During World War II, he served in the U.S. Air Force as a bombardier in Italy and France and flew sixty missions. His experiences and memories during this war became the basis for his first novel, Catch-22. He was then discharged from the Air Force in 1945, married Shirley Held, and then pursued English at New York University. Afterwards, Heller earned is M.A. at Columbia University in 1949 and for the next two years he studied at the University of Oxford as a Fulbright Scholar. In 1950, he became a professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. He later went on to work as advertising copywriter for Time magazine (1952-1956) and Look (1956-1958) as well as a promotion manager for McCall's (1958-1961).
When his novel was first published, it was not an immediate success. Many various magazines, including The Atlantic and The New Yorker, dismissed the