Dunbar ends up dropping his bombs many yards away from the village, as does Yossarian. Dunbar has become especially bitter following Orr’s disappearance; Yossarian believes that the stresses of war are getting to Dunbar.
An act of passive resistance on Dunbar’s part. This begins a pattern of insubordination that will later get him “disappeared” by military police.
Yossarian reflects that it is best to fly with McWatt, who is a carefree pilot but also quite skilled in evasive action. Yossarian remembers a mission where he threatened to kill McWatt with a knife if McWatt wouldn’t straighten out the plane and fly safely. Back on land, McWatt seems surprised that Yossarian was made so nervous by his daredevil tactics in the sky. McWatt acknowledges to Yossarian that he is simply not smart enough to be afraid while flying.
In this vignette, McWatt takes his daredevil tactics to a new level. McWatt appears genuinely to love flying, and he gets some kind of rush from daredevil flying. Yossarian, however, cannot stand these brushes with mortality—and, ironically enough, he is willing to kill in order to avoid them.
Yossarian has begun dating Nurse Duckett, with whom he lies on the beaches of Pianosa. Nurse Cramer accompanies them and sits off, in the distance, making sure that her friend behaves “like a lady.” Cramer hates Yossarian, and Yossarian is annoyed by Cramer’s presence.
Like his brief night with Luciana, Yossarian’s relationship with Nurse Duckett is a small oasis of civilian life in a world surrounded by combat. Yossarian appears truly, if briefly, happy with Duckett.
Duckett and Yossarian sneak off at night to make love on the beaches, away from Cramer. One day, back on the beach, Yossarian is lying with Duckett and others, looking out at the water, wondering if Orr and Clevinger will return. McWatt appears on the horizon, flying his plane extremely low, hoping to “buzz” and (harmlessly) scare the bathers on the beach.
The scene, described in great detail as if to emphasize the leisure of the soldiers on this particular afternoon, only increases the shock of what follows. Heller here is playing with the reader’s expectations, lulling the reader into a false sense of security before unleashing more of the horrors of combat.
But McWatt doesn’t see Kid Sampson standing on a raft out on the water. McWatt flies so low that one of his propellers cuts Sampson in half, gruesomely, killing him instantly and sparking an intense wave of fear and revulsion on the beach. The soldiers scatter in all directions.
One of the novel’s more striking scenes, in terms of gore (certainly) and emotional shock. The soldiers’ responses to this carnage are particularly convincing—the violence of war is all the more shocking when it takes place unexpectedly.
McWatt lets the others in his plane parachute out, although he has also placed Doc Daneeka on his flight logs, so the officers assume Daneeka is in the plane (even though he’s on the ground asserting, in fact, that he is on the ground). McWatt ducks his wings in salute to the officers on the ground, then flies his plane directly into a mountain, unable to face what he had just done in killing Sampson.
McWatt demonstrates a kind of moral code here, particular to himself. He simply can't live with himself after what he has done, even if it is an accident, so he takes his punishment into his own hands. McWatt’s final salute to the other soldiers is a poignant farewell, and one of the novel’s most emotionally jarring moments. After this moment, the tone of the novel shifts subtly. It remains comic, but loss and death become inescapable, just as the idyllic instant on the beach was shattered by McWatt's accidental killing of Kid Sampson.