Chapter 9 - 10
Major Major's full name and rank is Major Major Major Major. He got his first and middle name, Major Major, due to the unfortunate choice of his father, a Mr. Major. He got promoted to major by a glitch in a computer system. Then, he was named squadron commander by Colonel Cathcart, who did not want a major without appropriate duties in his command. Now, Major Major lives lonely and isolated because the men do not treat him as one of them, and he has no idea what he is supposed to do as squadron commander.
He has managed to arrange it so he never sees anyone. He instructs his clerk, Sergeant Towser, not to let anyone into his office to see him while he is in the office. Then, he has his meals sent to his trailer and sneaks between the two. The only person who manages to see Major Major is Yossarian, who tackles him as he sneaks along a ditch to get to his trailer at lunch time. Yossarian wants to complain about the dead man in his tent, a man named Mudd who was sent up on a mission before he officially checked in. He dropped his belongings in Yossarian's tent, where he was supposed to be living, went up on this mission, and got shot down. Since he had never officially checked in, there was no way to officially report him dead.Now, Yossarian complains about the luggage sitting in his tent belonging to a dead man who officially never existed.
The other people who manage to see Major Major before he arranges to see no one are the two CID men. These men have come to investigate who is signing "Washington Irving" to letters he has censored. The culprit is originally Yossarian, but once the first CID man comes to complain, he gives Major Major the idea to sign "Washington Irving" to the unending supply of official documents that come into his office. When he gets bored with that, he signs "John Milton." When Major Major begins signing things this way, the second CID man is sent to investigate. Major Major, enjoying breaking rules for the first time in his life, manages to turn the two men's suspicions about the culprit on each other.
Major Major's position as squadron commander is an exaggerated version of a common occurrence: men who get promoted for stupid reasons but are completely inept at their jobs. Major Major cannot resolve any of the problems on the base and lives in fear of his own responsibilities. Heller writes a humorous description of the situation, but he is making the serious point that the armed forces are run very badly by men who are ill-qualified for the important job of leading people who are putting their lives at risk.
The dead man in Yossarian's tent demonstrates that the Air Force does not care about individuals and their lives, but rather about keeping records that seem accurate. This is why Colonel Cathcart is bothered when he has a superfluous major in the base and can only relax when he has promoted him to a job appropriate for a major, and this is why the officials pretend Mudd does not exist. Major Major reported that Mudd never got to the base because he is ill-qualified to be squadron commander and cannot think about the human side of the sad situation. All he can think about is how to resolve his records as quickly as possible.
Mudd's death may be a headache for the commanders, but for Yossarian, it is the stark reality of war. "Mudd was the unknown soldier who never had a chance, for that was the only thing anyone ever did know about all the unknown soldiers-they never had a chance. They had to be dead" (118). Mudd is like so many other men who have been sent up and destroyed by an Air Force that treats men as completely dispensable and throws away their lives.