co-pilot crying "Help him!ï¿½ Help the bombardier!"ï¿½ When Heller
assured them he was all right, he was send back to help the gunner with a wound
in the thigh.ï¿½ Although this is not the only World War II experience Heller
draws upon in Catch-22, this real experience became one of the most
important incidents in the text.
When he left the armed
forces, Heller entered college on the G.I. Bill.ï¿½ He graduated from New York University in 1948.ï¿½ For several years, he wrote short stories, did some graduate
work, and taught.ï¿½ In 1952, he went into advertising.ï¿½
Heller began writing Catch-22
in 1953, but it was not published until eight years later.ï¿½ Originally titled Catch-18,
the name was changed because another popular book at the time had the number 18
in its title.ï¿½ If the title had not been changed, a well-known expression in
the English language would be just a little different.
Heller wrote several other
novels, memoirs, and plays.ï¿½ He married twice.ï¿½ In 1981, he developed
Guillain-Barrï¿½ syndrome.ï¿½ He later recovered from this nerve disorder.ï¿½
Joseph Heller died in 1999
of a heart attack in his home in East Hampton, New York.