It alerts the audience to the play’s artificiality. This work, as seen in Catch 22, exposes what Heller perceives as the illogic and moral bankruptcy of the United States military. Many critics have interpreted We Bombed in New Haven as a protest against America’s participation in the Vietnam War. We Bombed in New Haven is less directly autobiographical than Heller’s other writings, even though its essential convictions were formed by his military service.
It is very stubbornly antiwar, it is more inflexible than Catch-22. The play concerns a group of actors who believe they are playing a group of airmen in an unspecified modern war. The play alternates between them as their characters, talking about bombing missions, and as actors, complaining about their casting. The play starts off in the Major’s briefing room. The Major is planning and preparing for an attack on Constantinople, a region that no longer exists, even in the book.
However, the mission still takes place. Once the pilots return back to the base, we learn that Sinclair, one of the pilots, was killed in action. Soon after, the Major plans another mission to Bomb Minnesota. Sergeant Henderson, who has read in the script that he is the next to die, attempts to uncover the truth of Sinclair’s disappearance, which creates a stir among the other actors. However, he is shot onstage for refusing to participate in the mission. The Major then tells Captain Starkey to find a replacement.
He is given a list of 300 names, and calls for the first one. A 19 year old boy walks in to the room. It turns out to be Starkey’s son. Starkey tells him to run out the back door to escape because he knows that the replacement is going to die in the mission. When he calls the next name, his son once again appears in the room before him. His son was caught by the guards and forced to come back in. The major walks into the room and we learn that all 300 names belong to his son.
With the Major standing next to him, Captain Starkey is forced to enlist his own son for certain death. The major and the boy leave to prepare for the mission, and Starkey turns to the audience. He states, “Now, none of this, of course, is really happening. It’s a show, a play in a theater, and I’m not really a captain. I’m an actor. There has never been a war. There will never be a war. Nobody has been killed here tonight. It’s only … make-believe … it’s a story … a show. Nobody has ever been killed. “