(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 29 - PECKEM
There was no word about Orr the next day, and Sergeant Whitcomb, with
commendable dispatch and considerable hope, dropped a reminder in his tickler file
to send a form letter over Colonel Cathcart's signature to Orr's next of kin when
nine more days had elapsed. There was word from General Peckem's headquarters,
though, and Yossarian was drawn to the crowd of officers and enlisted men in shorts
and bathing trunks buzzing in grumpy confusion around the bulletin board just
outside the orderly room.
'What's so different about *this* Sunday, I want to know?' Hungry Joe was
demanding vociferously of Chief White Halfoat. 'Why won't we have a parade this
Sunday when we don't have a parade every Sunday? Huh?'
Yossarian worked his way through to the front and let out a long, agonized groan
when he read the terse announcement there:
Due to circumstances beyond my control, there will be no big parade this Sunday
Colonel Scheisskopf
Dobbs was right. They were indeed sending everyone overseas, even Lieutenant
Scheisskopf, who had resisted the move with all the vigor and wisdom at his command
and who reported for duty at General Peckem's office in a mood of grave discontent.
General Peckem welcomed Colonel Scheisskopf with effusive charm and said he was
delighted to have him. An additional colonel on his staff meant that he could now
begin agitating for two additional majors, four additional captains, sixteen additional
lieutenants and untold quantities of additional enlisted men, typewriters, desks, filing
cabinets, automobiles and other substantial equipment and supplies that would
contribute to the prestige of his position and increase his striking power in the war
he had declared against General Dreedle. He now had two full colonels; General
Dreedle had only five, and four of those were combat commanders. With almost no
intriguing at all, General Peckem had executed a maneuver that would eventually
double his strength. And General Dreedle was getting drunk more often. The future
looked wonderful, and General Peckem contemplated his bright new colonel
enchantedly with an effulgent smile.

In all matters of consequence, General P. P. Peckem was, as he always remarked when
he was about to criticize the work of some close associate publicly, a realist. He was
a handsome, pink-skinned man of fifty-three. His manner was always casual and
relaxed, and his uniforms were custom-made. He had silver-gray hair, slightly myopic
eyes and thin, overhanging, sensual lips. He was a perceptive, graceful, sophisticated
man who was sensitive to everyone's weaknesses but his own and found everyone
absurd but himself. General Peckem laid great, fastidious stress on small matters of
taste and style. He was always *augmenting* things. Approaching events were never
*coming*, but always *upcoming*. It was not true that he wrote *memorandums*
praising himself and recommending that his authority be *enhanced* to include all
combat operations; he wrote *memoranda*. And the prose in the *memoranda* of
other officers was always *turgid, stilted*, or *ambiguous*. The errors of others
were inevitably *deplorable*. Regulations were *stringent*, and his data never *was*
obtained from a reliable source, but always *were* obtained. General Peckem was
frequently *constrained*. Things were often *incumbent* upon him, and he
frequently acted with *greatest reluctance*. It never escaped his memory that
neither black nor white was a color, and he never used *verbal* when he meant
*oral*. He could quote glibly from Plato, Nietzsche, Montaigne, Theodore Roosevelt,
the Marquis de Sade and Warren G. Harding.
A virgin audience like Colonel Scheisskopf was grist for General Peckem's mill, a
stimulating opportunity to throw open his whole dazzling erudite treasure house of
puns, wisecracks, slanders, homilies, anecdotes, proverbs, epigrams, apophthegms,
bon mots and other pungent sayings. He beamed urbanely as he began orienting
Colonel Scheisskopf to his new surroundings.
'My only fault,' he observed with practiced good humor, watching for the effect of
his words, 'is that I have no faults.'
Colonel Scheisskopf didn't laugh, and General Peckem was stunned. A heavy doubt
crushed his enthusiasm. He had just opened with one of his most trusted paradoxes,
and he was positively alarmed that not the slightest flicker of acknowledgment had
moved across that impervious face, which began to remind him suddenly, in hue and
texture, of an unused soap eraser. Perhaps Colonel Scheisskopf was tired, General
Peckem granted to himself charitably; he had come a long way, and everything was
unfamiliar. General Peckem's attitude toward all the personnel in his command,
officers and enlisted men, was marked by the same easy spirit of tolerance and
He mentioned often that if the people who worked for him met him halfway, he
would meet them more than halfway, with the result, as he always added with an
astute chuckle, that there was never any meeting of the minds at all. General Peckem
thought of himself as aesthetic and intellectual.

When people disagreed with him, he urged them to be *objective*.
And it was indeed an objective Peckem who gazed at Colonel Scheisskopf
encouragingly and resumed his indoctrination with an attitude of magnanimous
forgiveness. 'You've come to us just in time, Scheisskopf. The summer offensive has
petered out, thanks to the incompetent leadership with which we supply our troops,
and I have a crying need for a tough, experienced, competent officer like you to help
produce the memoranda upon which we rely so heavily to let people know how good we
are and how much work we're turning out. I hope you are a prolific writer.'
'I don't know anything about writing,' Colonel Scheisskopf retorted sullenly.
'Well, don't let that trouble you,' General Peckem continued with a careless flick of
his wrist. 'Just pass the work I assign you along to somebody else and trust to luck.
We call that delegation of responsibility. Somewhere down near the lowest level of
this co-ordinated organization I run are people who do get the work done when it
reaches them, and everything manages to run along smoothly without too much effort
on my part. I suppose that's because I am a good executive. Nothing we do in this
large department of ours is really very important, and there's never any rush. On the
other hand, it is important that we let people know we do a great deal of it. Let me
know if you find yourself shorthanded. I've already put in a requisition for two
majors, four captains and sixteen lieutenants to give you a hand. While none of the
work we do is very important, it is important that we do a great deal of it. Don't you
'What about the parades?' Colonel Scheisskopf broke in.
'What parades?' inquired General Peckem with a feeling that his polish just wasn't
getting across.
'Won't I be able to conduct parades every Sunday afternoon?'
Colonel Scheisskopf demanded petulantly.
'No. Of course not. What ever gave you that idea?'
'But they said I could.'
'Who said you could?'
'The officers who sent me overseas. They told me I'd be able to march the men
around in parades all I wanted to.'

'They lied to you.'
'That wasn't fair, sir.'
'I'm sorry, Scheisskopf. I'm willing to do everything I can to make you happy here,
but parades are out of the question. We don't have enough men in our own
organization to make up much of a parade, and the combat units would rise up in open
rebellion if we tried to make them march. I'm afraid you'll just have to hold back
awhile until we get control. Then you can do what you want with the men.'
'What about my wife?' Colonel Scheisskopf demanded with disgruntled suspicion.
'I'll still be able to send for her, won't I?'
'Your wife? Why in the world should you want to?'
'A husband and wife should be together.'
'That's out of the question also.'
'But they said I could send for her!'
'They lied to you again.'
'They had no right to lie to me!' Colonel Scheisskopf protested, his eyes wetting with
'Of course they had a right,' General Peckem snapped with cold and calculated
severity, resolving right then and there to test the mettle of his new colonel under
fire. 'Don't be such an ass, Scheisskopf. People have a right to do anything that's not
forbidden by law, and there's no law against lying to you. Now, don't ever waste my
time with such sentimental platitudes again. Do you hear?'
'Yes, sir,' murmured Colonel Scheisskopf
Colonel Scheisskopf wilted pathetically, and General Peckem blessed the fates that
had sent him a weakling for a subordinate. A man of spunk would have been
unthinkable. Having won, General Peckem relented. He did not enjoy humiliating his
men. 'If your wife were a Wac, I could probably have her transferred here. But
that's the most I can do.'
'She has a friend who's a Wac,' Colonel Scheisskopf offered hopefully.

'I'm afraid that isn't good enough. Have Mrs. Scheisskopf join the Wacs if she
wants to, and I'll bring her over here. But in the meantime, my dear Colonel, let's get
back to our little war, if we may. Here, briefly, is the military situation that
confronts us.' General Peckem rose and moved toward a rotary rack of enormous
colored maps.
Colonel Scheisskopf blanched. 'We're not going into combat, are we?'
he blurted out in horror.
'Oh, no, of course not,' General Peckem assured him indulgently, with a
companionable laugh. 'Please give me some credit, won't you? That's why we're still
down here in Rome. Certainly, I'd like to be up in Florence, too, where I could keep in
closer touch with ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen. But Florence is still a bit too near the actual
fighting to suit me.' General Peckem lifted a wooden pointer and swept the rubber tip
cheerfully across Italy from one coast to the other. 'These, Scheisskopf, are the
Germans. They're dug into these mountains very solidly in the Gothic Line and won't
be pushed out till late next spring, although that isn't going to stop those clods we
have in charge from trying. That gives us in Special Services almost nine months to
achieve our objective. And that objective is to capture every bomber group in the
U.S. Air Force.
After all,' said General Peckem with his low, well-modulated chuckle, 'if dropping
bombs on the enemy isn't a special service, I wonder what in the world is. Don't you
agree?' Colonel Scheisskopf gave no indication that he did agree, but General Peckem
was already too entranced with his own loquacity to notice. 'Our position right now is
excellent. Reinforcements like yourself keep arriving, and we have more than enough
time to plan our entire strategy carefully. Our immediate goal,' he said, 'is right
here.' And General Peckem swung his pointer south to the island of Pianosa and
tapped it significantly upon a large word that had been lettered on there with black
grease pencil. The word was DREEDLE.
Colonel Scheisskopf, squinting, moved very close to the map, and for the first time
since he entered the room a light of comprehension shed a dim glow over his stolid
face. 'I think I understand,' he exclaimed. 'Yes, I know I understand. Our first job
is to capture Dreedle away from the enemy. Right?'
General Peckem laughed benignly. 'No, Scheisskopf. Dreedle's on our side, and
Dreedle is the enemy. General Dreedle commands four bomb groups that we simply
must capture in order to continue our offensive. Conquering General Dreedle will give
us the aircraft and vital bases we need to carry our operations into other areas. And
that battle, by the way, is just about won.' General Peckem drifted toward the
window, laughing quietly again, and settled back against the sill with his arms folded,
greatly satisfied by his own wit and by his knowledgeable, blase impudence.

The skilled choice of words he was exercising was exquisitely titillating. General
Peckem liked listening to himself talk, like most of all listening to himself talk about
himself. 'General Dreedle simply doesn't know how to cope with me,' he gloated. 'I
keep invading his jurisdiction with comments and criticisms that are really none of my
business, and he doesn't know what to do about it. When he accuses me of seeking to
undermine him, I merely answer that my only purpose in calling attention to his errors
is to strengthen our war effort by eliminating inefficiency. Then I ask him innocently
if he's opposed to improving our war effort. Oh, he grumbles and he bristles and he
bellows, but he's really quite helpless.
He's simply out of style. He's turning into quite a souse, you know. The poor
blockhead shouldn't even be a general. He has no tone, no tone at all. Thank God he
isn't going to last.' General Peckem chuckled with jaunty relish and sailed smoothly
along toward a favorite learned allusion. 'I sometimes think of myself as Fortinbras -
ha, ha - in the play *Hamlet* by William Shakespeare, who just keeps circling and
circling around the action until everything else falls apart, and then strolls in at the
end to pick up all the pieces for himself. Shakespeare is -'
'I don't know anything about plays,' Colonel Scheisskopf broke in bluntly.
General Peckem looked at him with amazement. Never before had a reference of his
to Shakespeare's hallowed *Hamlet* been ignored and trampled upon with such rude
indifference. He began to wonder with genuine concern just what sort of shithead
the Pentagon had foisted on him. 'What *do* you know about?' he asked acidly.
'Parades,' answered Colonel Scheisskopf eagerly.
'Will I be able to send out memos about parades?'
'As long as you don't schedule any.' General Peckem returned to his chair still
wearing a frown. 'And as long as they don't interfere with your main assignment of
recommending that the authority of Special Services be expanded to
include combat activities .'
'Can I schedule parades and then call them off?'

General Peckem brightened instantly. 'Why, that's a wonderful idea! But just send
out weekly announcements *postponing* the parades. Don't even bother to schedule
them. That would be infinitely more disconcerting.' General Peckem was blossoming
spryly with cordiality again. 'Yes, Scheisskopf,' he said, 'I think you've really hit on
something. After all, what combat commander could possibly quarrel with us for
notifying his men that there won't be a parade that coming Sunday? We'd be merely
stating a widely known fact. But the implication is beautiful. Yes, positively beautiful.
We're implying that we *could* schedule a parade if we chose to. I'm going to like
you, Scheisskopf. Stop in and introduce yourself to Colonel Cargill and tell him what
you're up to. I know you two will like each other.'
Colonel Cargill came storming into General Peckem's office a minute later in a furor
of timid resentment. 'I've been here longer than Scheisskopf,' he complained.
'Why can't I be the one to call off the parades?'
'Because Scheisskopf has experience with parades, and you haven't. You can call off
U.S.O. shows if you want to. In fact why don't you? Just think of all the places that
won't be getting a U.S.O. show on any given day. Think of all the places each big-name
entertainer won't be visiting. Yes, Cargill, I think you've hit on something. I think
you've just thrown open a whole new area of operation for us. Tell Colonel
Scheisskopf I want him to work along under your supervision on this. And send him in
to see me when you're through giving him instructions.'
'Colonel Cargill says you told him you want me to work along under his supervision on
the U.S.O. project,' Colonel Scheisskopf complained.
'I told him no such thing,' answered General Peckem. 'Confidentially, Scheisskopf,
I'm not too happy with Colonel Cargill. He's bossy and he's slow. I'd like you to keep
a close eye on what he's doing and see if you can't get a little more work out of him.'
'He keeps butting in,' Colonel Cargill protested. 'He won't let me get any work done.'
'There's something very funny about Scheisskopf,' General Peckem agreed
reflectively. 'Keep a very close eye on him and see if you can't find out
what he's up to.'
'Now he's butting into *my* business!' Colonel Scheisskopf cried.
'Don't let it worry you, Scheisskopf,' said General Peckem, congratulating himself on
how adeptly he had fit Colonel Scheisskopf into his standard method of operation.
Already his two colonels were barely on speaking terms. 'Colonel Cargill envies you
because of the splendid job you're doing on parades. He's afraid I'm going to put you
in charge of bomb patterns.'

Colonel Scheisskopf was all ears. 'What are bomb patterns?'
'Bomb patterns?' General Peckem repeated, twinkling with self-satisfied good humor.
'A *bomb pattern* is a term I dreamed up just several weeks ago. It means nothing,
but you'd be surprised at how rapidly it's caught on. Why, I've got all sorts of people
convinced I think it's important for the bombs to explode close together and make a
neat aerial photograph. There's one colonel in Pianosa who's hardly concerned any
more with whether he hits the target or not. Let's fly over and have some fun with
him today. It will make Colonel Cargill jealous, and I learned from Wintergreen this
morning that General Dreedle will be off in Sardinia. It drives General Dreedle insane
to find out I've been inspecting one of his installations while he's been off inspecting
another. We may even get there in time for the briefing. They'll be bombing a tiny
undefended village, reducing the whole community to rubble.
I have it from Wintergreen - Wintergreen's an ex-sergeant now, by the way - that
the mission is entirely unnecessary. Its only purpose is to delay German
reinforcements at a time when we aren't even planning an offensive. But that's the
way things go when you elevate mediocre people to positions of authority.' He
gestured languidly toward his gigantic map of Italy. 'Why, this tiny mountain village is
so insignificant that it isn't even there.'
They arrived at Colonel Cathcart's group too late to attend the preliminary briefing
and hear Major Danby insist, 'But it *is* there, I tell you. It's there, it's there.'
'It's where?' Dunbar demanded defiantly, pretending not to see.
'It's right there on the map where this road makes this slight turn. Can't you see
this slight turn on your map?'
'No, I can't see it.'
'I can see it,' volunteered Havermeyer, and marked the spot on Dunbar's map. 'And
here's a good picture of the village right on these photographs. I understand the
whole thing. The purpose of the mission is to knock the whole village sliding down the
side of the mountain and create a roadblock that the Germans will have to clear. Is
that right?'
'That's right,' said Major Danby, mopping his perspiring forehead with his
handkerchief. 'I'm glad somebody here is beginning to understand. These two
armored divisions will be coming down from Austria into Italy along this road. The
village is built on such a steep incline that all the rubble from the houses and other
buildings you destroy will certainly tumble right down and pile upon the road.'

'What the hell difference will it make?' Dunbar wanted to know, as Yossarian
watched him excitedly with a mixture of awe and adulation. 'It will only take them a
couple of days to clear it.'
Major Danby was trying to avoid an argument. 'Well, it apparently makes some
difference to Headquarters,' he answered in a conciliatory tone. 'I suppose that's
why they ordered the mission.'
'Have the people in the village been warned?' asked McWatt.
Major Danby was dismayed that McWatt too was registering opposition. 'No, I don't
think so.'
'Haven't we dropped any leaflets telling them that this time we'll be flying over to
hit them?' asked Yossarian. 'Can't we even tip them off so they'll get out of the
'No, I don't think so.' Major Danby was swearing some more and still shifting his
eyes about uneasily. 'The Germans might find out and choose another road. I'm not
sure about any of this. I'm just making assumptions.'
'They won't even take shelter,' Dunbar argued bitterly. 'They'll pour out into the
streets to wave when they see our planes coming, all the children and dogs and old
people. Jesus Christ! Why can't we leave them alone?'
'Why can't we create the roadblock somewhere else?' asked McWatt.
'Why must it be there?'
'I don't know,' Major Danby answered unhappily. 'I don't know. Look, fellows, we've
got to have some confidence in the people above us who issue our orders. They know
what they're doing.'
'The hell they do,' said Dunbar.
'What's the trouble?' inquired Colonel Korn, moving leisurely across the briefing
room with his hands in his pockets and his tan shirt baggy.
'Oh, no trouble, Colonel,' said Major Danby, trying nervously to cover up.
'We're just discussing the mission.'
'They don't want to bomb the village,'
Havermeyer snickered, giving Major Danby away.

'You prick!' Yossarian said to Havermeyer.
'You leave Havermeyer alone,' Colonel Korn ordered Yossarian curtly. He recognized
Yossarian as the drunk who had accosted him roughly at the officers' club one night
before the first mission to Bologna, and he swung his displeasure prudently to
Dunbar. 'Why don't you want to bomb the village?'
'It's cruel, that's why.'
'Cruel?' asked Colonel Korn with cold good humor, frightened only momentarily by the
uninhibited vehemence of Dunbar's hostility. 'Would it be any less cruel to let those
two German divisions down to fight with our troops? American lives are at stake, too,
you know. Would you rather see American blood spilled?'
'American blood is being spilled. But those people are living up there in peace. Why
can't we leave them the hell alone?'
'Yes, it's easy for you to talk,' Colonel Korn jeered. 'You're safe here in Pianosa. It
won't make any difference to you when these German reinforcements arrive, will it?'
Dunbar turned crimson with embarrassment and replied in a voice that was suddenly
defensive. 'Why can't we create the roadblock somewhere else? Couldn't we bomb
the slope of a mountain or the road itself?'
'Would you rather go back to Bologna?' The question, asked quietly, rang out like a
shot and created a silence in the room that was awkward and menacing. Yossarian
prayed intensely, with shame, that Dunbar would keep his mouth shut. Dunbar
dropped his gaze, and Colonel Korn knew he had won. 'No, I thought not,' he
continued with undisguised scorn. 'You know, Colonel Cathcart and I have to go to a
lot of trouble to get you a milk run like this. If you'd sooner fly missions to Bologna,
Spezia and Ferrara, we can get those targets with no trouble at all.' His eyes
gleamed dangerously behind his rimless glasses, and his muddy jowls were square and
hard. 'Just let me know.'
'I would,' responded Havermeyer eagerly with another boastful snicker. 'I like to fly
into Bologna straight and level with my head in the bombsight and listen to all that
flak pumping away all around me. I get a big kick out of the way the men come
charging over to me after the mission and call me dirty names. Even the enlisted men
get sore enough to curse me and want to take socks at me.'

Colonel Korn chucked Havermeyer under the chin jovially, ignoring him, and then
addressed himself to Dunbar and Yossarian in a dry monotone. 'You've got my sacred
word for it. Nobody is more distressed about those lousy wops up in the hills than
Colonel Cathcart and myself. *Mais c'est la *guerre*. Try to remember that we
didn't start the war and Italy did. That we weren't the aggressors and Italy was.
And that we couldn't possibly inflict as much cruelty on the Italians, Germans,
Russians and Chinese as they're already inflicting on themselves.' Colonel Korn gave
Major Danby's shoulder a friendly squeeze without changing his unfriendly
expression. 'Carry on with the briefing, Danby. And make sure they understand the
importance of a tight bomb pattern.'
'Oh, no, Colonel,' Major Danby blurted out, blinking upward. 'Not for this target. I've
told them to space their bombs sixty feet apart so that we'll have a roadblock the
full length of the village instead of in just one spot. It will be a much more effective
roadblock with a loose bomb pattern.'
'We don't care about the roadblock,' Colonel Korn informed him. 'Colonel Cathcart
wants to come out of this mission with a good clean aerial photograph he won't be
ashamed to send through channels. Don't forget that General Peckem will be here for
the full briefing, and you know how he feels about bomb patterns. Incidentally,
Major, you'd better hurry up with these details and clear out before he gets here.
General Peckem can't stand you.'
'Oh, no, Colonel,' Major Danby corrected obligingly.
'It's General Dreedle who can't stand me.'
'General Peckem can't stand you either. In fact, no one can stand you.
Finish what you're doing, Danby, and disappear. I'll conduct the briefing.'
'Where's Major Danby?' Colonel Cathcart inquired, after he had driven up for the
full briefing with General Peckem and Colonel Scheisskopf.
'He asked permission to leave as soon as he saw you driving up,' answered Colonel
Korn. 'He's afraid General Peckem doesn't like him. I was going to conduct the
briefing anyway. I do a much better job.'
'Splendid!' said Colonel Cathcart. 'No!' Colonel Cathcart countermanded himself an
instant later when he remembered how good a job Colonel Korn had done before
General Dreedle at the first Avignon briefing. 'I'll do it myself.'
Colonel Cathcart braced himself with the knowledge that he was one of General
Peckem's favorites and took charge of the meeting, snapping his words out crisply to
the attentive audience of subordinate officers with the bluff and dispassionate
toughness he had picked up from General Dreedle.

He knew he cut a fine figure there on the platform with his open shirt collar, his
cigarette holder, and his close-cropped, gray-tipped curly black hair. He breezed
along beautifully, even emulating certain characteristic mispronunciations of General
Dreedle's, and he was not the least bit intimidated by General Peckem's new colonel
until he suddenly recalled that General Peckem detested General Dreedle. Then his
voice cracked, and all confidence left him. He stumbled ahead through instinct in
burning humiliation. He was suddenly in terror of Colonel Scheisskopf. Another
colonel in the area meant another rival, another enemy, another person who hated
him. And this one was tough! A horrifying thought occurred to Colonel Cathcart:
Suppose Colonel Scheisskopf had already bribed all the men in the room to begin
moaning, as they had done at the first Avignon mission. How could he silence them?
What a terrible black eye that would be! Colonel Cathcart was seized with such
fright that he almost beckoned to Colonel Korn. Somehow he held himself together
and synchronized the watches. When he had done that, he knew he had won, for he
could end now at any time. He had come through in a crisis. He wanted to laugh in
Colonel Scheisskopf's face with triumph and spite. He had proved himself brilliantly
under pressure, and he concluded the briefing with an inspiring peroration that every
instinct told him was a masterful exhibition of eloquent tact and subtlety.
'Now, men,' he exhorted. 'We have with us today a very distinguished guest, General
Peckem from Special Services, the man who gives us all our softball bats, comic books
and U.S.O. shows. I want to dedicate this mission to him. Go on out there and bomb -
for me, for your country, for God, and for that great American, General P. P. Peckem.
And let's see you put all those bombs on a dime!'

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