Chapter 13 - 15
Major ______________de Coverley, believing that Bologna has really been captured because Yossarian moved the bomb line on the map, assumes that Florence has been captured, as well. He always goes to cities that are about to fall and rents apartments staffed with cooks and maids for the officers and enlisted men in newly captured cities, so he heads off for Florence under the assumption that he needs to rent some apartments there. His apartments in Rome are especially nice, and the women there are rather sexually obliging to the men. Everyone is terrified of Major ______________de Coverley, except for Milo, who once approached him with the proposition that he could get eggs, butter, and other delicacies cheap and fresh if he had access to a plane. Now, Milo is running the mess halls for several bomb groups because he gets good food for cheap, and Milo is also in charge of a profitable syndicate that is organized around obtaining all these supplies.
Despite Major ______________de Coverley's conviction that Bologna has really been captured, it has not, and the men do need to fly a mission there. Yossarian, at the start of the mission, pulls out his intercom and then tells his crew they have to go back because of a faulty intercom. All of the other planes return unharmed because it was a "milk run" in which there was no anti-aircraft fire, also known as "flak." However, the men were so frightened that they did not do enough damage and have to return the next day. Suddenly, there is plenty of flak. Although they accomplish the mission of destroying ammunition dumps, they are under heavy fire, and several planes are hit. As soon as they return, Yossarian packs for emergency rest leave at one of the apartments Major __________de Coverley has rented for them in Rome.
This section flashes back for a few pages to the mission over Ferrara, a passage that contrasts the virtues of bravery and cowardice. "Yossarian came in carefully on his second bomb run because he was brave then" (146), and his bravery allowed them to destroy the bridge. But, going back a second time also meant that Kraft's plane went down, killing all the men aboard. Colonel Cathcart didn't know what to do, as Yossarian should have been in trouble, but he awarded him a medal for bravery for going back a second time and destroying the bridge no one else had been able to bomb. This way, the colonel was not embarrassed by Yossarian's mistake. They decide to "act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That's a trick that never seems to fail" (149). Hence, Yossarian was brave only because the Air Force decided to label him as such. Instead of being an absolute virtue, it is subjective and in the eyes of the beholder. Bravery meant accomplishing the aims of the Air Force, yet it also meant endangering the lives of others. So, even though people assume it is good to be brave, that is only so because those in power declare it good, and it is only bravery if it is labeled such.
Now, Yossarian is quite cowardly. He has decided that bravery is not virtuous, but saving his own life is. When he decides to turn back on the Bologna mission, everyone in his plane appreciates it. They are unable to help on the mission, but they stay alive. The Air Force may see risking one's own life as a good thing, but Yossarian makes the perfectly rational point that protecting oneself is also virtuous. If bravery is subjective and its value is unclear, as he learned from the Ferrara mission, he is going to choose cowardice.