Prof. Fred Schneider ’75, computer science, donated a first edition copy of Catch-22, along with his father’s collection of papers, letters and photographs from World War II in honor of Veteran’s Day and the 50th anniversary of Catch-22’s publishing.
Schneider’s father served in the same unit as Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, during World War II. Though Catch-22 is a work of fiction, the novel is based on many real life events and characters, as evidenced by the archives of papers and photographs of Schneider’s father, Sidney Schneider.
While Heller and Sidney Schneider were both stationed in North Africa during the war, Prof. Schneider said, Sidney Schneider only knew Heller vaguely.
When Sidney Schneider first read Catch-22 after it was published, he recognized many of the stories, according to Prof. Schneider.
“He read the book and he said, ‘Oh my God, these are things that really happened,”’ Prof. Schneider said.
Prof. Schneider said he also recognized in Catch-22 stories that his father recounted to him when he was a child.
“People saw the book as having hidden meaning, but this is really what happened,” Prof. Schneider said. “Major Major really existed.”
According to Prof. Schneider, one of Sidney Schneider’s duties during the war was to take pictures of bombed areas to assess the explosives’ accuracy.
Along with bomb assessment, Sidney Schneider photographed daily life in the bomb squadron unit he worked in, Prof. Schneider said. Some of these photos included Heller.
“That box of photographs stayed in the basement until we donated it,” Prof. Schneider said.
In addition to the photos, Schneider is donating the letters that his father sent home during the war, which chronicle many of the events that are written about in Catch-22.
“They contain the trials and tribulations of being in the war,” Prof. Schneider said. “I thought about trying to reconstruct a parallel version of Catch-22.”
Sidney Schneider settled in Long Island City after the war. He died in 2006, at age 86.
Original Author: Erica Augenstein