The Spectacle Blog

Joe Heller, Call Your Office 


By on 6.4.14 | 11:07AM

In Catch-22 — among other things a treatise on the madness of wartime military bureaucracy by a man who served in the belly of that beast in WWII — it was a faulty cathode in a military computer that promoted Major Major, a mere recruit at the time, to the rank of major. The new officer’s perverse father had given him first, middle, and last names of Major, so that early computer had no choice but to make him Major Major Major Major. This led to some confusing moments in basic training when his drill instructor had to call him “Sir” when yelling at him.

OK, this bizarre promotion was an imaginary techno-screw-up, designed to amuse. But what’s the current U.S. Army’s excuse for promoting Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl to sergeant in absentia when there was considerable evidence from the first that he had done a runner? Nothing funny about this.

Here’s how Catch-22 author, the late Joseph Heller, described Major Major: “Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.”

In due course we will learn if Bergdahl is an honorable American warrior or a deserter and a hopeless schlep like Major Major. Was he malicious as well as mediocre? Or was he a straight arrow? Couldn’t the Army have waited with the rest of us to find out before rewarding him?

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