The chaplain deeply grieves the death of Nately, with whom he had become friends. When the planes arrive back from the mission, the chaplain goes to see who has returned—he finds Yossarian and is relieved, but he realizes that Nately has been killed, and nearly goes into shock.
Yossarian and the chaplain have become fond of Nately, whom they consider an honest young man constantly put upon by his commanding officers. Nately’s death seems unnecessary, shocking, and cruel.
At this moment, members of the CID find the chaplain and whisk him away to a secret location, urged on by Black and Whitcomb, who have never liked the chaplain and who believe him guilty of something.
Both Black and Whitcomb have been waiting for this moment for a long time. They have always had something against the chaplain, mostly because they find his religious beliefs strange.
The CID officers escorting the chaplain claim that, although they don’t know what the chaplain did, he must have done something really serious to warrant this treatment. The chaplain is taken to a damp cellar near squadron headquarters to be interrogated.
“Guilty before proven innocent.” The chaplain’s arrest is enough to convince the CID men that the chaplain is guilty—of whatever crimes, since he has not been formally charged.
There he is asked to provide a handwriting sample, but the CID officers claim this sample isn’t the chaplain’s handwriting, even though he has written it in front of them. They argue that the chaplain has been forging the name “Washington Irving” on censored letters, and they bring out a series of torture devices to threaten him. They also express dismay that he is an Anabaptist minister (a suspicious religion, they argue). And they reprimand him for having stolen a plum tomato from Cathcart.
Another instance of the absurdity of this military “trial.” Although the chaplain has written in his own hand before the CID men, they claim it is not his handwriting. This brings up the question of what one’s genuine handwriting actually is—but certainly a writing sample produced spontaneously would seem good enough proof of one’s “natural” penmanship.
The chaplain denies all these charges as completely ridiculous. They claim that they want to “beat his brains out,” and argue that the chaplain doesn’t believe in God, because he once told Cathcart that atheism is not illegal. After all this, however, they let the chaplain free, promising they will punish him severely in the near future for these crimes—which of course he did not commit.
The CID men realize they can wield more power over the chaplain by threatening him with torture and death than by actually torturing and killing him. They let him go with a promise to keep an eye on him—a promise that they seem perfectly capable of following through on.
The chaplain runs into Korn outside the cellar, once he is released. He tells Korn he is horrified by the deaths he learned of that day, and Korn replies that yes, they are terrible, especially since they will be difficult to write up and make appear less damaging to the military leadership. The chaplain is stunned by Korn’s heartlessness.
Korn only cares for the administrative hassle caused by the death of Nately, Dobbs, and others. The only person with whom Korn is close, Cathcart, is also the target of most of Korn’s sabotage. For Korn, life in the military is a form of war against one’s own allies—one’s fellow soldiers.
The chaplain finally gathers the courage to advocate on behalf of Yossarian, telling Korn that he will take the issue of the men’s number of missions all the way to General Dreedle if necessary. Korn retorts, smugly, that Peckem is now in charge of things—he has outmaneuvered Dreedle, finally, and placed his command atop Dreedle’s. The chaplain is shocked by this news.
It is not exactly clear what Peckem has done to defeat Dreedle, but his victory will be short-lived, as the next chapter indicates. Korn wishes only to align himself with the victor—he cares little who actually triumphs, Dreedle or Peckem.