Catch 22

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Catch 22 : Phrases


no win situation - one where, whatever happens, there will almost certainly be a bad outcome.



Catch 22 was the title of the 1955 novel by Joseph Heller set on a USA AF WWII base. The aircrew are on the edge of breakdown; they must be mad to go on another mission, but the fact that they realise that they must be mad means that they must be sane at the same time. They have to continue flying. Truly a
no win situation.

Why call it Catch 22? During WWII daylight missions flown by the USA AF over Germany, many of the aircraft were shot down. Others were damaged but managed to get back to England. A very few were so damaged that, although they could still fly, they couldn't make it back to base. Such aircraft were allowed by U.S. military law to divert to neutral countries like Sweden and Switzerland. Once there, the crews were interned but they were out of the war. This near-death scenario of gross but not fatal damage was covered by USA AF general directive number 22. Hence, if you could fall into, or catch, the tiny area of severe but not disastrous damage, all would be well. However the likelihood was that you wouldn't and you'd be either shot down and possibly killed, or back in the war.

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