Major de Coverley, believing that the US Army has already captured Bologna, flies there to arrange accommodations for officers wanting rest leave. This is one of the Major’s great skills; the other is playing horseshoes. He is a quiet, lion-maned man who inspires awe in his fellow men.
The apartment that de Coverley finds for the soldiers in Rome becomes the “home-base” for their rest leaves. It is initially more or less a party house, filled with women and drunk, off-duty men.
Major de Coverley did his “finest work” renting apartments in Rome, where he secured a whole floor of a building underneath a beautiful woman and her stepdaughter, about whom Yossarian fantasizes. Yossarian and the other officers sleep with many women in Rome, including a maid in lime-green panties.
Yossarian views Rome as a place where anything is possible, and where most of his wishes can be gratified. Since Rome was taken by the Allies, it began to feel like a place outside the war—a place where soldiers could pretend they were no longer fighting the enemy.
Major de Coverley has only been wounded once, in a parade through Rome after the Allies seized the city. He was hit in the eye with a by a flower and nearly blinded. Major de Coverley later meets with Milo, the mess officer, and encourages him in his black-market business, saying he enjoys fresh eggs and fresh butter.
It is ironic, of course, that de Coverley is injured in what was supposed to be a peaceful celebration of the Americans’ entry into Rome. That a flower caused the injury only deepens its irony.
Milo’s business begins picking up—he flies to Malta and buys eggs for seven cents, to sell them in Pianosa for five cents—although somehow he makes a profit from this. Cathcart wishes to promote Milo to thank him for his efforts as mess officer. Korn, his assistant, reminds Cathcart of the time they promoted Yossarian to Captain.
Cathcart appears to promote his soldiers only when it suits him personally. In Milo’s case, Cathcart seeks to give a promotion because he enjoys the food Milo brings into Pianosa—high-quality food from across the Mediterranean.
Yossarian was promoted after the mission in Ferrara, where Yossarian flew back, after missing a bridge the first time, and blew it up the second time. This action, which exposed his men to enemy fire, resulted in the death of a young soldier named Kraft. In order to cover their tracks, and make it appear that nothing went wrong, Cathcart and Korn decided to promote rather than reprimand Yossarian. Yossarian was surprised but accepted his new position.
A shade of a catch-22 here. Yossarian did something the military didn’t like—but rather than acknowledge Yossarian’s mistake, and admit that Kraft died needlessly, the military decides to brand Yossarian as a hero so that everyone could look good. Again, Cathcart and Korn mostly serve and advance their own interests.