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With 14 Emmy Awards and an audience of over 100 million viewers, the TV show M*A*S*H helped the nation come to grips with the harsh and occasionally hilarious realities of war. Mobile Army Surgical Hospital 4077 was fictional, but the wisecracking main character Hawkeye Pierce was based on a real person: H. Richard Hornberger. But though the former U.S. Army Surgeon penned the book that led to the series—and was as heroic and humorous as Hawkeye himself—he came to hate TV’s take on his own creation.
Hornberger barely profited from the show—he only got $500 per episode, and sold the rights to the franchise for pennies. But his bitterness was more than financial. As the show’s reputation for its commentary on war grew, he distanced himself more and more from the series, and the character he modeled on his own wartime heroism and humor.
Hornberger’s books may have been whimsical, but his real-life war experiences were dead serious. Born in New Jersey in 1924, he struggled in his pre-med program and nearly didn’t get into med school until, according to biographer Dale Sherman, a chemistry teacher recommended him as “peculiar, but worth taking a chance on” to Cornell Medical School. Hornberger might have gone on to a normal career as a thoracic surgeon if not for the Korean War, which began in June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea.
A month later, the United States sent its first troops into South Korea as part of a battle against international communism. The war soon turned into a tense stalemate as truce talks between North and South failed again and again. Meanwhile, the United States began drafting soldiers—and doctors. That included just-graduated medical students and interns like Hornberger, who was drafted in 1951.
Hornberger soon found himself in Mobile Army Surgical Hospital 8055. The tent-based surgical hospital was one of seven fully functional, tent-based hospitals that operated at various points during the Korean War. The 8055 was located on the 38th parallel, which divides the Korean Peninsula and today serves as the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
The MASH concept was simple: The hospitals were located close enough to the front lines to serve wounded soldiers, but far enough away that they weren’t in danger of bombs or direct combat. Life in a MASH unit was grueling: Aside from the constant stress of warfare and long hours in surgery, the units usually picked up and moved at least once a month.
In Korea, Hornberger pioneered a kind of surgery that was prohibited during the war. “Hornberger possessed the courage and audacity to attempt arterial repair when it was forbidden, and by one account, he may have been the first,” writes Steven G. Friedman, a vascular surgeon who recently published an account of Hornberger’s daring surgical attempt.
At the time, it was against U.S. Army regulations for surgeons to do anything but close off a blood vessel in the case of an injury to the vascular system, or blood vessels. But the realities of war wounds made this intolerable to Hornberger and other surgeons who found themselves banned from repairing damaged arteries. In 1951, Hornberger’s colleagues tell Friedman, surgeons at the MASH unit decided that their Hippocratic oath to do no harm was more important than Army regulations and began to repair arteries despite the rules.
It is thought that Hornberger was the first to flout those rules—and scenes in his bestselling book back up the theory. When word got to other MASH units, doctors started doing arterial repairs there, too, and after the Korean War ended in 1953, doctors who dared to do the surgery helped further medical knowledge about how to repair human arteries and other blood vessels.
As for Hornberger, who went on to work in at the VA and in private practice, he dealt with the trauma he experienced during the Korean War by writing about it.
It took 12 years to write MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, and another five years being rejected by publishers before the book was finally published under the pseudonym Richard Hooker in 1968. It was the perfect moment for a novel about war: the Vietnam War was looking more and more intractable and Americans longed for a lighter take on war.
The book was adapted to a hit movie and then a TV show that helped capture life in the unit. Like the books he wrote, it included a strong-willed head nurse, a Korean teenager whom the doctors sent to the United States for college on their own dime, and a doctor who dressed in drag at least once. And it helped capture the sarcasm and heart of Hornberger himself through Hawkeye Pierce, whose sarcasm and heart helped his friends and patients sustain operating conditions that were primitive and, often, nearly hopeless.
Though the show was ostensibly about the Korean War, it captured both the nation and Alan Alda’s disillusionment with the stalemate and human cost of the Vietnam War, largely through the cranky character of Hawkeye Pierce. The show helped the public deal with the emotional toll of Vietnam, and illustrated the harsh conditions of both conflicts for future generations. Eventually, viewers came to see the show as a kind of allegory for the Vietnam War.
Hornberger couldn’t have disagreed more. He hated the anti-war sentiments ascribed to him by the public. In 1983 he told a reporter for Newsweek that while the show was accurate in its physical portrayal of a MASH unit, it “tramples on my memories.” And his son, William Hornberger, told the New York Times that his father hadn’t intended to write an anti-war book. “My father was a political conservative, and he did not like the liberal tendencies that Alan Alda portrayed Hawkeye Pierce as having,” he explained.
Today Hornberger’s book and television show define what many Americans know about both the Korean and Vietnam Wars—even though few know about the heroics its creator performed behind the scenes.
The Real-Life Hawkeye Was Not Impressed With ‘M*A*S*H’
For instance, M*A*S*H the series was based on a movie. The film was based on some real-life people and experiences written in the book by Hornberger. He wrote novels about his war-time experiences under the name Richard Hooker.
‘M*A*S*H’ Finale, 35 Years Later: Untold Stories of One of TV’s Most Important Shows
Thirty-five years after ending its 11-season run, the cast and creators behind the CBS military comedy look back on one of the most beloved shows in TV history.
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Feb. 28, 1983, represents a watershed moment in the history of American pop culture. On that night, the nation seemingly shut down to watch the final episode of CBS’ groundbreaking military comedy M*A*S*H. The series would wrap its 11-season run with a two-hour finale that would unite 106 million in front of their TV screens with the same purpose: to say goodbye to what had become a family of overfatigued doctors and nurses.
When the series launched in September 1972, CBS executives thought they had greenlighted a comedy. Series creators Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart instead gave the network seriocomic vignettes of universal truths about the human condition. “We helped break the boundaries of the boss coming to dinner and burning the roast,” series star Alan Alda (aka Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce) tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Viewers laughed at the characters’ antics in Rosie’s bar or The Swamp with Hawkeye, nestled in his purple robe, the color of royalty. They mourned losses in the operating room, sensed how tightly Radar (Gary Burghoff ) clung to his teddy bear at night, and felt Maxwell Klinger’s (Jamie Farr) pride in his Statue of Liberty outfit and B.J. Hunnicutt’s (Mike Farrell) broken heart as he missed his daughter’s childhood. Remember Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan’s (Loretta Swit ) shaky first attempt at a joke or when her walled emotions leaked out? Millions saw the fatigue of meatball surgery and exasperation knowing the soldiers they healed would soon return with new wounds or in body bags.
Everyone wanted a part of M*A*S*H. Stars flocked to the set. Prince Charles flirted with the nurses over lunch at the commissary. The Harlem Globetrotters dropped by. You’d be as likely to see Jane Fonda as you would Henry Kissinger waiting in the wings. Years later, Barack Obama would claim to have learned many value lessons from the show.
So, what was M*A*S*H‘s secret? The dramedy about the trials and tribulations of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the Korean War was really a love story. In building the landmark series, its cast and crew forged a bond of love and respect that lives to this day: a love for truth in storytelling, a love for the audience they were entertaining and a love for each other.
Someone once asked Harry Morgan (who played Col. Sherman Potter from seasons four through 11 and who died in 2011) if working on M*A*S*H had made him a better actor. He responded that it had made him a better person.
In honor of the 35th anniversary of the series finale, THR looks back at the history M*A*S*H &mdash as told by those who built it.
Robert Altman’s feature filmM*A*S*H became a surprise hit in 1970, motivating CBS to adapt it for the small screen. Whereas the movie was rated R, the network believed it could create a more family-friendly version of war.
Reynolds (co-creator, producer, director): You’re lucky to fall into a subject like M*A*S*H and the complications of war. The danger I saw was suggesting war is all fun and games. We wanted to be sensitive to the horrors of combat and the valor of the doctors, nurses and servicemen.
Alda : We wanted to reflect the lives of those people who lived through an experience that would rattle anybody. There never was a situation like that on television before.
Swit : We weren’t a commercial for the [Vietnam War]. We were dealing with serious issues with people working in insane situations.
Reynolds hired his longtime friend Gelbart to write the pilot. Gelbart was a highly respected writer for television, films and Broadway. At the time, he was living in England, writing for the BBC. His work onM*A*S*H would lead the cast and crew to label him a “genius.”
Reynolds: I spent a week with Larry in London. We’d take walks in the park for hours laying out the story, scene by scene. When we were done, I came back to L.A. and waited. Finally, after a few weeks, I called and said, “When can I look for the script?” He said, “It’s in the mail.” Then he sat down to write it.
Ken Levine (writer): Larry was the Mozart of comedy writers. It just came out of his head right onto the screen, as if he were dictating it to himself. Amazing.
Elias Davis (writer): From the beginning, he made the conscious decision to place serious and comedic stories side by side.
Alda : He used many different styles &mdash drama, comedy, burlesque, satire &mdash often in the same show. That gave us a surprising combination, which made it interesting to me.
Dan Wilcox (writer, producer): Larry and Gene refused to be slaves to making audiences laugh at regular intervals. They believed you could come to moments that were the meat of what war was about. It’s the only comedy I ever worked on that made me cry.
Farrell: Before I got on the show, a TV producer asked me to star in his sitcom. I read the script. It was full of the usual stupid jokes for jokes’ sake. I said thanks but no thanks. And he said. “You’re turning down a lead in a TV series? Why?” I didn’t want to tell him his script was stupid, so, I said, “Well, it’s not M*A*S*H.”
M*A*S*H premiered Sept. 17, 1972. The show struggled at first opposite ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney. Nevertheless, Reynolds and Gelbart raged against network ideas to lighten their portrayal of war, such as never losing patients, minimizing blood and using laugh tracks outside the operating room.
Reynolds: Before we ever shot anything, someone told me, “You can’t go into the operating room. When I saw the movie, four women in front of me walked out.” And I said, “Yes, but millions of them stayed.”
Dennis Koenig (writer): Gene and Larry were at a point in their careers that they were going to do things their way or not do it. Larry told me they were always packing their bags, ready to leave. They believed, What’s the point of doing the show if it’s going to be like every other one?
Burt Metcalfe (executive producer, director, writer): A seminal episode in the first season was “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet” (above) in which a war correspondent and old friend of Hawkeye’s comes to the 4077th, goes off to the front, and then returns and dies on Hawkeye’s operating table. Larry wrote this beautiful aria for Col. Blake to console Hawkeye with: “Look, all I know is what they taught me at command school. There are certain rules about a war and rule No. 1 is young men die. And rule No. 2 is doctors can’t change rule No. 1.”
Wilcox: They made you care about this guy so that not just Hawkeye lost him, but the audience did, too. That may have been the first patient we lost. Alan told me it’s his favorite episode and it’s mine, too.
Metcalfe: At the end of that season, this jerky CBS executive comes into our offices and says, “Let me tell you guys how you ruined M*A*S*H,” and cites that episode. It’s just so far from the truth.
M*A*S*H introduced dramedy to television, but not many people took notice. It was a bubble show that almost didn’t get renewed for a second season.
Alda: I used to joke that we were in the top 78 [shows on television]. It didn’t bother us, though, because we were too busy doing what we did.
Barbara Christopher (widow of Bill Christopher, who played Father Francis Mulcahy): At the end of the first season, Bill and I went to the closing-night party, but had to leave early. Alan walked us to the door and said to Bill, “It’s been such a wonderful year. What if I never see you again?”
Farr: Babe Paley [the then-wife of CBS founder William S. Paley] supposedly saved us by telling her husband that M*A*S*H could be the crown jewel for the network. By the end of the third season, Larry came up to me and said, “You know what, I think we’re the next I Love Lucy.”
Reynolds knew Alda from his theater work in New York. He never asked him to test for the role because he truly believed he had found Hawkeye.
Reynolds: He was attractive, a leading man and wonderfully comedic actor who could play the sober moments. There’s not a lot of guys like that floating around.
Alda: I was making a movie in the Utah state prison. M*A*S*H was by far the best script I’d ever read in prison. I said to my wife, Arlene, “I can’t do it because it’s going to be made in California and we live in New Jersey. Who knows, this thing could run a whole year.”
Reassured of the show’s intentions, Alda signed on as Hawkeye. Gelbart envisioned the role as an endearing jokester who uses humor to combat the insanity of war. Alda’s take on him rounded him out even more.
Swit: Alan’s approach to Hawkeye was a large child looking for companionship, a hug and a squeeze. His flirting was all talk and never predatory.
Reynolds: He voiced early on that we shouldn’t be like “billy goats,” where the women are always at the doctor’s disposal. Guys could be fresh, but you’d never see them sexually using their authority.
Walter Dishell (medical consultant): He wanted to know how you feel when you tell someone they’re going to take their leg off or die. He cared about how Hawkeye would act in these situations. “If I can’t stop the bleeding, what’s going through my head?”
Wilcox: Alan was brilliant at finding a way to play a scene so that he wasn’t directly in it. If he had an exposition in the mess tent, he spent the whole time studying his food. He’d pick up a fork, sniff at it and put it back down, meanwhile participating in the conversation.
Burghoff: I never worked with anyone so completely dedicated to a project. His creative energy was endless.
Jeff Maxwell (Igor Stravinsky): I remember his doing the “River of Liver” speech (above). I never expected him to dance on the table. I asked him afterward if he planned that and he said he hadn’t. No one else could do that.
Other actors came from television, movies and theater. Metcalfe, who would ultimately become the showrunner after Reynolds and Gelbart exited, found performers who had previously left an impression on him. Swit and Farrell came from episodic TV, Larry Linville from a play at the Mark Taper Forum.David Ogden Stiers guest-starred on Mary Tyler Moore and Morgan appeared on M*A*S*H as a whacked-out general. Other actors came from different channels. CBS recommended McLean (Mac) Stevenson. Burghoff impressed legendary film director Otto Preminger with his Broadway performance as Charlie Brown, leading Preminger’s brother to cast him in M*A*S*H. Others followed a more circuitous path.
Metcalfe: We made the pilot with a different Father Mulcahy. He was the only performer Larry wanted to change. Bill was my great white hope. He blew the audition, though. Larry wrote in a specific rhythm and if you don’t adhere to it, you destroy the humor. I managed to get him another audition.
Christopher: Larry said he wanted someone with natural idiosyncrasies.That was Bill. An interviewer told me once that Bill “is a man who likes to take an idea, and surround it with words until it surrenders.”
Farr: Klinger was a one-shot deal that came from Larry reading about Lenny Bruce in the Coast Guard. They said, “Dress for the day.” Bruce thought it’d be funny if he showed up at morning reveille wearing a dress.
Metcalfe: Wayne Rogers was one of six candidates we tested. He was by far the most colorful and won hands down. Interestingly, they’d all tested as Trapper or Hawkeye because Alan hadn’t officially signed yet. Once he agreed, we put Wayne into the Trapper role. The two of them had a wonderful chemistry together.
Farr: Gene took me to a trailer that had a women’s Army Corps uniform hanging with these high heels. I thought I was dressing with an actress. He said, “No, those are yours.” I thought to myself, “What kind of character is this?” He takes me in my high heels and hairy bow legs to stage 9. Everyone’s laughing. They gave me a couple of lines and Gene leaves. The director then tells me to play Klinger “gay.” I was out of work and $250 paid my rent. So, I did my lines. My agent calls the next day and says Gene doesn’t want to do the part the way the director designated it. I came back and played it straight.
A group of performers built an ensemble and then a community. They got together on weekends, charted a bus to attend the Emmys together, celebrated weddings and mourned at funerals.
Farrell: When I found out I got the part, my agent told me Alan wanted to have dinner with me. I said, “Oh, shit, yes.” I met him at a Chinese restaurant where we talked for hours. He was full of interest in me, wanting me to know his love for the show, his intentions and concerns. It was one of the more extraordinary moments in my wonderful career. I thought I’d fallen into paradise.
Swit: The first day we met, I can still visualize the room. I see where everyone was sitting. It was an important moment in my life. Everyone’s attitude was so fresh, positive and energetic about the project. We were all on the same page about what we were going to say.
Alda: Most of the time actors disperse and go to their dressing rooms between shots. We sat around in a circle of chairs making fun of one another, having fun. Laughing. I’ve taken that with me whenever I do a play. For me, it’s the best preparation for performing on stage because you’re already relating to each other, listening and responding.
Kellye Nakahara (Nurse Kellye): Alan and Mike would play chess all day long. We’d exchange books. I brought my mother from Hawaii to visit the set. Larry took her to lunch at the commissary. That’s all she could talk about for the rest of her life.
Farrell: Bill would read Homer, in ancient Greek, laughing, “Ho, ho, ho.” Loretta would be jabbering with us while doing needlepoint.
Swit: [Linville] was a riot. We’d go off on our own and rehearse a scene to find things we liked with each other and then go to the director. Ten times out of 10 the directors were thrilled.
Alda: If somebody had a very touching, dramatic close-up, as soon as someone yelled “cut,” there’d be a snowstorm of gauzes or we’d stand behind them, hanging clamps on them.
GOING BEYOND THE WRITERS ROOM
The writers worked in a building originally built as a schoolhouse for Shirley Temple. To accurately portray the subject matter, Reynolds, Gelbart and Metcalfe interviewed Korean War surgeons who had served in MASH units.
Metcalfe: You can have the greatest writers in the world, like we did, and never come up with some of the rich ideas we put on film.
Alda: We’d pore over those transcripts and look for a sentence or a fragment of an idea that we could build a story around.
Dishell: We drove out to the L.A. suburbs to see this guy who’d filmed his MASH unit. He said he’d never shown it to anybody because it was such a terrible time in his life. That’s where the look of The Swamp and the city signposts and other things came from.
Reynolds: We’d have guys who were over there for two years and said they had to get out because they couldn’t go through seeing guys dying all the time. I’ll never forget that line: “Guys dying all the time.” It was brutal.
David Pollock (writer): This surgeon, trying to remember when he’d done an operation, said it was the same day they got a shipment of eggs. We ended up doing a story about the 4077 receiving a shipment of eggs, which no one had eaten for months.
Wilcox: A surgeon from the 8076, Maurice Connolly, told us about a North Korean soldier brought in for surgery. He takes a hand grenade out and pulls the pin. A doctor grabs the handle and holds it in place so the spark can’t light the fuse. Everyone not doing surgery in the OR got down on their hands and knees until they found the pin and put it back in. We used that.
Alda: The interesting thing was after the second year, Larry and Gene went to Korea to visit a MASH unit. They found out that some of the stories we’d made up had really happened. We were that tuned in to what their experiences were.
In addition to the transcripts, writers went searching elsewhere for ideas.
Farr: Larry’s father, Harry, was a barber in Beverly Hills to big comedians like Milton Berle and Jack Benny. One of his customers was Danny Thomas, who was American Lebanese. Harry tells Danny his son wants to be a writer. Danny ends up buying this high school kid’s material. Larry never forgot that. Klinger became Lebanese because of Danny Thomas.
David Isaacs (writer): Ken and I wrote an episode, season seven’s “Point of View.” We watched a ton of POV movies like Lady in the Lake, where the camera was the eyes of the protagonist. We found it looked dull when the camera was talking. Someone came up with the idea that the soldier had taken shrapnel to his neck and couldn’t talk. That was perfect. Only M*A*S*H could do that.
Elias: Dave and I won a Humanitas Award for an episode about a soldier accompanying his wounded buddy to the 4077. In offering his blood to help save his friend’s life, he discovers he has leukemia. It was based on a real story of a manager tagging along with a big star for an ophthalmologist appointment. While there, the ophthalmologist asked the manager if he wanted his eyes checked, too. The manager agreed and the ophthalmologist discovered he had cancer.
Wilcox: We were working on ideas with Alan and he says, “Sometimes people can get a story out of something an actor’s good at. For example, I’m very good at sneezing.” The next day we were in the office saying, “Hawkeye sneezes a lot, what are we going to do?”
Alda: I was always thinking in terms of writing. I gave Larry a few scenes that I thought might work. He didn’t think the story was right, but encouraged me. My first script borrowed the idea from the play La Ronde, circling around, using a pair of long johns that went from one person to another.
Farrell: I came up with an idea once and asked Burt what he thought of it. He said, “That’s great, why don’t you write it?” I thought, “Oh, shit. OK, let me take a shot at it.” That was the way they operated. They encouraged without dragooning anybody.
The show had numerous battles with standards and practices.
Alda: I wrote an episode where Margaret sees a jockstrap on the table and starts going nuts. “How dare you parade that thing before me?” Standards and practices said we couldn’t show a jockstrap. I got really angry because we’d had countless episodes where we showed brassieres and women’s panties. Hawkeye had walked through a clothesline and had them slapping him in the face. Is there something holy about the male genitalia? They never gave a reason why. They just stuck to it.
Levine: Every week we got the same note, “Cut the casual profanity in half.” If we wanted eight hells and damns we’d put 16 into the script. We tried to slip one by when we had Radar say to a visiting general, “Your tent is ready your VIP-ness.” We got caught.
Wilcox: We did an episode in which Hawkeye yells, “You bastard!” at a South Korean officer who is taking a North Korean female guerrilla away for questioning and probable torture. The censor said we couldn’t say “bastard,” but we could say “son of a bitch.” We weren’t thrilled, but it was still strong language. The next year, we had a similar moment and the same thing happens. In the final season, we went directly to “son of a bitch” and the censor comes back and says, “That’s strong language, would you mind if you say ‘bastard’?”
The actors gained ownership by participating in table reads and contributing ideas.
Farrell: Gene would take us through the script, page by page, to see if anyone had any questions or suggestions. I thought, these people want to hear from the actors about the script? Oh, my God, I’m in heaven.
Swit: I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Margaret and Frank. She was a bright, ambitious and talented nurse. She couldn’t continue to justify the relationship with the lipless wonder. So, I suggested sending her to Japan for some R&R and letting her fall in love with someone in the military she could be proud of. I said, “Can you imagine Frank’s reaction? He’d probably tear off the doors to the mess tent.” That’s exactly what he did. He also stabbed me with a scalpel in the OR.
Burghoff: Larry and I worked out how to make Radar innocent in contrast to the sophisticated doctors. That innocence became a special kind of sounding board for the insanity and horror of war.
Farr: They had Klinger falling asleep on guard duty and I didn’t like that. I said Klinger does all kinds of crazy things, but he wouldn’t jeopardize somebody’s life. They agreed with me.
Pollock: This surgeon told us a story about a field commander with a high casualty rate visiting their MASH unit. The doctors put a Mickey in his food, told him he had appendicitis and then operated on him to keep him from the front. Mike had a problem with doing that.
Farrell: I said B.J. wouldn’t cut into the healthy body of someone. It’s against the Hippocratic oath. We debated over it a long time.
Metcalfe: Mike expressed some very good points. We decided B.J. should express everything Mike’s saying. Hawkeye ended up doing the operation alone.
Isaacs: Ken and I rewrote it with Alan. We ended the show with Radar telling them there are choppers with more wounded on their way in. In other words, Hawkeye accomplished nothing.
THE BIG EPISODES
Over the course of 11 seasons,M*A*S*H consistently touched the full spectrum of human emotions. A few shows in particular stand out with cast members for what they represent, the envelopes they pushed and the emotions that surfaced from cast and audience. At the end of season four, CBS asked for a last-minute additional episode.Reynolds and Gelbart came up with “The Interview,” a black-and-white episode in which a real news reporter, Clete Roberts, interviews the members of the 4077.
Reynolds: There was an old Ed Murrow CBS documentary called “See It Now,” in which he went to Korea and interviewed soldiers fighting in the field. Larry kept reminding me, “We have to do that.” We knew we’d use it at some point.
Burghoff: Larry knew at that point that no one knew the characters better than the actors playing them. It was a supremely divine matter of artistic trust. To my way of thinking, that episode should be in a museum. It’s my favorite. Groundbreaking.
Farrell: I remember thinking how flattering that these geniuses wanted us to contribute our own take on who these people were. It was typical of these wonderful people to try and figure out how to do something unusual, new and exciting. I think it’s the best episode in the series.
Alda: We were given recorders and a list of questions. Larry took the best of that and punched it up with better lines. Then, while the camera was still rolling, Clete asked us questions we hadn’t heard before, forcing us to improvise on the spot. Some of the best stuff came out that way.
Metcalfe: One of mine and Larry’s favorite lines in the entire series came when each character gets asked if the experience has changed them in any way. When it gets to Father Mulcahy, he explains: “When the doctors cut into a patient, and it’s cold, the way it is now today &hellip steam rises from the body &hellip and the doctor will warm his hands over the open wound. How could anybody look upon that and not feel changed?”
Metcalfe: It still gets me today.
Col. Blake gets discharged and plans for his return home. Like many soldiers, he never makes it there, leaving the actors and viewers heartbroken during the season-three finale, “Abyssinia, Henry.”
Burghoff: I was shocked when I learned that [Stevenson, who went by “Mac”] had decided to leave [after three seasons]. He was such a tenderhearted, kind man.
Farr: I heard NBC was trying to sabotage our show. Mac was a guest host on The Tonight Show and they were teasing him with the idea that he could be the replacement for Johnny Carson.
Reynolds: He had people telling him he could be a star. Some of the stuff put forward was quite exaggerated, outrageous promises that people were in no position to fulfill.
Metcalfe: We thought he was making a mistake. The chemistry of a character, a performance &mdash all fellow actors contribute to that success. You can’t just pick up and take that with you.
Swit: A week or two before leaving, Mac said to me, “I know I’ll never be in anything this good again, but I have to leave.” I said, “But Mac, if you know this, then why?” He said, “I want to be No. 1 of six. I’m No. 3.” I said, “Maybe that’s your billing, but you’re not.” We didn’t have numbers M*A*S*H was the star.
Reynolds: Burt, Larry and I talked it over. We all lamented that death on the show was as impersonal as it was on the news. We thought everyone should feel a personal loss. We wanted to say a lot of boys don’t make it home.
What happened next surprised cast members and audiences alike, redefining loss on television.
Metcalfe: We said we have one more scene to shoot. Everyone got a manila envelope with a page inside. Linville [who played Maj. Frank Burns] looked at it and said, “Fucking brilliant.”
Swit:They didn’t want us to suffer through a week of rehearsal. That was gracious. Of course, Mac was as torn apart as we all were. His character dies and he was that character.
Reynolds: I think it sunk in with him when the character died, he couldn’t go back.
Burghoff: I was devastated by the cruel “finality” of it. I took Mac aside and said, “If you don’t want me to do this scene, I won’t.” I was hoping the shock of it would get him to change his mind. “No, you have to do it!” he said. “Don’t you remember the promise we all made to each other?” He was referring to always showing the reality of war whenever possible.
Swit: We all fell apart. Henry was Mac and Mac was Henry. And to hear a telegram saying he’d just been shot down over the Sea of Japan? You could hear the sobs. It just devastated us.
Metcalfe: We got so much mail. Some people thought it was great and others were very upset. “You made my little kid cry!” “You did it as vengeance!” We got a letter from a 15-year-old girl who said she understood our motives. “I feel that I have joined that all too non-inclusive fraternity of those who have lost a dear one overseas.” I thought that was such an incredible observation by someone so young. That was the response we were hoping for.
Burghoff: Gene and Larry made the right call. It greatly added to the integrity of the show.
Wilcox: A few years later, I was on set of a show Mac was on. In between takes I heard him say, “I thought I was going to be the next host of The Tonight Show. And then fucking Carson didn’t retire.” He was really good at hosting, too. But with Carson still there, he got cast adrift.
Col. Potter is given a bottle of brandy as the sole survivor and told to share it in a meaningful way. Every actor deserves their moment in the sun and after his long career in Hollywood, Morgan earned the right to this one.
Koenig: I think Harry loved being on M*A*S*H more than anybody. He’d been a working actor throughout his life and never had what he had with that show. It was great to give him something, that if I romanticize, was a capstone in his career.
Metcalfe: Harry had a wonderful quality, that when he would get emotional as the character, you could see he was doing his best not to cry. That’s a very wise emotional trick for an actor. It’s like the drunk who tries not to swagger or fall.
Koenig: I remember while they were shooting it, Metcalfe, came from the set to the writers room and said, “Harry’s just killing it down there.”
Farr: Harry was our Grandfather. We all knew that when he did that final scene he was talking to us and in a way, saying goodbye.
Swit: Harry was everything to me &mdash my buddy, colleague, fellow actor, confessor, father figure, compadre, teacher. He represented everything in my life. We were just trashed watching him have this experience.
Farrell: I can’t tell you how many takes it took but it was one of the hardest scenes to get through because Harry was so fucking brilliant and it was so obviously meaningful to him.
Alda: I have very vivid memories of the first show I directed, which happened to include a picnic with 80 extras and a lot of stuff happening. It was very exciting for me. I remember skipping down the sidewalk of the airport terminal on my way home that weekend thinking I can do it.
Swit: I had a running gag with Jamie that if I was at rehearsal in my civvies, he’d come over to me, point a finger at my blouse and say, “Wait a minute, is that one of mine?”
Nakahara: Harry would have craft services put chicken guts into the open wounds so when we open the sheets we’d see guts in a wound that was supposed to be Styrofoam.
Farr: To repay Stiers for all his pranks on us, we had his dressing room painted orange and purple over Thanksgiving break. When we came back, we were waiting for him to rant. He said nothing. Finally, one of us asked, “What’s new?”
Farrell: David said, “Oh, I’ve just had my dressing room redecorated. Did you as well?” I responded, “No, how is yours?” He said, “Quite lovely, it’s a fabulous combination of salmon and mauve.” It was his way of letting us know he got it, but no one was going to get him.
Farrell: When Radar goes home, Peg and Erin go down to meet him. Erin sees Radar in uniform and calls him daddy. It so incredibly perfectly captured the heartbreak of being away from your child who was growing up without you. That was as powerful an episode as I was ever given the opportunity to do.
Wilcox: The nakedness of B.J.’s crying at the end. I remember watching it with a woman at Fox [who produced the show] who said she’d never seen a man cry like that on American TV. If you look at the scene, Hawkeye puts his arm around B.J. and holds him tight. At the same time, he’s looking away. He’s trying to give him privacy while comforting him, which made it even more powerful.
Swit: Margaret’s breaking down in “The Nurses” episode. That woman was so lonely and she was trying to do such a good job. And nobody appreciated her. Gene called me the next morning after shooting it and said they’d watched the dailies and my scene was last. When the lights went up everyone was sniffling. He asked the projectionist to run the scene again. The lights go out and they watched it again. The lights go up and everyone’s still crying. He says to everyone, “Is that the best thing you ever saw?”
THE SERIES FINALE
Wilcox: All the writers wanted to take part, so Alan wrote a couple scenes with everyone.
Pollock: Alan had a tape recorder. We’d work on a line and then he’d say it into his machine and have someone transcribe it.
Elias: I remember Metcalfe saying, “We’ve got to get this right. I don’t want to go out a punch-drunk fighter staggering around the ring.”
The major plot points, the ones that leave lasting impressions, came again from real-life situations.
Metcalfe: When I went to Korea, a man told me that during the war, a North Korean patrol was crossing across a bridge. Hiding underneath were 40 or 50 South Koreans trying to escape south to avoid being imprisoned or killed by the invading soldiers. A mother’s baby in the group started to cry, and she smothered it to avoid the group’s detection. It became the focal point of the whole opening of the show with Hawkeye in the psychiatric ward under the care of Dr. Sydney.
Alda: I wanted to send everybody home having been wounded in some way by the war. [The finale] emphasized the seriousness of what Hawkeye had been through.
Wilcox: People were coming to MASH units to surrender because they had food. This included a Korean dance band who played Western instruments. Winchester loving classical music, which gave us the idea to have him meet surrendering musicians and try and teach them Mozart. They’re sent away to a POW camp before he can do a concert. In the last triage, Winchester learns they were all killed in an attack. He can’t listen to his passion ever again.
Swit: When Harry and I have to say goodbye, we could hardly rehearse. I had to look at this man whom I adore and say, “You dear sweet man, I’ll never forget you” without getting emotional and I couldn’t. I can’t now even. It wasn’t words on a page. You knew what you were saying was truth.
Farrell: Metcalfe directed the finale and said he’d never been in a situation where he had to ask actors not to cry so much.
Farr: Klinger remaining in Korea with Rosalind Chao was a fabulous idea, a great twist. The man who went to every outrageous extreme to leave Korea and the U.S. Army was the only one to remain. Wow.
Pollock: The CBS correspondent who broadcast the final peace announcement from Panmunjom was Robert Pierpoint, who was still working at the network. I asked him if he had saved the tapes. He said when you’re running from foxhole to foxhole you can’t be juggling reel-to-reel tape. He thought, however, they shortwaved his reports directly back and said he would look. A few weeks later, we get the tapes. It turns out we can’t use them due to the quality. So, we transcribed it and Robert agreed to do them over.
Metcalfe: In camp, as a kid, we used stones to write out something. So, we used the white rocks from the pathway for B.J. to write goodbye, which of course Hawkeye sees when he gets into the helicopter and takes off. On a bigger note, it’s the show saying goodbye to the world.
Swit: A few episodes before, Margaret had borrowed a book of poems from Winchester. He got angry with me at one point and made me return it. In real life, we had this running gag. I would tease David all the time that no one had his private phone number. He was very much his own person, very reclusive in a way. So, in the final episode Winchester gives Margaret the book back. I open it and read the inscription. David had written his phone number inside. That’s my real emotion on camera.
The final episode set records for viewership, not to mention the most expensive kiss in TV history between Hawkeye and Margaret (based on length of time and the episode’s ad revenue per minute).
Pollock: That night we had a special showing for the staff on the lot, earlier than when it aired on TV. Afterward, we drove to our favorite restaurant in Westwood. On the way, we noticed there were no cars on the street. Everyone was home watching.
Metcalfe: In New York, the only people making money that night was pizza delivery. According to the utility commission, when the show ended, there was an enormous drop in the water pressure because people were flushing their toilets at the same time. The sheer weight of it totally surprised us.
Due to the amount of time required for postproduction, the two-hour finale was shot the summer before the premiere of the shortened last season. The real last episode shot was “As Time Goes By.” Hundreds of journalists and photographers from around the world waited outside stage 9 to capture the moment.
G.W. Bailey (Sgt. Luther Rizzo): They had 300 members of the press waiting outside, so they had us go say hello to them. Kelly and I were out there waving and she was shouting, “You’re the world press, so get the word out. We need jobs!” Someone from Fox heard us and cut us off and put us back inside.
Farrell: Swit put it so wonderfully. She said, “Every place I stood in a scene I realized I’d never be doing this again. Every person I had words with, I realized I may never have the opportunity to have this exchange again.” It was heartbreaking and thrilling because we knew we were wrapping up something we loved with people we all cherished.
M*A*S*H means different things to everyone involved in the show and at home. Most important, it means something that people hold dear to their hearts. Could such a show exist today? It’s a debatable point.
Reynolds: It could if intelligently and carefully done without being too silly or morose. But you have to get a guy like Alan, someone that has star quality and can be a comedian.
Alda: I think that’s almost an impossible question to answer. We were doing the show in a certain moment in time. The country is in some ways as divided now as it was then, but there were different currents in the culture then.
Swit: Years ago, someone commented on how M*A*S*H couldn’t be put together and sold today. So much has changed TV, the whole concept of reality shows and the number of channels. We weren’t a military show and I don’t think I’d want to watch one about behind the lines in Afghanistan.
Alda: We’re all proud of what we did. The show was so remarkable that we all get asked about it all the time. Everybody includes it in every interview.
Burghoff: There are no adequate words to describe the honor I feel to have shared in the M*A*S*H experience.
Isaacs: I think it’s the most profound sitcom ever made. A lot of sitcoms deal with fear of embarrassment, shame, change or disclosure. Hardly any deal with fear of death and madness.
Levine: Everything about M*A*S*H is universal the issues characters go through, the quest for humanity in the middle of this world of brutality. I think it’s something we as a culture will respond to forever.
Metcalfe: I’d like M*A*S*H to be remembered for its statement about war, though sadly we’ve learned nothing. It’s life. It’s not all perfect and hopefully never all that sad. That we could portray that is very gratifying.
Wilcox: It will be remembered for reasons people can’t articulate. It expresses things that are deeply sad and screamingly funny. We were probing areas that needed probing whether people knew it or not. Someone once said to a girlfriend of mine, “I don’t know what it is with M*A*S*H. I used to like it and now I can’t miss it.”
Swit: I’m going to paraphrase what someone wrote in a telegram when we ended the show. It said, “Dear M*A*S*H folk: You made me laugh. You made me cry. You made me feel. Thank you.” I’ve never forgotten that. That’s one hell of a legacy.
Recently Farrell caught up with the M*A*S*H family to share a story. In the process, he captured in a few short paragraphs what no writer outside the family circle ever could:
“For the first time in many years I returned to the Fox lot to work on a miniseries [FX’s American Crime Story]. On the second day, I was told to report to stage 10 and did. Once my work was completed for the day, I couldn’t resist the temptation to wander over to stage 9 to see what, if anything, being there would bring back for me. I have to say it was a magical couple of minutes. Pushing through the big door I stepped in and immediately traveled back almost 35 years. The sense of familiarity and warmth was so great I almost laughed aloud. I was overcome with memories. The smell of the place, the feelings that came to me, were completely comfortable, welcoming and embracing. Visions of all of you and so many more flooded over me. The jokes the laughs the deep, thoughtful conversations the tricks the clowning the long days and the good, hard, powerful work were all somehow still there. It was as though a vestige of everything we put into the show had somehow been imbued in the bones of the place. I think it has. And I am the luckiest actor in the world for having had the good fortune to be part of that company.”
Alda and the producers wanted to keep the show realistic
“I was worried that it would become a high jinks at the front and that the war would just sort of exist as a pretext for silly stories,” Alda told NPR in 2019, adding that some freelance scripts for unproduced episodes, which were filled with goofy jokes, confirmed his concerns. He agreed to do the show, however, because he𠆝 already spoken with Gelbart and Reynolds and the trio agreed that they all “wanted to do a show in which the war was seen for what it is. a place where people are badly hurt.”
It’s not that Alda was trying to recreate years of horrors that he saw on the front lines he rarely references his own military service to this day, in part because it was so brief and uneventful, especially in comparison to the tens of thousands of Americans who died in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. “They had designs of making me into an officer but, uh . it didn&apost go so well,” he told an audience in 2013. “I was in charge of a mess tent. Some of that made it into the show."
Still, Alda said he served 200 soldiers three meals a day, and frequently, he𠆝 catch glimpse of soldiers staring blankly at a wall, idly playing with their food, stunned by their own experiences. He didn’t know back then whether his involvement in the conflict was morally justified, but the day-to-day of life at war and all of its monotonous dangers certainly had its impact on the show.
“I understood just from doing that that when you&aposre in a war, it&aposs real. It&aposs the real thing. People are going to get killed or lose their arms and legs,” Alda told NPR. 𠇊nd when we did M*A*S*H, I wanted to make sure that at least that understanding that I had came out — that that&aposs what we dealt with, and that we didn&apost gloss over that and make the show about how funny things were in the mess tent.”
"M*A*S*H" cast member Jamie Farr
Photo: CBS via Getty Images
Wayne Rogers escaped his contract by never signing it
After three seasons of playing Trapper McIntyre, Wayne Rogers decided he&rsquod had enough. He was sick of playing second fiddle to Hawkeye (played by Alan Alda) and felt his own character was never given the chance to be explored in-depth.
CBS scoffed at the decision &mdash after all, you can&rsquot just up and decide to leave a show. Well, apparently you can when you never signed the contract you were supposed to sign. Writers and producers had little choice but to grin and bear it &mdash they had no legal recourse but to write him out of the show. That&rsquos why Trapper never gets a proper farewell.
What “M*A*S*H” Taught Us
Rationality has lost its currency. The people in charge are dolts—masters of manipulation making testosterone-fuelled, incendiary moves on the world stage. Patriotism has soured into ugly, gun-loving nationalism, with brown people and foreigners the targets of a nonsensical, hateful rage. Normalcy has vanished. Everyone is freaked out—overworked, irritable, unable to sleep, nerves completely shot. Each morning seems to bring some fresh hell, a reminder that the nightmare is real, and that there is no end in sight. Salvation is found in small, personal connections, in wry humor, and in the forlorn hope that intelligence and decency will ultimately prevail.
That’s one way to describe the basic plot of “M*A*S*H,” with the added details that the protagonists are doctors and nurses in a war zone, and the setting is the Korean War. Lost among this year’s observances of the paradigm-shifting cultural events of 1968 is the fiftieth anniversary of the book “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors,” a little-remembered shaggy-dog volume by Richard Hooker that engendered fourteen more novels a feature-film adaptation (directed by the then up-and-coming Robert Altman) and one of the highest-rated television series of all time. Of these iterations, it is the last that arguably left the greatest cultural imprint, running for eleven seasons and considered by many to be the gold standard for quality programming in its day. The show was embraced by audiences and critics alike (it also spawned three of its own spinoffs), and when its finale aired, on February 28, 1983, it set a record for the most-watched television episode in broadcast history—a mark that still stands. “MASH” was mainly about decent people trying to survive an intolerable situation, making the occasion of its golden anniversary, this year, fortuitously relevant.
Richard Hooker was actually the nom de plume of Dr. H. Richard Hornberger—a Trenton, New Jersey-born surgeon who had served at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War—who wrote the book with the help of the sportswriter W. C. Heinz. The book’s sometimes technical descriptions of the kinds of “meatball surgery” his characters perform in the field give it an air of authenticity. The novel’s focus, however, and its narrative, centers on a somewhat disjointed series of sketches involving a loose assemblage of colorful personalities. Together, they engage in high jinks and exhibit what today might be called bro behavior. Hornberger had been a dedicated fraternity member in college, and the novel’s triumvirate of young doctors (named Hawkeye, Trapper, and Duke) at times comport themselves like badly behaved undergraduates. They rib one another, perpetrate elaborate practical jokes, call each other by pet names, objectify and harrass women, play golf, gamble, drink a surfeit of alcohol, and make a man cave of their shared living quarters (a tent that they famously christen “the Swamp”). Though each is happily married to a wife who awaits him back home, their service in Korea seems to offer them an opportunity to experience a kind of second adolescence.
Our staff and contributors share their cultural enthusiasms.
“MASH” is mostly a light, pithy read. The horrors and injustices of war are not explored as thematic elements in the way they are in the film and television adaptations. Hornberger seems to have approached the writing of the novel as something of a lark—a way to recount for posterity some of the more outlandish stories he either experienced or heard about while serving. Altman’s film adaptation is much better than the book and, pound for pound, probably the artistic highlight of the franchise.
For anyone who’s only spent time with the television “M*A*S*H,” the title sequence of the film feels immediately familiar: an acoustic guitar is heard arpeggiating a minor sixth chord as Army helicopters appear in midflight, carrying wounded soldiers. Then the similarities end. Unlike the television show’s opening, the lyrics to Johnny Mandel’s theme song in the title-credit sequence are sung:
Through early morning fog I see, visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld from me, I realize and I can see
That suicide is painless, it brings on many changes,
And I can take or leave it if I please
Altman’s camera draws closer to reveal a mutilated human body, its bloody arm dangling in the air. When the choppers land, there is another familiar tableau, as doctors, nurses, and porters rush forward to collect the wounded. But in Altman’s hands these comings and goings have not been sanitized: the maimed, bedraggled wounded are whisked off with such urgency that a stretcher momentarily capsizes, nearly dumping its human cargo. A chorus of men keeps singing about suicide, about hopelessness and despair, the music building with each succeeding verse, as harmonies and lush string orchestration are added to the arrangement. The juxtaposition of the melancholy melody, nihilistic lyrics (enthusiastically delivered), emotionally charged orchestration, and Altman’s scenes of bodily carnage is destabilizing, setting the tone for everything that follows.
If the television version of the fictional 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital feels at times (especially in its later seasons) as though its residents are pleasantly glamping in the hills of Korea, the film’s MASH compound is unclean and sordid. The cinematographer Harold E. Stine used a fog filter to dirty up the look of the film. Altman’s surgery scenes are harrowing—blood spurts from a critically wounded soldier’s neck as doctors try to stanch it the dull, low-fi hum of what sounds like a power tool is heard (or is it an electric razor?) and, in at least one instance, a patient’s torso is hacked at with what looks like a butcher saw.
Some plot devices from the novel are adopted by the screenwriter, Ring Lardner, Jr., but others, which were created from whole cloth, up the ante on the source material. The unit’s resident Lothario, Captain Walt (Painless Pole) Waldowski—played by John Schuck—reveals to Donald Sutherland’s Hawkeye that he has decided to kill himself because of sexual dysfunction, before admitting that there is a larger issue at hand. “I’m a fairy,” he says, dolefully. (Sutherland’s deadpan response is genius.) The company arranges to hold a mock-goodbye dinner for their departing friend, and they prescribe a placebo that they assure him will do the job. Lardner also concocted two of the film’s other more memorable set pieces: a camp-wide broadcast of the nocturnal activities of an unsuspecting Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and Sally Kellerman’s Major Margaret (Hot Lips) O’Houlihan, and a prank in which the doctors collapse the walls of the ladies’ showers while O’Houlihan is bathing, leaving her exposed and humiliated for all the assembled camp to see and cheer at. (Alan Alda remembers the latter scene, especially, as an example of the film’s misogyny, calling it “brutal.” When I asked his co-star Loretta Swit, who played the character on television—with the character’s surname truncated to Houlihan—for her thoughts, she admitted that she’s never watched the film. “Why would I?” she asked.)
Many of the cast members were up-and-comers making their Hollywood débuts (including a young Bud Cort, of “Harold and Maude” fame), and onscreen they each possess an appropriate feeling of unease, as though they really are a bunch of reluctant strangers who were randomly thrown together in a precarious context. The ebullient personalities from the television series are nowhere to be found. Altman’s ensemble completely disappears into their respective roles, and no one ever steals the show (though Kellerman comes gloriously close).
Stories emerged about Altman’s idiosyncratic, freewheeling methods. His approach on the set was like that of a jazz bandleader seeking to harness and ride raw inspiration, to capture lightning in a bottle—a framework that dared his cast toward spontaneity and serendipity. Altman encouraged improvisation from his actors at all times, leading to the film’s revolutionary style, with its herky-jerky manner and overlapping dialogue. “We were a long, long way from an ‘original’ screenplay when actors started speaking,” Sutherland told me. The pace is often slow, dry, and muddled, giving the film an almost Chekhovian feel. Characters mumble and drift in and out of scenes that seem to have no narrative forward movement, making it delightfully hard to tell, at times, what is even going on. All of this so infuriated Lardner that he ultimately told the director, “You’ve ruined my film,” and announced at the movie’s first screening that there was not one word of his that remained in it. (Lardner went on to win an Academy Award for best screenplay.)
An old show-biz maxim holds that one surefire way for a performer to hold an audience’s attention is to appear as though they are in possession of a secret. Altman’s entire film has this feeling. As the “Three Army Doctors,” Sutherland, Elliott Gould (as Trapper John McIntyre), and Tom Skerritt (as Duke Forrest), are sly and subtle. In their hands, Hornberger’s frat boys become hipsters. Their attitudes are droll, their responses to situations are all arched eyebrows and sideways glances. We can’t always hear what any given one says under his breath, but we sure want to. They project a caustic intelligence, their rapport is contagious without ever being cloying, giving the proceedings a slow-burn, subversive edge. Even at their misbehaving worst, we’d just kind of like to hang out with them. As Pauline Kael writes in her review of the film, for this magazine, “ . . . I don’t know when I’ve had such a good time at a movie. Many of the best recent American movies leave you feeling that there’s nothing to do but get stoned and die, that that’s your proper fate as an American. This movie heals a breach . . . ”
Mike Farrell, who played Captain B. J. Hunnicutt in the television series (a character that appears in neither the book nor the film), keenly recalls seeing the movie “M*A*S*H” during its 1970 release. Farrell was a young actor living in L.A. at the time, actively involved in the anti-war movement, and he remembers the film’s galvanizing impact, calling it “necessary” in the context of what was then happening in Vietnam. The movie struck a nerve. Amid its absurdity and black humor, it was a sharp commentary on the senselessness of war, and on the obliviousness of those charged with prosecuting it.
The “M*A*S*H” television series, inspired by Altman’s film, débuted in the fall of 1972, on CBS. Although not immediately a hit, the network believed in the show, and by Season 2 it had garnered a significant following. The show was by turns funny, serious, and innovative. It explored new narrative techniques, introduced verboten topics to prime time, and probed the psychology of its characters in ways that had not been seen on a television series before—all within the confines of a half-hour sitcom format. Altman despised it. In his director’s commentary for the film, recorded for the 2000 DVD release, Altman calls the show “the antithesis of what we were trying to do,” and claims not to know or like any of the people involved with it. (“Alan Albert, or whatever his name is.”) Gary Burghoff, the only featured actor to appear in both the film and the series, treasures both experiences, and told me that Altman’s resentment probably stems from the fact that the show’s popularity came to almost entirely eclipse the influence of his film. (Altman had no fondness for Hornberger’s novel, either, calling it “just terrible.”)
Unlike the book or the film, the television “M*A*S*H” rallies around the character of Hawkeye. As depicted in the book, Captain Benjamin Franklin (Hawkeye) Pierce is a bumpkin from Bumpkintown, Maine. One of Hornberger’s characters describes him as “an uncouth yokel.” The character is introduced as being in his late twenties, a former college athlete, married with two young sons, and an avid reader of Maine Coast Fisherman magazine. While Donald Sutherland had not exactly hit the casting bull’s-eye (Sutherland told me that he and Altman never discussed the Mainer accent called for in the screenplay—“heah” for “here,” etc.), he was arguably within range of the character, having been brought up in Nova Scotia and naturally quiet, unassuming, and laconic. When the producers of the television series recruited Alan Alda to play Hawkeye, they not only intentionally missed Hornberger’s target entirely but wound up in the woods somewhere.
“We needed an attractive, funny guy,” the show’s original producer and co-creator, Gene Reynolds, told me, “a leading man, a hero, someone who could carry the show.” Reynolds had seen Alda onstage in New York and was convinced that this was the guy. Alda’s Hawkeye is flamboyant, intellectual, and manic—almost always the center of attention. New York-y, even. Where Sutherland’s charisma is sneaky, Alda’s is all out front. It stretched the limits of plausibility to imagine him back home in Maine, building lobster traps with his dad, but, as Alda told me, “We weren’t doing the book, and we weren’t doing the movie. I don’t think that the somewhat depressed character portrayed in the film would have worked for very long in the show.”
The question is academic Alda’s Hawkeye became (and remains) one of the most famous characters in television history. Like Alda himself, his Hawkeye is kind, articulate, and caring. In the show, Alda reacts as much as he acts. One of his greatest gifts as a performer is how well he seems to listen, a skill he says he learned early on in his career, in improvisation class. “The secret to good listening is simple,” he told me. “Unless I’m willing to be changed by you, I’m not really listening.”
The television “M*A*S*H” includes two hundred and fifty-six episodes. To be fair, shows produced in the pre-cable, pre-streaming, dead-ball era of television were not designed to reward binge-watching. As Burt Metcalfe, a producer who was with the show from beginning to end, told me, “When you do that many episodes, some are going to be really great, and some are going to be really bad.” Writers were not then expected to build careful continuity, overarching narrative, and granular detail into every episode, practices that have become de rigueur today. Once a show aired, it was gone, to be seen again only in syndication, by happenstance, and almost always out of order.
In its early going, many of “M*A*S*H” ’s dramatic plotlines were balanced with generous helpings of slapstick, usually involving one or more of the cast’s pure comic geniuses, notably McLean Stevenson (Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake), Larry Linville (Major Frank Burns), and Burghoff (Corporal Radar O’Reilly), all masters of physical comedy and verbal timing. There are also episodes that plumb the depths of the show’s personalities in ways that neither the book nor the film ever did, many of them among the series’s best known: Hawkeye loses a childhood friend on the operating table (“Sometimes You Hear The Bullet”), and is made to confront his love-avoidant tendencies (“The More I See You,” featuring a memorable guest turn by Blythe Danner) the cold-as-ice Hot Lips allows herself to be vulnerable (“The Nurses”) and Trapper John takes a young Korean child under his wing (“Kim”). Most affecting is the finale of Season 3, in which one of the show’s most beloved personalities is killed off (“Abyssinia, Henry”).
Although the television “M*A*S*H” was ensemble-based, Alda is clearly the star. Wayne Rogers’s Trapper John is charming and likable, but ultimately underdeveloped Duke Forrest—the most amiable of the original trio of doctors—has been jettisoned entirely. Hawkeye becomes the nonconformist-in-chief, gaining the admiration of his fictional colleagues (as well as television audiences) for his expert medical skills, his compassion, and his intolerance for hypocrisy. What is mostly skirted over is his obvious alcohol problem, and his habit of coming on to women in lecherous, creepy ways.
Loretta Swit, who shares with Alda the distinction of being a regular cast member for every season of the series (and was the show’s only regular female character), blanched at the suggestion that the early years could be seen differently today in the context of the #MeToo movement. “There was no predation,” she told me, in no uncertain terms. “The nurses were using the doctors, too—they had needs of their own,” she said. Alda, for his part, has some awareness that the show might be made differently in today’s cultural environment. “Every show reflects its time,” he said.
The show seems to hit its stride somewhere in the middle of its run. When Radar and Hawkeye have a nasty falling out (“Fallen Idol”), it’s genuinely upsetting to see, like watching loved ones come to blows. When B.J. falls “off the fidelity wagon” (“Hanky Panky”), we are made to feel his shameful self-recrimination. The groundbreaking “The Interview” (filmed in black and white) featured the actors improvising their characters’ responses to a fictional war correspondent’s questions “Point of View” was shot entirely from the perspective of a wounded soldier who cannot speak and the surrealistic, disturbing “Dreams” delved into the anxieties and fears of the characters as they slept between operating-room shifts. And, in “The Price,” Colonel Sherman T. Potter (Harry Morgan) makes an extraordinary gesture to protect the honor of an elderly Korean national in an episode that contains the sort of subtly effective moral lesson that the series became known for.
“Movie Tonight,” a Season 5 episode that includes the cast’s rendition of the Second World War-era “Gee Ma, I Wanna Go Home,” verges on unabashed musical theatre, a striking example of how much music, in general, was incorporated into the show. This is perhaps most effectively and subtly manifested in the use of the pianistic talents of the actor William Christopher (portraying Father Francis Mulcahy) who, on separate occasions, is found unassumingly playing two of Scott Joplin’s most meditative, stately compositions—“Solace” and “Bethena.”
David Ogden Stiers’s Major Charles Winchester, another character created for the TV series, arrives in Season 6, a far more nuanced foil for Hawkeye and B.J. But there was no replacing Burghoff when he left the show, a year later, at his own initiative. (Metcalfe was clear about the fact that “no one was ever fired from “M*A*S*H.”) While Alda had long since become the marquee face of the series, Burghoff’s Radar was, in a sense, its gentle heart.
Corporal Walter (Radar) O’Reilly, an Army clerk “fresh out of high school,” is the first character introduced in the novel, in Hornberger’s very first sentence. Twenty-six years old when he was cast in Altman’s film, Burghoff projected a wholesome, wide-eyed innocence that allowed him to play a much younger character. His Radar gradually becomes the show’s everyman. He is resourceful and funny, earnest and clever, an obedient enlisted man who nevertheless circumvents regulations if it means serving the greater good. As his character develops, Radar is also revealed to be an animal-lover, a skilled musician, and a master of impressions. He sleeps with a Teddy bear and reads comic books. It is Radar who knows what’s going on at the 4077th at all times Radar who is the camp’s eyes and ears.
Alan Alda's insider view from the set of M*A*S*HHawkeye’s corduroy bathrobe looks purple in real life, but comes across as red on camera.
The chronically jet-lagged actor Alan Alda got bitten by fleas the few times he tried to take a nap on his army cot between takes of the hit television show M*A*S*H. In the Operating Room scenes, he was often “operating” on a copy of the script. The show’s writing was so tightly controlled, that no one on the cast was allowed to adlib lines.
These are just a few of the revelations that actor Alan Alda, now 82, shared in a phone interview as he discussed his 11-year stint acting, writing, and directing episodes of the award-winning dark comedy M*A*S*H. The television show chronicled the adventures of a Mobile Army Surgical Unit during the Korean War (1950–1953) and aired its final episode to record audiences 35 years ago.
In 1983, 20th Century Fox donated to the Smithsonian two full sets from the show, the bachelor officers’ quarters known as the “Swamp,” and the Operating Room, along with several costumes, props, and scripts. The M*A*S*H objects were displayed in a wildly popular exhibit at the museum from 1983 through 1985 and remain among the jewels of our entertainment collection.
Alda played Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce but everyone called him “Hawkeye”—a nickname bestowed by his father after the main character in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans. Pierce is a skirt-chasing, practical-joke-pulling, heavy-drinking army doctor who rails against military authority and the senseless death of war, but who is dedicated to his patients.
Alda, who didn’t have any medical training and ignored his father’s advice to explore premed classes in college, found it easy to take on the role of a surgeon.The 4077 Operating Room on display at the museum in the mid-1980s.
“I was very comfortable in the operating room, because no one was dying for real. And there was no real blood,” he said. “Most of the time we were putting stitches in pieces of foam rubber. I would often be operating on a copy of the script. So I could read the dialog while I was operating,” he said.
According to Alda, there was no medical advisor on set during the early episodes. The writers would work with a physician while they were creating the shows, but eventually they hired a nurse to be on set during filming.
“We didn’t have supervision during the operations for the first few weeks, and we made horrible mistakes, like going from patient to patient without changing our gloves,” remembered Alda.
The script, on the other hand, was closely supervised, said Alda.
“When the script was final, we didn’t change a word. We would sometimes go to the phone and call Larry Gelbart (the head writer), and we’d say this scene doesn’t seem to be working, you want to come over?” recalled Alda.
Gelbart would ride his bike over to the soundstage and work with the script, and then they’d shoot the scene. But once, Alda remembered, he and Wayne Rogers, who played Dr. Trapper John, were on the exterior set at the Fox Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains north of Los Angeles. There was no phone at the rustic outpost and, even though neither of them understood a particular line, Alda said it as it appeared. The next day as they were watching the rushes, Gelbart turned to Alda and said “Why did you say that?”
“It was in the script,” replied Alda.
“It was a typo!” retorted Gelbart.
Alda, who had trained in improv early in his career, kept pushing for a show in which the actors could improvise.
“I knew that you could get stuff through improvisation that you can’t get through writing and acting the writing. You can get more personal stuff that’s surprising,” he said.
Ultimately, the creative team allowed for two episodes that incorporated some improvisation. Both were critically acclaimed, documentary-type shows in which real-life war correspondent Clete Roberts conducts a series of interviews with the staff in the style of famed World War II-era journalist Edward R. Murrow. Shot entirely in black and white, “The Interview” (season 4, episode 25) was the final episode for writer Larry Gelbart. Roberts returned to the M*A*S*H unit for a follow-up documentary in “Our Finest Hour” (season 7, episode 4), which interspersed black-and-white adlibbed interviews with scenes from earlier shows.Actor Alan Alda’s cot and sleeping bag from the set of "M*A*S*H"
An overarching theme throughout the series is how overworked the surgeons are. Countless scenes show the physicians palpably exhausted as they change out of their scrubs after marathon surgery sessions. For Alda, the fatigue was not necessarily an act. Because he didn’t want to uproot his wife and three daughters from their New Jersey home, he commuted to Los Angeles during the spring filming months for about four or five years. Eventually, the girls went off to college, and his wife, Arlene, joined him in Los Angeles.
“It was an interesting experience, because I would get the red eye on Friday night, and get home at six in the morning, and take a nap and then be there in time for the children to say, ‘I’ll see ya, I‘m going out now,’” he reminisced.
“I’d fly back on Sunday afternoon, so I was pretty much in a constant state of jet lag for four months out of the year,” he stated.
As a result, he tried a couple of times to take catnaps in his army cot, which, while comfortable, was not very appealing.
“I guess they didn’t clean out the studio much. We had mice that would pee on our chessboard and a couple of fleas in the cots, so I only tried sleeping there once or twice,” he explained.Letter in a blue envelope addressed to "Farrah Fawcett"
Included among the museum’s prized M*A*S*H collection are two signature costumes from Alda’s character, Hawkeye’s trademark corduroy bathrobe and a blue and white Hawaiian shirt. Alda clarified that these weren’t plucked from his personal closet, but were selected by the wardrobe department to reflect Capt. Pierce.Capt. Hawkeye Pierce’s classic blue and white hibiscus Hawaiian shirt
“I did have my own collection of Hawaiian shirts, but just enough to have my kids make fun of me,” he admitted.Capt. Pierce could do a remarkably realistic Groucho Marx imitation.
The museum also has a pair of Groucho glasses that Hawkeye would occasionally don to amuse patients in the recovery room.
“I wasn’t a particular fan of the Marx brothers,” Alda explained, “but my voice just happened to fall in that vocal range. I finally dropped it because I was doing it too much,” he continued.
The M*A*S*H series, which ran for 11 seasons, lasted nearly four times the length of the actual Korean War. The show ended with a two-and-a-half-hour special, cowritten and directed by Alda, that the Nielsen ratings company claims is the most-watched scripted television ever.
M*A*S*H episodes are still being shown on television today. The show has earned millions in syndication and continues to be popular with viewers. Alda believes that ultimately, viewers respond to the mission that M*A*S*H doctors, nurses, and staff were trying to serve.
“As silly as the show was, or as lighthearted as it was often, there was always this understanding that people were dying or being wounded, and there were many other people who were trying to save them, who were working night and day at this, and I think that expression of human experience resonates with audiences,” said Alda.
Alda says he is grateful for the experience and exposure that he got working on M*A*S*H. After the series ended in 1983, Alda went on to write, direct, and star in movies to continue acting on stage and television to author three nonfiction books to host the science series Scientific American Frontiers and to start companies that help scientists, health professionals, and business people improve their communication skills.
“It made all the other things that I did the rest of my life possible,” he concluded.
Lucy Harvey is a Program Assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History who also volunteers with the Division of Culture and the Arts. She has also blogged about the costumes from the show and the popular "M*A*S*H" exhibition that once existed at this museum.
|Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce||Alan Alda||Starring|
|Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan||Loretta Swit||Starring|
|Cpl./Sgt. Maxwell Q. "Max" Klinger||Jamie Farr||Recurring||Starring|
|Lt./Capt. Francis John Patrick Mulcahy||William Christopher||Recurring||Starring|
|Capt. "Trapper" John McIntyre||Wayne Rogers||Starring|
|Lt. Col. Henry Blake||McLean Stevenson||Starring|
|Maj. (Lt. Col.) Frank Burns||Larry Linville||Starring|
|Cpl. Walter "Radar" O'Reilly||Gary Burghoff||Starring|
|Capt. B. J. Hunnicutt||Mike Farrell||Starring|
|Col. Sherman T. Potter||Harry Morgan||Starring|
|Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III||David Ogden Stiers||Starring|
Hawkeye Pierce Edit
|First appearance||MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors|
|Last appearance||"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"|
|Portrayed by||Film: Donald Sutherland|
Television: Alan Alda
|Title||Captain and Chief Surgeon|
|Family||Benjy Pierce (father--novel) Daniel Pierce (father--TV) unnamed wife and children (novel)|
|Hometown||Crabapple Cove, Maine|
Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce (Jr. in the novel) was played by Donald Sutherland in the film and by Alan Alda on television. Between long sessions of treating wounded patients, he is found making wisecracks, drinking heavily, carousing, womanizing, and pulling pranks on the people around him, especially Frank Burns and "Hot Lips" Houlihan. In the novel, he serves as a moral center and author's alter ego, chiding Trapper John for calling Major Houlihan "Hot Lips," which he never does himself. Although just one of an ensemble of characters in author Richard Hooker's MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, in the television series Hawkeye became the center of the MASH unit's medical activity. In the television series, he becomes the Chief Surgeon of the unit early in the first season. 
Pierce was born and raised in New England, most often mentioning Crabapple Cove, Maine, with a few references (primarily in the early seasons) to Vermont. He is an only child. His mother is deceased and he has a sister (although, like Vermont, they are mentioned in some early episodes), and he is close to his father, who—as mentioned in the later episodes—is also a doctor. In the novel and film, Hawkeye is married with children, but in the TV series, he is a bachelor and something of a ladies' man. He was given the nickname "Hawkeye" by his father, Benjy (Sr.) in the novel, Daniel in the series, from the character in the novel The Last of the Mohicans, "the only book my old man ever read".  His birth name is taken from a member of Hooker's own family named Franklin Pierce. 
Alternatively, in the lobby of Memorial Hall at Harvard University, the names of Harvard men who died in the Civil War are inscribed. Among those from the Medical School is listed one Benjamin Franklin Peirce [sic].
He attended the fictional Androscoggin College. In the book and the film, Hawkeye had played football in college in the series, he is non-athletic. After completing his medical residency, he was drafted into the US Army Medical Corps and sent to serve at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War. Alda said of Pierce, "Some people think he was very liberal. But he was also a traditional conservative. I mean, he wanted nothing more than to have people leave him alone so he could enjoy his martini, you know? Government should get out of his liquor cabinet". 
Pierce has little tolerance for military red tape and customs, feeling they get in the way of his doing his job, and has little respect for most Regular Army personnel. He never wears rank insignia on his fatigues, never polishes his combat boots, and only wears his Class A uniform when he believes appearance can achieve greater good – but does not wear any of the decorations to which he is entitled. On occasion, he assumes temporary command of the 4077th in the absence or disability of Colonels Blake or Potter.
As a surgeon, he does not like the use of firearms and he refuses to carry a sidearm as required by regulations when serving as Officer of the Day.  When he is ordered by Colonel Potter to carry his issue pistol on a trip to an aid station and they are ambushed on the road, he fires it into the air rather than at their attackers. This was after he told the gun "You're fired." 
In the series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen", Hawkeye experiences a mental breakdown when a Korean woman responds to his frantic demand that she quiet her infant child lest enemy soldiers hear it and discover them, by suffocating it. In talking to psychiatrist Sidney Freedman he thinks a woman is suffocating a chicken, only to realize to his horror that it was actually a baby.
When the Korean Armistice is announced, he states his intention to return to Crabapple Cove to be a local doctor who has the time to get to know his patients, instead of contending with the endless flow of casualties he faced during his time in Korea. He is depicted doing this in Hooker's two sequels, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine and M*A*S*H Mania.
Trapper John Edit
|Trapper John McIntyre|
|First appearance||MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors|
|Last appearance||"Abyssinia, Henry" (M*A*S*H) "Elusive Butterfly" (Trapper John, M.D.)|
|Portrayed by||Film: Elliott Gould|
Television: Wayne Rogers (for M*A*S*H)
Pernell Roberts (for Trapper John, M.D.)
|Children||Cathy McIntyre (daughter)|
Becky McIntyre (daughter)
Captain John Francis Xavier McIntyre appears in the novels, the film (played by Elliott Gould), the M*A*S*H TV series (Wayne Rogers), and the Trapper John, M.D. series (Pernell Roberts). He is one of the main characters in the M*A*S*H TV series during the first three seasons, and the central character of the latter series. His nickname comes from an incident in which he was caught having sex with a woman in the lavatory aboard a Boston & Maine Railway train: she claimed in her defense that "he trapped me!"
In the book and the film, Trapper John is a graduate of Dartmouth College (having played quarterback on the school's football team) and serves as thoracic surgeon of the 4077th. In the film, he has a dry, sardonic deadpan sense of humor, while in the M*A*S*H TV series he is more of a class clown. Trapper spends much of his time on the series engaging in mischief with Hawkeye Pierce, with the two playing practical jokes on Majors Frank Burns and "Hot Lips" Houlihan, drinking, and trying to seduce women. While Trapper expresses great love for his wife and daughters, he also fraternizes with the nurses a great deal, with no pretense of fidelity.
In the film, Hawkeye and Trapper are given roughly equal focus, but in the TV series the character became more of a sidekick to the character of Hawkeye. This frustrated Rogers, and in combination with a dispute over the terms of the contract for the fourth season, he quit the show the character of Trapper was abruptly discharged from the Army and sent back to the United States between seasons. The character of B. J. Hunnicutt was created to replace him.
The character returned to television in 1979 in the medical drama series Trapper John, M.D. Now played by Pernell Roberts, the character is depicted in the then-present day as Chief of Surgery at a San Francisco hospital. This version of the character is in continuity with the film rather than the TV series, but no other characters from either production appear in this series, making Trapper John the only M*A*S*H character to be depicted on-screen in the present day at the time of airing. (In the first season, McIntyre's chief nurse, nicknamed "Starch", is said to have served with/worked for him in Korea, but never appeared in the novel, movie, or TV series.) Trapper John, along with The Mary Tyler Moore Show's Lou Grant, thus became one of a handful of 1970s television characters to be successfully adapted from situation comedy to drama.
B. J. Hunnicutt Edit
|B. J. Hunnicutt|
|First appearance||"Welcome to Korea"|
|Last appearance||"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"|
|Portrayed by||Television: Mike Farrell|
|Family||Jay Hunnicutt (father)|
Bea Hunnicutt (mother)
|Spouse||Peg Hunnicutt (née Hayden)|
|Children||Erin Hunnicutt (daughter)|
|Hometown||Mill Valley, California|
Captain B. J. Hunnicutt is played by Mike Farrell in the TV show. He replaced Trapper John, both in his position within the unit and as an ally of Hawkeye Pierce and a foil of Frank Burns, appearing in all but one episode of the rest of the series. Although he glibly answers that the initials "B. J." stand for "anything you want", he tells Hawkeye that the initials are derived from the names of his parents, Bea and Jay.
Hunnicutt resided in Mill Valley, California, before he was drafted. He was educated at Stanford University and was a member of the Tau Phi Epsilon fraternity. He is a third-generation doctor in his family. He went through his military training at Fort Sam Houston.
He is devoted to his wife Peg (née Hayden) who writes many letters to him while he is in Korea. The couple have a daughter, Erin, who was born shortly before B. J. left for Korea. His status as faithful family man contrasts him with the philandering Trapper John, and he is also more reserved than his predecessor, often serving as the voice of reason when Hawkeye goes too far. Nonetheless, he also participates in and initiates practical jokes, such as secretly switching Major Winchester's clothing for that of other soldiers to make him think he is gaining or losing weight, or filling Frank Burns's air raid foxholes with water. On other occasions, B. J. encourages members of the 4077th to play jokes on each other, starting escalating joke wars for his own amusement, with neither side knowing that he is the instigator. Unfortunately, this has often backfired on him when both parties he was pranking find out and retaliate.
While he assumes the same general disregard for military discipline exhibited by both Hawkeye and Trapper, B. J. professes stronger moral values. For example, in the episode "Preventative Medicine" he refuses to participate in a scheme to relieve an overzealous officer of command by performing an unnecessary appendectomy on him. He is a skilled surgeon, willing to take extraordinary measures to save a patient, such as in "Heroes", where he undertakes an experimental procedure he had read about in a medical journal, using a primitive open-chest defibrillator and open-chest heart massage.
He actively avoids the finality of farewells, but when the 4077th is disbanded in the series finale, he is last seen riding his Indian motorcycle away from camp, while Hawkeye sees from a helicopter that B. J. has arranged painted white stones into the word "GOODBYE", visible from the air.
Henry Blake Edit
|First appearance||MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors|
|Last appearance||"Abyssinia, Henry"|
|Portrayed by||Film: Roger Bowen|
Television: McLean Stevenson
|Children||Andrew Blake (son)|
Molly Blake (daughter)
Jane Blake (daughter)
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Braymore Blake is introduced in the 1968 novel M*A*S*H and is also a character in the film (played by Roger Bowen) and television series (played by McLean Stevenson). He is a surgeon and the original commanding officer of the 4077th MASH unit. He is beloved for his down-to-earth, laid-back manner by many under his command, especially Hawkeye and Trapper John (with whom he drinks, flouts regulations, and chases women). However, he is scorned for it by those who prefer strict military discipline, such as Frank Burns and Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan.
In the film, he is a career Army physician, having been commissioned prior to World War II. In the television series, he is a reservist called up to active duty and taken from his private practice in Bloomington, Illinois. Henry attended University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he was the football team athletic trainer. He tells Hawkeye he has "a great practice back home", but a "routine" one, and that by serving in Korea, he is doing more doctoring than he would otherwise do in a lifetime.  While Henry is in command of the 4077th, his wife – called Mildred in earlier episodes, Lorraine in later ones (the reason is never explained) – gives birth to a son back in Bloomington. Henry would never meet his son. 
Henry is a good man and a capable surgeon, but an ineffectual commanding officer. Company clerk Radar can usually anticipate his wishes and turn them into efficient military orders, but Henry often gets flustered when an important decision needs to be made. In the episode "Rainbow Bridge", he has to decide whether to send his doctors into enemy territory for an exchange of wounded prisoners, but hems and haws then tells his doctors, "Whatever you guys decide is fine with me." His strength as a commander is an ability to maintain the morale of his unit, which he does through heartfelt talk and indulgence of the lunacy that is a hallmark of the 4077th. This success is demonstrated by the unit's outstanding 97% casualty survival rate.
When McLean Stevenson decided to leave the show at the end of the third season, his character was scripted to be discharged and sent home, as a way to write him out of the series. However, the producers added a final scene to his last episode, in which Radar delivers news that Blake's plane has been shot down, with no survivors. This scene was kept secret from most of the cast until just before filming so that they would respond more authentically to the news, with only Gary Burghoff receiving a private briefing on its content. The addition was made not as an attack on Stevenson, but as a means to convey the idea that not all members of the armed forces returned home from the war. 
Sherman T. Potter Edit
|Sherman T. Potter|
|First appearance||"Welcome to Korea: Part 2"|
|Last appearance||"Saturday's Heroes" (AfterMASH)|
|Portrayed by||Harry Morgan|
|Children||Evelyn "Evvy" Ennis (née Potter) (daughter)|
|Relatives||Corey Ennis (grandson)|
Colonel Sherman Tecumseh Potter appears in the M*A*S*H and AfterMASH television series. He was portrayed by Harry Morgan, and replaced the departing character of Henry Blake as commander of the 4077th MASH. The character appeared in all but three of the subsequent episodes.
Potter is from Hannibal, Missouri, one-quarter Cherokee  and possesses a passion and fondness for horses. He lied about his age to enlist at 15 (though this age does not conform to continuity, as it would mean he would be only around 50 during the Korean War, though he later comments that he is 62), joining the US Army horse cavalry as a private during World War I and subsequently rose to the rank of sergeant. During combat in World War I, in the Argonne Forest, he was "lost for three days, taken prisoner, head shaved and beaten to a pulp".  At the Battle of Château-Thierry, he was mustard gassed, leaving him blind for a month in a French hospital.  Another time, several of his teeth were knocked out by his German captors, for which he was later awarded a Purple Heart. After the war, he went to medical school, and began his service as an Army doctor in 1932,  serving in World War II. One of his most cherished possessions is his Good Conduct Medal, an award "only given to enlisted men", Potter explains to Radar while unpacking.  It is framed and hangs behind his desk during his tenure at the 4077th. Potter is married to Mildred, and they have only one daughter and one grandson in some episodes, while in others he has multiple children and grandchildren.
Potter was created as a different type of commanding officer than his predecessor: a "Regular Army" career officer, and close to retirement. But despite his stern military bearing, Potter is a relatively relaxed and laid-back commander, not above involving himself in camp hijinks and understanding the need for fun and games to boost morale during wartime, particularly in the high-pressure atmosphere of a MASH. In fact, when Hawkeye and B. J. invite Potter to their tent for a post-surgery drink, he is very affable and complimentary of their brewing skills, even giving them tips on how to improve their gin still and make more booze. He also has his eccentricities, including a love of horses from his cavalry days and an ability to use his Regular Army connections to the unit's advantage. Unlike Blake, he is not afraid to put his foot down when the camp's antics get out of hand, but this is more out of not wanting to see his troops get into trouble outside of the camp. In addition, Potter, who had been handling administrative work prior to his assignment to the 4077th, possesses formidable skills as a surgeon and for keeping morale high in the operating room.
Potter is well-liked by his subordinates, especially Radar, who comes to see him as a mentor and father figure after Blake's transfer stateside and subsequent death. Potter receives more respect than Blake did from Major Houlihan, but Major Burns harbors a grudge against him after being passed over for command. In turn, Potter holds Burns' feigned military bearing and subpar medical skills in contempt. Potter takes pride in the competency of the rest of the medical staff despite their antics. Burns' replacement Major Winchester has a grudging respect for Potter, even though their respective personalities are often at odds with one another. Potter initially takes a hard line against Klinger's attempts to get discharged, but is convinced to let him continue cross-dressing, and eventually assigns him to be his new company clerk. As an indication of their respect for him, in the final episode Hawkeye and B. J. formally salute Potter as he leaves the camp, one of the few times either is shown doing so.
The character also appeared as a central character in AfterMASH, a spin-off starring the three cast members who had voted (unsuccessfully) to continue the first series. Potter became chief of staff and chief of surgery of the fictional General Pershing VA Hospital in River Bend, Missouri, where he is joined by Klinger and his wife Soon-Lee, and Father Mulcahy. Among the resident in-patients is one of Potter's subordinates from World War I, who addresses him as "Sarge" as opposed to his retired rank of colonel.
Frank Burns Edit
Major Franklin Delano Marion "Frank" Burns is the main antagonist in the film (played by Robert Duvall) and the first five seasons of the television series (Larry Linville). Burns first appeared in the original novel, where he had the rank of captain.
In the novel, Burns is a well-off doctor who attended medical school, but whose training as a surgeon was limited to an apprenticeship with his father in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Nonetheless, he maintains a dismissive attitude toward his better-trained colleagues, blaming others for his own failures.  He unjustly accuses a rookie orderly, Boone (Bud Cort in the film), of killing one of his patients and nearly kills another patient, earning him retaliatory assaults from Duke and Trapper John. Being of the same rank as Hawkeye in the novel, Blake tries to make sure neither is on duty at the same time, but cannot do so when things get busy. His medical incompetence causes Colonel Blake to instead assign Trapper John as Chief Surgeon. In the novel, the extent of the relationship between Burns and Houlihan is unclear and only rumored to be sexual, but in the film, it is overtly sexual and broadcast throughout the camp when Radar puts a microphone in the cabin window. After the "Swampmen" learn that Burns is having an affair with Major Margaret Houlihan, Hawkeye taunts him about it, baiting him to attack just as Blake enters the tent. The next day, Burns is permanently sent away for psychiatric evaluation in a straitjacket, shot full of tranquilizers. In the novel, the confrontation is less violent, and Burns is simply transferred to a VA hospital stateside.
In the film and in the subsequent TV series, Frank Burns' rank is that of major. The film version includes elements of the novel's Major Jonathan Hobson, a very religious man who prays for all souls to be saved. In the TV series, he is very high-strung, with a penchant for uttering what are often bizarre or redundant cliches and malapropisms one example is from "The Interview" (season 4, episode 24), in which Burns describes marriage as "the headstone of American society".
In the TV series, Burns is a firm believer in military discipline and continues to fancy himself a superior surgeon, but his actions invariably reveal his incompetence and require one of the other surgeons to prevent him from making fatal mistakes. Though by military rank Burns is second-in-command of the unit, he is outranked in medical matters by Hawkeye, who reluctantly accepts appointment by Blake as Chief Surgeon.  Burns longs for command of the 4077th himself, and resorts to underhanded means in attempting to achieve this end, such as filing misleading complaints about Blake and unsuccessfully preventing Hawkeye and Trapper from testifying in Blake's defense. When Burns is left in command of the unit (per military regulations), he generally micromanages camp operations, just for the sake of being in command, but demonstrates a profound lack of military competence as well.  In "The Novocaine Mutiny", Burns is left in temporary command when the 4077th is inundated with a deluge of casualties. Burns and Hawkeye recount opposing versions of the events. Burns claims that he was performing superior work even going so far as to donate blood to a critically wounded soldier in between treating patients and performing the Last Rites benediction in Latin for the deceased after Father Mulcahy passed out from exhaustion. Burns further asserts that the other surgeons could not keep up with him and complained that he was pushing them too hard. In Hawkeye's presumably far more accurate account, Burns was borderline hysterical and performed his duties with signature incompetence, which resulted in the near-deaths of multiple casualties. After being confronted by Hawkeye, Burns was knocked unconscious by the operating room door. In an early episode, however, before his character becomes more of a buffoon, he demonstrates himself to be an efficient though, again, micromanaging commander.  In another episode, "A Smattering of Intelligence", Burns is gullible enough to believe that the US Army Corps of Engineers is going to make MASH hospitals amphibious. Based on his age and how long he had been in private practice prior to the war, Burns appears to be an immigrant to the United States from some unnamed country, stating his family had come to America in 1927. 
In addition to his gullibility, Burns was shown to be incredibly greedy, selfish, and occasionally childish he is involved in a prescription kickback racket and falsifies his income taxes. He is also overly suspicious of Koreans, going as far as to claim that South Koreans are communist infiltrators and hustlers, and is openly racist against Native Americans (although Colonel Potter, being part Cherokee, sternly puts a stop to that early on). He is an ardent supporter of the anti-communist Senator Joseph McCarthy, and appears irritated to learn his wife is becoming involved in Republican Party envelope-stuffing campaigns,  implying he is a Democrat. Despite his ongoing affair with Major Houlihan, he is unwilling to divorce his wife because his money, stocks, and house are in her name. In one episode, "Major Fred C. Dobbs", his greed is such that he turns down a transfer to another unit because he is tricked by Hawkeye and Trapper into thinking there is gold in the hills near the camp.  He has twice applied for a Purple Heart for being "wounded" in combat first for slipping in the shower, second for getting an eggshell fragment in his eye. Both medals are stolen by Hawkeye and given to people who earned them: an underage Marine (played by Ron Howard) and a Korean mother and her infant son who had been shot just before she gave birth.   (The incident with an eggshell fragment was based on an actual incident during the Vietnam War.  ) An example of his childishness is when Burns is passed over for command of the 4077th in favor of Colonel Potter Frank has a temper tantrum and runs away until he gets cold, tired and hungry.  In the season 3 episode "O.R.", Frank has a quiet, insightful conversation with Trapper, where he admits that he grew up in a strict family where he couldn't talk at meals, and that he became a snitch, "so I could talk to somebody."
Burns's only friend in the unit is head nurse Major Margaret Houlihan, with whom he has an ongoing affair that they believe is discreet, but which is common knowledge in the camp. They share a disdain for the "un-military" doctors, against whom they conspire ineffectively. His wife eventually hears of the affair and threatens him with divorce he denies it, describing Houlihan as an "old war horse" and an "army mule with bosoms", thus beginning a rift that leads to her engagement to Donald Penobscott, a handsome lieutenant colonel stationed in Tokyo. Burns starts acting crazy after Houlihan's engagement – he drinks up all of Hawkeye's booze he cleans out Hawkeye and BJ's poker winnings of $200 he confesses that he wants to have affairs with two other nurses besides Houlihan: Nurse Kellye and a "little red-haired nurse" he nearly blows himself up with a grenade he "captures" a Korean family and their ox and almost fires his carbine in Potter's office at the suggestion that he is heading for a Section Eight discharge. Distraught and exhausted, Burns, speaking on the telephone to his mother, tells her that Major Houlihan had just pretended to like him, “like daddy did”.
Following Houlihan's marriage in the fifth-season finale "Margaret's Marriage" (also Larry Linville's last appearance on camera as Frank Burns), in the two-part sixth-season premiere episode "Fade Out, Fade In", which also introduces his temporary (later permanent) replacement, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, the 4077th learns that shortly after the wedding, Burns suffered a mental breakdown while on a week's leave in Seoul. He accosts a blonde female WAC, a blonde female Red Cross worker, and an army general and his blonde wife in a hot bath, mistaking the couple for the Penobscotts. He is transferred stateside for psychiatric evaluation, but although the 4077th is delighted to be finally rid of him, Burns has the last laugh: He later telephones as he is being shipped back to the United States, and tells Hawkeye that - not only has he been cleared of all charges - but has been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and assigned to a veteran's hospital in his home town.
Nothing else is known about the character's fate post show.
Burns' departure from the series stemmed from Linville's frustration with the character, which he felt offered no further opportunities for development.
Margaret Houlihan Edit
|Margaret Houlihan RN|
|First appearance||MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors|
|Last appearance||"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"|
|Portrayed by||Film: Sally Kellerman|
Television: Loretta Swit
|Family||Alvin Houlihan (father)|
|Spouse||Donald Penobscott (divorced)|
|Hometown||Fort Ord, California|
Major Margaret J "Hot Lips" Houlihan appears in the novel, the film (played by Sally Kellerman), and the TV series (Loretta Swit). She is the regular-army head nurse of the 4077th, and begins allied with Major Frank Burns against the more civilian doctors of the unit. Later in the series, particularly after the departure of Burns, she becomes a more sympathetic character, softening her attitude while still serving as a foil for their antics.
Margaret is an army brat, born in an Army base hospital, the daughter of career artillery officer Alvin "Howitzer Al" Houlihan (played by Andrew Duggan in the TV series). She entered nursing school in 1938 and graduated in 1942 when she joined the Army. She served in World War II but it is unknown if she served stateside or overseas. She is the head nurse of the 4077th MASH, the highest-ranking female officer in the unit, and fiercely protective of the women under her command. The character was inspired by two real-life Korean War MASH head nurses: "Hotlips" Hammerly,  an attractive blonde of similar disposition, [ citation needed ] and Janie Hall.  
Her nickname "Hot Lips" has different origins in the original novel, film, and TV show. In the novel, the phrase is first used by Trapper John McIntyre, when he is flirting with Margaret after learning about her affair with Frank Burns. Calling her "Hot Lips", Trapper suggests that they should get together since he has become Chief Surgeon and she is the Chief Nurse.  In the film, the nickname originates from a scene in which she has a tryst with Burns. Unbeknownst to them, a hidden PA microphone is broadcasting their conversation to the whole camp, including her growl to Frank, "kiss my hot lips". In the TV show, the origin of her nickname is never shown or explained in detail, though it seems to refer to various aspects of her passionate nature. Midway through the series, the "Hot Lips" nickname phases out, with characters addressing her as either Margaret or Major Houlihan, though her nickname is still referenced occasionally. For instance, in the sixth-season episode "Patent 4077", when Margaret is in a bad mood after losing her wedding ring, a nurse describes her as "Hot Lips Houlihan: Blonde land mine".  In the seventh-season episode "None Like It Hot", after Margaret talks about a bathtub that is supposed to be kept secret, Hawkeye says to her, "Would you please keep your hot lips sealed?",  and in the second part of the two-part eighth-season episode "Good Bye, Radar", Radar says, "Wow! Hot Lips!" after he is kissed by Margaret. 
Early on in the TV series, she is a stern "by-the-book" head nurse, but willingly goes against regulations for her own gain. She uses her sex appeal to her professional advantage as well as personal satisfaction, as shown by her relationship with Frank Burns. In early seasons she had several liaisons with visiting colonels or generals who were "old friends". She is an experienced surgical nurse, so although she thoroughly disapproves of the surgeons' off-duty tomfoolery, she is able to set her personal feelings aside to appreciate their skills, such as when she came down with appendicitis and asked that Hawkeye, not Burns, perform the surgery if needed. 
In later years, she becomes a more relaxed and less criticizing member of the unit, tempering her authority with humanity. Key episodes in this development include the season 5 episode "The Nurses", in which she plays the role of a stern disciplinarian, but breaks down in front of her nurses revealing how hurt she is by their disdain for her and "Comrades In Arms" (season 6), in which Hawkeye and Margaret make peace as they endure an artillery barrage together while lost in the wilderness, though they had also shown more mutual respect for one another before when they have to go help a front-line aid station in "Aid Station" (season 3). Drinking problems appear to run in her family. She once told Frank that half of her salary went to support her mother half of that money went towards drying her out, the other half for bail money (her mother was a kleptomaniac).  Although the series presumes that she is an only child, in the same episode she tells Frank about her younger sister who was engaged to be married. 
Her long-standing affair with Frank ends with her engagement and subsequent marriage to Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott. The marriage does not last long she later finds out a visiting nurse had had an affair with him. Though he promises to work things out with her, he has himself permanently transferred to San Francisco, and she divorces him, regaining her self-confidence. In the wake of her split with Burns, she becomes more comfortable with at least some of the unit's more unorthodox ways and as time progresses, becomes a willing participant in some of the hijinks. Despite their long-running mutual antagonism, Hawkeye and Margaret come to develop respect and affection for each other, reflected in a long passionate farewell kiss in the final episode. She returns to the US to take a position in an Army hospital.
In the series of novels co-written with (or ghost-written by) William E. Butterworth, Houlihan reappears as the twice-widowed Margaret Houlihan Wachauf Wilson, both husbands having expired on the nuptial bed through excessive indulgence in her still-outstanding physical charms. Her career has taken a new direction as the head of the "God Is Love in All Forms Christian Church, Incorporated", a cult or sect with the unusual distinction that its entire congregation consists of gay men. Most of these are extremely flamboyant and the Reverend Mother herself is conspicuously glitzy and glittery. However, it appears that Margaret genuinely cares for her flock and is not merely shaking them down in pursuit of material gain.
Charles Emerson Winchester III, M.D. Edit
|Charles Emerson Winchester III|
|First appearance||"Fade Out Fade In"|
|Last appearance||"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"|
|Portrayed by||David Ogden Stiers|
|Family||Honoria Winchester (sister)|
Major Charles Emerson Winchester III is a supporting protagonist in the television series, played by David Ogden Stiers. The name Charles Emerson Winchester was derived from three real street names in the city of Boston. [ citation needed ] He was introduced in the show's sixth season as a replacement for Frank Burns, both in the unit's surgical team and as a foil for Hawkeye and B. J. Though Winchester did embody some antagonistic qualities similar to that of Burns, he proved over the course of his time on the series to be a very different character than his predecessor, being far more intelligent, humane, and kind.
Charles Winchester was born in his grandmother's house in the Boston, Massachusetts, neighborhood of Beacon Hill, and is part of a wealthy family of Republican Boston Brahmins. After finishing his secondary studies at Choate, he graduated summa cum laude class of 1943 from Harvard College (where he lettered in Crew and Polo), completed his M.D. at Harvard Medical in Boston in 1948, and worked at Massachusetts General Hospital. Before he was drafted to join the US Army during the Korean War, he was on track to become chief of cardio/thoracic surgery.
Winchester's commanding officer transferred him to the 4077th in retaliation for the major's gloating attitude about beating him at cribbage for $672.17 (equivalent to about $6,100 in 2016).  Assigned to quarters in "the Swamp" with Hawkeye and B. J., Winchester found the conditions there appalling, calling the camp upon his arrival "an inflamed boil on the buttocks of the world". Keeping with the show's tradition of replacement characters who are in some way the antithesis of their predecessors, Winchester is as skilled a surgeon as Burns was inept—although he had to learn how to perform battlefield medicine, a.k.a. meatball surgery—and he is as cultured as Burns was low-brow. Indeed, in one episode during a verbal joust with Pierce and Hunnicutt, Winchester is able to match them true story for true story due to his cultured upbringing and skill, culminating in him revealing he even once dated actress Audrey Hepburn (producing a candid photograph of them as proof) to the astonishment and chagrin of B. J. and Hawkeye.  However, Winchester still has to adjust to the realities of field medicine. Although the character was originally intended to develop a romance with Houlihan, [ citation needed ] the chemistry between the two was not there, so Charles and Margaret maintain a platonic, professional friendship.
Winchester is often adversarial with Hawkeye and B. J., but joins forces with them if it is justified. He has a keen but dry sense of humor, and enjoys practical jokes as well as the occasional prank to get revenge on his bunkmates for something they did or for his own amusement. Behind his snobbery, he was raised with a sense of noblesse oblige and was capable of profound – albeit sometimes misguided – acts of kindness. For example, in "Death Takes a Holiday" he quietly gifts an orphanage with expensive chocolates (a tradition in his family) while the camp assails his stinginess because true charity must be anonymous. Initially outraged to find that they were traded on the black market, he learns that the candies were sold to buy an entire month's worth of food for the orphans. As the orphanage director apologizes, Winchester reflects: "It is I who should be sorry. It is sadly inappropriate to give dessert to a child who has had no meal." Humbled, he retreats to the Swamp, where Klinger brings him a Christmas dinner (made up of party leftovers), and they exchange quiet Christmas greetings, on a first-name basis. In "Morale Victory", he sends for a copy of the score for Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand to give encouragement to a pianist who can no longer play with his injured right hand. In "Run for the Money", he stands up for a wounded soldier whose comrades and commanding officer mock his stuttering, encouraging the young man to live up to his intellectual potential. At the end of the episode, he listens to a recorded letter from his sister Honoria, who turns out to likewise be a stutterer. Classical music is one of his great loves, helping him to maintain his morale. In the series finale, following the sudden death of the Chinese POWs he has been teaching a work by Mozart, Winchester states that music has transformed into a haunting reminder of the horrors of the war. After the war, he returns to Boston where the position of Chief of Thoracic Surgery at a prestigious hospital awaits him.
Radar O'Reilly Edit
|First appearance||MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors|
|Portrayed by||Gary Burghoff|
Corporal Walter Eugene O'Reilly, best known as Radar O'Reilly, appears in the novels, film, and TV series. He also appeared in two episodes of AfterMASH, and starred in the television pilot W*A*L*T*E*R. The character was portrayed by Gary Burghoff in both the film and on television, the only regular character played by a single actor. His full name is never given in the original novel or film, but on the TV series it is Walter Eugene O'Reilly. The later novels by Richard Hooker and William Butterworth give his name as J. Robespierre O'Reilly.
Radar is from Ottumwa, Iowa, and joined the army right out of high school. He seems to have extra-sensory perception, appearing at his commander's side before being called and finishing his sentences. He also has exceptionally good hearing, able to hear helicopters before anyone else, and to tell from the rotor sounds if they are coming in loaded or not. It was these abilities that earned him the nickname "Radar". The character is inspired by company clerk Don Shaffer, who also was born in Ottumwa and nicknamed "Radar" by his compatriots, and who served alongside Hornberger in Korea. 
In the film, Radar was portrayed as worldly and sneaky, a characterization that carried into the early part of the series. He carries with him a pocketful of passes for any potential scam that might arise, and has a racket of selling tickets for spying through a peephole into the nurses' shower. Another time, he cons nearly every member of MASH 4077 into buying mail order shoes. He is known for his tremendous appetite for heaping portions of food, is not averse to drinking Henry Blake's brandy and smoking his cigars when the colonel is off-duty, and he occasionally drinks the moonshine liquor that Hawkeye and Trapper make in their still. [ citation needed ]
Soon after the pilot episode, Burghoff noted that the other characters were changing from the film portrayals and decided to follow. He and writer Larry Gelbart evolved Radar into a naïve farm boy,  who still sleeps with his teddy bear and whose favorite beverage is Nehi brand grape soda. He has a virginal awkwardness with women, and a fondness for superhero comic books. In season 3, he remarked that he would be glad to live past age 18, though other ages are given in other episodes, and by then the actor was pushing 30. The show continued to portray him as very young even as his hairline receded (all of the actors would age a decade during this protracted retelling of a 3-year war).
He runs the camp public address system and radio station, which are often used in minor gags in one episode he transmits messages to a Navy carrier by Morse code.  Another occasionally recurring gag is Radar's ineptitude with the bugle he invariably mangles any calls he tries to play, and his bugle has suffered abuse such as being shot out of his hand and thrown into a roaring bonfire.
Radar frequently looks to the doctors for advice, and increasingly regards Henry Blake and then Sherman Potter as father figures, having lost his own elderly father at a young age. Radar is also one of the very few people Hawkeye Pierce has ever saluted (an event that occurred after Radar was wounded during a trip to Seoul and was given a Purple Heart and when he leaves to go home), showing just how much Pierce respects him. Radar is promoted to Second Lieutenant as the result of a poker game debt ("Lt. Radar O'Reilly"), but soon returns to Corporal after discovering that life as a commissioned officer is more complicated than he had originally thought.
It was Radar who entered the operating room to announce that Colonel Blake's plane had been shot down over the Sea of Japan, with no survivors.
Burghoff appeared in every episode of the show's first three seasons. After season three, doing the series had become a strain on the actor's family life, and he had his contract changed to limit his appearances to 13 episodes per season out of the usual 24. By season seven, Burghoff started experiencing burnout and decided it was time to quit he finished season seven, then returned the next season for a two-part farewell episode titled "Good-Bye Radar" in which Radar was granted a hardship discharge after the death of his Uncle Ed to help on the family farm, which he accepted after being satisfied that Klinger could replace him. He left his teddy bear behind on Hawkeye's bunk as a parting gift and symbol of his maturity.
In 1984, Burghoff guest-starred in two episodes of AfterMASH as Radar, now living on the family farm in Iowa. These appearances led to W*A*L*T*E*R, a television movie that was to serve as the pilot for a spin-off series.
In that movie and proposed series, the O'Reilly family farm had failed and Radar had moved to St. Louis and become a police officer. Production never proceeded past the pilot, which aired once on CBS.
Father Mulcahy Edit
|First appearance||MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors|
|Last appearance||"Saturday's Heroes" (AfterMASH)|
|Portrayed by||Film: René Auberjonois|
Television: William Christopher (George Morgan for the pilot)
1st Lieutenant (later Captain) Francis John Patrick Mulcahy, SJ – the order of his given names was not presented consistently in the series – appears in the novel, film (played by René Auberjonois) and TV series (played by William Christopher except in the pilot). He is a Catholic priest, and serves as a US Army chaplain assigned to the 4077th. He was played by George Morgan in the pilot episode of the series, but the producers decided that a quirkier individual was needed for the role. 
In the novel and film, Mulcahy is familiarly known by the nickname "Dago Red", a derogatory reference to his Italian–Irish ancestry and the sacramental wine used during Holy Mass. While most of the staff is not religious, they treat Mulcahy with some respect. It is Mulcahy who alerts the doctors that the camp dentist "Painless" is severely depressed. Afterwards, Mulcahy reluctantly helps the doctors to stage the famous "Last Supper" faux suicide, to convince Painless that he should continue with life. He is bewildered by the doctors' amoral pranks and womanizing behavior, but is usually forgiving of their jokes and sarcastic remarks, commenting once that "humor, after all, was one of His creations". When Radar places a hidden microphone inside Hot Lips's tent as she and Frank Burns have sex, members of the camp listen in, and Mulcahy at first mistakes their conversation (and noises) for an episode of The Bickersons, leaving abruptly when he realizes otherwise.
He is from Philadelphia and is frequently seen wearing a Loyola sweatshirt. He has a sibling, Kathy, who is a Catholic nun.  He impishly refers to her as "my sister the Sister". His sister's religious name is Theresa.  He is an amateur boxer and boxing fan an old priest and mentor in Jesuit school taught his students that boxing built character, and Mulcahy coached boys in the sport at his local CYO chapter before being assigned to the 4077th. There is a running joke that Mulcahy always wins the betting pools. On one occasion, when asked how he knows what bet to place, he looks to the sky with a smile. His luck at poker is unremarkable, however. He donates his winnings to the local orphanage.
Mulcahy understands that many of his "flock" are non-religious or have other faiths, and does not evangelize them overtly. Rather than lecturing from authority, he seeks to teach by example ("Blood Brothers"), or by helping someone see the error of their ways ("Identity Crisis"). Although his quiet faith in God is unshakable, Mulcahy is often troubled over whether his role as chaplain and religious leader has importance compared to the doctors' obvious talent for saving lives. This is despite being told by Cardinal Reardon, a prelate visiting Korea to evaluate the effectiveness of the chaplains serving there, that "you're a tough act to follow".  This leads him to periodically prove himself, such as volunteering for a dangerous mission to demonstrate his courage to a soldier who had shot himself in the foot to get out of combat duty ("Mulcahy's War"), and putting himself in harm's way to retrieve or negotiate for medical supplies ("Tea and Empathy", "Out of Gas"). He is repeatedly passed over for promotion, but eventually rises to the rank of Captain after Colonel Potter intercedes on his behalf ("Captains Outrageous").
Although he is ordained as a Catholic priest, Mulcahy demonstrates a familiarity with other faiths, such as offering a prayer in Hebrew for a wounded Jewish soldier ("Cowboy") and explaining the rituals of a Buddhist wedding to other attendees from the camp ("Ping Pong").
In the series finale, while releasing POWs from a holding pen in the path of an artillery barrage, he is nearly killed and loses most of his hearing when a shell explodes at close range. He tells his friends that he intends to work with the deaf following the war, but only B. J. knows why, and helps him conceal this handicap from them.
Father Mulcahy was one of three regular M*A*S*H characters to star in the spin-off AfterMASH, with William Christopher joining Harry Morgan and Jamie Farr. The show was set at the fictional General Pershing VA Hospital in Missouri, where he served as chaplain. An experimental procedure was said to have restored most of his hearing.
Maxwell Klinger Edit
|First appearance||"Chief Surgeon Who?"|
|Last appearance||"Saturday's Heroes" (AfterMASH)|
|Portrayed by||Jamie Farr|
|Spouse||Laverne Esposito (divorced)|
Soon Lee Han
|Children||Si Young Klinger (son with Soon Lee)|
Corporal (later Sergeant) Maxwell Q. "Max" Klinger appears in the television series M*A*S*H and the spin-off AfterMASH, played by actor Jamie Farr. He serves as an orderly/sentry and later company clerk assigned to the 4077th. Klinger was the first main character introduced on M*A*S*H not to have appeared in either the original novel or the subsequent film. Despite the writers giving him an Ashkenazi-sounding name, Klinger is an Arab-American of Lebanese descent from Toledo, Ohio (like Farr himself). As for Klinger's religion, in an early show, Klinger said he gave up being an atheist for Lent. In real life, Jamie Farr is a devout Antiochian (Greek) Orthodox.  In other episodes, Klinger pleads with Allah to help him out of a jam.
The character's original defining characteristic was his continual attempts to gain a Section 8 psychiatric discharge from the Army, by habitually wearing women's clothing and engaging in other "crazy" stunts. His first appearance was in the fourth episode, "Chief Surgeon Who?" in that episode's original script, Klinger was an effeminate gay man ("a silly fag character" as stated by Farr in the documentary Making M*A*S*H), but the writers later agreed that it would be more interesting to have Klinger be heterosexual, but wear dresses in an attempt to gain a Section 8 discharge.  He makes it a point to play up his antics to visiting high-ranking officers in an attempt to gain their sympathy and convince them that he is unfit to serve. When Colonel Potter takes command, Klinger immediately tries the same with him, but Potter sees through the scam immediately. Series writer Larry Gelbart stated during the M*A*S*H 30th Anniversary Reunion special that Klinger's antics were inspired by stories of Lenny Bruce attempting to dodge his own military service by dressing himself as a US Navy WAVE. In the second half of the two-part episode "Bug Out", which inaugurated the fifth season, Klinger reveals that it took him three years to accumulate his collection of dresses, implying that he was cross dressing before the Korean War began.
Klinger eventually gives up his attempts at a Section 8 when he is picked by Colonel Potter to become the company clerk following Radar's discharge. He is later promoted to Sergeant ("Promotion Commotion") and begins to take his duties even more seriously the writers had decided to "tap into his street skills" to flesh out his character. In the eighth-season episode "Dear Uncle Abdul", Klinger writes to his uncle – who successfully used cross-dressing to stay out of the Army – about the crazy goings-on in camp, ending with the reflection "It's no wonder I never got a Section Eight – there's nothing special about me everybody here is crazy!" Klinger is a fan of the Toledo Mud Hens, an actual minor league baseball team, and occasionally voices his high opinion of the hot dogs at Tony Packo's, an actual Toledo restaurant.
In the third-season episode "Springtime", Klinger marries his girlfriend, Laverne Esposito, via radio. In season six, he receives a Dear John letter from Laverne saying she has found another man, whom she later breaks up with, then becoming engaged to Klinger's supposed best friend. When Colonel Potter denies his hardship authorization to go home to try to save his marriage, considering it another fake story, the frustrated Klinger tears his dress, shouting that his cross-dressing was fake. From then on, he wears his Army uniform, and has given up on his attempts to "escape".
In the final episodes of the series, Klinger gets engaged to Soon Lee Han (Rosalind Chao), a Korean refugee when proposing to her, he suggests she wear the wedding dress he had himself worn in one of his attempted Section Eight escapades and explains to her what white means in his culture. She refuses to leave Korea until she finds her family, leading to the irony that although the end of the war means Klinger is free to return to the US, he chooses to stay with her.
In AfterMASH, it is revealed that Max and Soon Lee found her family and helped them re-establish themselves as farmers, then moved together to the US to settle down. However, she faced racial discrimination and he turned to bookmaking, and is only able to escape prison time when Sherman Potter offers a character reference and hires him as his assistant at the veteran's hospital in Missouri where he now works.
Duke Forrest Edit
|First appearance||MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors|
|Portrayed by||Tom Skerritt|
|Hometown||Forrest City, Georgia|
Captain Augustus Bedford "Duke" Forrest appears in the novel and the film (played by actor Tom Skerritt). In the book Duke Forrest is described as under six feet tall, with red hair, blue eyes, and 29 years old. He is married with two daughters. As portrayed by Skerritt in the film, he stands at 6'1" and is dark-haired. Skerritt was 37 years old at the time.
In both the novel and the film, he is a surgeon assigned to the 4077th, who arrives with Hawkeye. Hailing from the fictional small town of Forrest City, Georgia, Duke ends up sharing a tent with Hawkeye, Frank Burns, and Trapper John.
In the film, when it is proposed that "Spearchucker" Jones will bunk with the other surgeons in the Swamp, Duke is disrespectful (implied to be because of his own Southern heritage), until he is rebuked by Hawkeye and Trapper. Duke learns to appreciate Spearchucker when he is informed that he is a well-known professional football player, as well as when Duke sees Spearchucker's prowess as a surgeon.
The Duke Forrest character did not make it to the TV series. Skerritt reportedly turned down the offer from 20th Century Fox to reprise his role as Duke on the series because he doubted that a half-hour sitcom adaptation of the film would succeed. [ citation needed ] In a season 3 episode, when asked what happened to "that surgeon you had from Georgia", Trapper answers, "He got sent stateside!" [ citation needed ]
Brig. Gen. Hammond Edit
Hammond is a brigadier general who is in charge of several medical outfits, including the 4077th. In both the film and the TV series, Hammond is played by G. Wood, making him one of two actors to reprise his film role in the TV show. (Gary Burghoff is the other.)
In the book, the character's full name is Hamilton Hartington Hammond, and he is stationed in Seoul. In the movie, General Hammond's first name is Charles, and he is very enthusiastic about football, challenging the 4077th to a game against his 325th Evac unit. In the series pilot it is clear that he is a surgeon as well as an administrator, and his first name is Hamilton. In "Henry Please Come Home" Hammond is personally responsible for Henry's short-lived transfer to Tokyo. In both the film and the series, Hammond has a cordial relationship with Col. Blake. In the film, Hammond is dismissive of Major Houlihan and her negative report about Blake, while in the TV series Houlihan is a sometime lover whom he remembers fondly.
Brig. Gen. Crandall Clayton Edit
Clayton, like Hammond, is in charge of several medical outfits including the 4077th. He once refers to Henry Blake as "a dear friend", though Blake always addresses him as "General." Clayton has a somewhat less of a military bearing than Hammond, and seems to want to balance military expediency with "fatherly advice". He is played by Herb Voland.
Maj. Gen. Maynard M. Mitchell Edit
A general who appears in a few early episodes. In the episode "The Incubator", and in this episode only, he is presented as a fool, answering questions of reporters in military double talk. In "Officers Only", he is the grateful father of a wounded soldier who arranges with Maj. Burns for the construction of an Officers Club. Played by Robert F. Simon.
Colonel (Sam) Flagg Edit
Lieutenant Colonel (later Colonel) Sam Flagg is played by Edward Winter. Col. Flagg is an American intelligence agent who acts paranoid and irrational and appears to the staff of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital to be mentally unstable. He alternately claims to be affiliated with the CIA, the CIC, or the CID. Other aliases include Major Brooks, Lieutenant Carter, Ensign Troy, and Captain Louise Klein. 
Colonel Flagg appears in six M*A*S*H episodes: "A Smattering of Intelligence", "Officer of the Day", "White Gold", "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?", "The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan", and "Rally 'Round the Flagg, Boys". Before playing Flagg, Winter played a similar character named Capt. Halloran in the episode "Deal Me Out". Given Flagg's propensity for using aliases, fans have speculated that Halloran may be simply another of Flagg's aliases – although the regular M*A*S*H characters interacted extensively with Halloran, yet most did not recognize him as Flagg when Flagg started showing up regularly. Flagg and recurring character Sidney Freedman, however, appear in "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler" to discuss the events of "Deal Me Out".
Flagg resurfaces a few years after the war, in a Hannibal, Missouri, courtroom (as seen in the AfterMASH episode "Trials"), in which he uses the name Flagg and asserts employment with an intelligence organization "which has initials and its members are allowed to carry firearms in their shoes".
Lt. Col. Donald Penobscott Edit
Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott was played by two actors, Beeson Carroll and former football player and Tarzan actor Mike Henry. Donald is introduced in name only at the start of the fifth season. Tall, dark, handsome, and muscular, he is a graduate of West Point whom Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Loretta Swit) meets while she is on leave in Tokyo. She falls madly in love with him on the spot, and he quickly asks her to marry him. Margaret promptly accepts, leading to a falling out with her former flame Frank Burns.
Penobscott is not actually seen until the season-ending episode "Margaret's Marriage", wherein Donald (played by Carroll) arrives to marry Margaret at the 4077th. Hawkeye and B. J. have a bachelor party for him, and after he passes out from drunkenness, the hosts, also inebriated, decide to play a joke on Penobscott by plastering him from his chest to his toes, intending to tell him that he had broken both his legs during the night. The cast is still on during the wedding ceremony, and he is unable to move without assistance. The wedding is cut short by incoming wounded, which leaves Donald in the mess hall, unable to move in his body cast. As Margaret leaves for her honeymoon, they make a halfhearted attempt to tell her that the cast could be removed, but she doesn't hear them over the sound of the helicopter they are departing in.
He is not seen again until the sixth-season episode "The M*A*S*H Olympics", in which Donald (played this time by Henry) arrives to visit Margaret and ends up taking part in the 4077th's amateur Olympics competition he almost wins a race against portly Sgt. First Class Ames, but Penobscott gets tangled into a netting while showing off.
He is mentioned frequently throughout the 6th and 7th seasons, particularly in reference to problems Margaret and Donald are having. For example, in the episode "In Love and War", a new nurse arrives at the 4077th. After saying she was recently involved with a colonel named Donald, Margaret comes to the conclusion that Donald has cheated on her, and she flies into a rage against the nurse. In "Comrades in Arms", Margaret receives a letter from Donald that was meant for another woman – a letter that says unkind things about Margaret and hints at Donald having an affair with the other woman. Finally, in the season 7 episode "Peace on Us", Margaret announces she's getting a divorce due to Donald transferring himself to San Francisco without telling her. Margaret receives her official divorce decree from Donald in the episode "Hot Lips is Back in Town".
Major Sidney Freedman Edit
Major Sidney Theodore Freedman, played by Allan Arbus, is a psychiatrist frequently summoned in cases of mental health problems. His name is a play on that of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. When Radar was written out of the series, the writers considered adding Sidney Freedman as a regular character. However, Allan Arbus didn't want to commit to be anything other than a guest star, so the character remained an occasionally recurring character. [ citation needed ] In the M*A*S*H 30th Anniversary Special that aired on Fox in 2002, Arbus was the only non-regular cast member to be featured on the special.
Freedman's first appearance was in the episode "Radar's Report". He visited the camp to do a psychiatric evaluation of Klinger, who was aiming for a Section 8 discharge (as always). After Freedman had finished the report, he quietly took Klinger in for an interview and told him that while he is obviously not mentally ill, Freedman was willing to declare him a transvestite and a homosexual. This label would not leave him, though as Sidney put it: "From now on, you go through life on high heels." Klinger vociferously denied, "I ain't any of those things! I'm just crazy!" Klinger's discharge was uniformly dropped, and Freedman left the camp. In this first appearance in the series, Dr. Freedman's first name was Milton instead of Sidney.
Freedman appears in 12 M*A*S*H episodes: "Radar's Report" (as Milton Freedman), "Deal Me Out", "O.R.", "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?", "Dear Sigmund", "Hawk's Nightmare", "War of Nerves" (in which he qualified for a Purple Heart by being wounded while performing therapy follow-up on one of his patients), "The Billfold Syndrome", "Goodbye, Cruel World", "Bless You, Hawkeye", "Pressure Points", and the series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen". He is also mentioned, but does not appear onscreen, in the episodes "Mad Dogs and Servicemen", "Heal Thyself", "A Holy Mess", and "Trick or Treatment".
In the episode "O.R.", Freedman told those gathered in the operating room: "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: Pull down your pants and slide on the ice." He repeated that advice in the series finale, following his treatment of Hawkeye, who had finally cracked under the strain of the war. Freedman led Hawkeye to stop suppressing the memory of seeing a Korean mother smothering her crying baby in an effort to keep it silent, so that a nearby Chinese patrol would not find and kill or capture their group. He convinced a reluctant Hawkeye that the best thing for him now was to return to duty for the last days of the war.
After leaving Korea and the Army, Dr. Freedman accepts a post at the University of Chicago. The AfterMASH episode "Madness to His Method" has as its frame Colonel Potter writing a letter in Missouri about the episode's situation to an unseen Freedman.
Capt. Spearchucker Jones Edit
Captain Oliver Harmon "Spearchucker" Jones is a character who appears in the novel MASH (and its sequels), and was portrayed by Fred Williamson in the movie and Timothy Brown in the television series. In all iterations, the Spearchucker character is a superior surgeon who was also a stand-out collegiate athlete. "Spearchucker", a common racial slur, is said to refer in this case to his javelin-throwing prowess. Initially, he is transferred to the 4077th to help them win a football game (Jones is said to have played with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers) against a rival outfit. In the novel, it is related that while a poorly paid resident, he had been scouted by the Philadelphia Eagles playing semi-professional football in New Jersey for extra cash, and had been signed by the Eagles, playing with them until he was drafted. Coincidentally, actor Timothy Brown played most of his nine-year NFL career with Philadelphia, and was selected to the team's Honor Roll in 1990. [ citation needed ]
It is established in the novel that Jones is from Duke Forrest's hometown of Forest Park, Georgia, and knew Duke's father. Duke makes racist comments about Jones, causing Hawkeye and Trapper to punish Duke. In the sequel novels, particularly M*A*S*H Goes to Maine, Jones joins the other doctors in their practice in Spruce Harbor, Maine, becoming a highly successful doctor and prominent citizen.
The character's middle name was Harmon in the film and Wendell in the novels. He is a board-certified neurosurgeon in the film, and in the episode in which Hawkeye becomes chief surgeon, Spearchucker's specialty is indicated as he struggles to do other types of surgery and when he asks Hawkeye for help, he says, "Anything outside the skull, I'm dead".
Spearchucker was shown during several episodes during the first season of the series. His full name was never mentioned in the series. He was one of the original Swampmen with Trapper, Hawkeye, and Frank Burns, and was the sole black surgeon at the 4077th. In the pilot episode, to raise funds for Ho-Jon's education, Trapper "jokingly" suggests selling Spearchucker. During his brief run on the show, it was implied that he and nurse Ginger Bayliss (played by Odessa Cleveland) were romantically involved.
Spearchucker's role was limited. It is implied he assisted Hawkeye and Trapper in their schemes on the sidelines. The producers decided to drop the character after the first few episodes, reasoning that they wouldn't be able to write enough meaningful episodes for Spearchucker if they were concentrating on Hawkeye and Trapper. Some accounts assert the producers were unable to find evidence for black Army surgeons in Korea there were, however, a number of black surgeons who served in the US military at the time. 
Capt. Ugly John Black Edit
Captain "Ugly" John Black was portrayed by Carl Gottlieb in the movie, and John Orchard in the TV series. The character on the television show was an anesthesiologist from Australia, often depicted wearing an Australian Slouch hat. In the book, he was an American who had "trained in the States with McIntyre". In the film, he is an American (as he can be seen wearing the insignia of a US Army Captain), but his background is not discussed. In the TV series, Ugly John was present only in the first season. He began as a significant supporting member of the cast, often engaged in poker games with Hawkeye and Trapper, but by the end of the season he was rarely seen outside brief O.R. scenes.
Ugly John was never seen living in "The Swamp" and there was no fifth bunk, though it was the only quarters for subordinate male officers ever seen. In the episode "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet", Hawkeye says that he shares a tent with three other doctors. The script was likely written before Spearchucker was dropped and the writers presumably overlooked editing that line of dialogue. However, Ugly John was still a recurring character, and may have been one of the "three other doctors". John Orchard later returned to the show for the Season 8 episode "Captains Outrageous", this time playing a drunken and corrupt Australian Military Policeman "Sgt. Muldoon".
Lt. Ginger Bayliss Edit
Played by Odessa Cleveland on the TV series, Ginger is one of few nurses to have a recurring, speaking role in the series as the same character. Ginger appears to be a competent nurse who is well-liked by the medical staff, but occasionally runs afoul of Frank Burns who blames her for his mistakes, leading to Hawkeye and Trapper coming to her defense by pulling pranks on Frank.
Ginger is a commissioned Lieutenant, but is not a stickler for rules or military discipline like Major Houlihan. She is frequently seen fraternizing with Trapper and Spearchucker, even playing a game of "strip dominoes" with the latter in the first-season episode, "Chief Surgeon Who?".
In the first-season episode, "Major Fred C. Dobbs", Ginger is working with Frank in the O.R. When Frank botches his work, he blames Ginger and tells Maj. Houlihan that Ginger is, "an incompetent bungler. I never want her at my table again!" Ginger is brought to tears by Frank's verbal assault prompting Hawkeye and Trapper to encase Frank's right arm in plaster capped with a metal hook while Frank is sleeping.
One of Ginger's most prominent roles comes in the season 2 episode, "Dear Dad. Three" where a wounded soldier requests that he be given blood only from white donors. Hawkeye and Trapper decide to teach him a lesson by tinting his skin darker while he is sedated and subsequently referring to him as "boy" and bringing him fried chicken and watermelon to eat. When Ginger is doing her rounds in post-op, she looks at his chart and says, "They've got you down as white. Good job, baby!" When he angrily lashes out at her, she pulls rank on him, warning: "I'm a lieutenant, soldier. I don't care if you are passing, watch your mouth." Later, when Trapper and Hawkeye explain to the soldier that all blood is the same, he reflects upon his behavior. As he prepares to depart the 4077th to rejoin his unit, he thanks the doctors then turns and salutes Ginger, who returns the salute and wishes him well.
Ginger's last appearance was in the season 4 episode, "The Late Captain Pierce". All told, Cleveland appeared in 25 episodes of M*A*S*H spanning seasons 1–4.
Lt. Dish Edit
1st Lieutenant Maria "Dish" Schneider was played by Jo Ann Pflug in the film and (as Lt. Maggie Dish) by Karen Philipp in the series. She was a nurse at the 4077th MASH during the Korean War.
Dish's role in the finished film was limited, as a large portion of her role did not make the final cut. The same thing happened to the character in the television series. After being prominently featured as Hawkeye's love interest in the pilot, she appeared in only one further episode (Episode 1/11) before leaving the show entirely. However, she continued to be featured in the opening credit montage sequence (wherein the MASH staff run toward approaching helicopters) for most of the show's run.
Lt. Nurse Kellye Edit
1st Lt. Kealani Kellye was portrayed by Kellye Nakahara. She appeared in 86 episodes of the series, more episodes than some main characters, such as Henry Blake and Trapper John. The character grew steadily from a background (often non-speaking) character in the first season, to a speaking character with a character arc of her own, culminating in the season 11 episode "Hey, Look Me Over" which was primarily about the character. In her first appearances, her name changed several times before it finally settled on "Nurse Kellye" for example, she was referred to as "Nurse Able" in her first appearance in "A Full Rich Day". The first name "Kealani" was never spoken on screen, but according to interviews with the actress, that was the first name used on set when referring to the character.  On several occasions, though, she is called "Lt. Nakahara", notably in the season 10 episode "The Birthday Girls", and in the last regular episode of season 11, the final episode filmed, "As Time Goes By", Major Houlihan refers to Kellye as "Lt. Nakahara".
Originally from Honolulu, she described herself as "part Chinese, part Hawaiian" in Episode 8/11 "Life Time" and speaks Japanese, as revealed in "Communication Breakdown". She had great pride in her Asian American heritage and frequently took umbrage at racial slurs leveled by Frank Burns. Her family lives in Honolulu according to her statements in the final episode.
Nakahara joined Morgan, Christopher and Farr on AfterMASH, albeit off-camera, as the recurring voice of the public address system at the V.A. hospital.
Lt. Margie Cutler Edit
A nurse introduced as a new transfer in the episode "Requiem for a Lightweight". She immediately attracts the attention of both Hawkeye and Trapper, so much so that Maj. Houlihan wants her transferred again immediately. In the same episode, Trapper agrees to participate in a boxing match with a fighter from another outfit in exchange for a promise by Henry Blake that Cutler will be kept at the 4077th. Despite Trapper's efforts, however, she becomes romantically linked with Hawkeye in a few episodes. Cutler was played by actress/singer Marcia Strassman.
Lt. Leslie Scorch Edit
A nurse at the 4077th, and Henry Blake's paramour during much of the first season, and is at his side through much of the pilot. She is good-natured and has a bubbly personality. Played by Linda Meiklejohn.
Lt. Barbara Bannerman Edit
A nurse at the 4077th, who at times casually dates both Hawkeye and Trapper. Played by Bonnie Jones, at that time the wife of M*A*S*H producer Gene Reynolds. Seen only during season one.
S/Sgt Luther Rizzo Edit
Staff Sergeant Luther Wilson Rizzo was played by G. W. Bailey. In the show, he was the sergeant in charge of the motor pool. While originally written to be from New York City, when the producers heard Bailey's southern accent in his first dailies his character was moved to Louisiana.  He was known for his slow, deep, Louisiana drawl (Bailey himself is in fact Texan) and his slightly disheveled look. Though the motor pool seemed to function well, it did so despite Rizzo's casual work style and frequent naps. His philosophy on success in the army was that it was possible to never do work, so long as your superiors don't see you enjoy yourself: "Where else [but the Army] can you be a bum and get paid for it?"
In the Season 10 episode "Promotion Commotion", Rizzo was one of three 4077th enlisted who appeared before a promotion board consisting of Hawkeye, B. J., and Winchester. He was not promoted, but made it clear that he was American "with an American wife and American son, Billy Bubba". In Episode 10/21 his first name is given as "Wilson".
Rizzo enjoys shooting craps, and seems to win more than he loses. He also is the camp loan shark, getting Charles on his hook at one point to the extent he had to have money sent from home to clear his debt with the cigar-chewing sergeant.
Sergeant Rizzo is known to carry a grudge. On one occasion, he borrowed a deactivated hand grenade from Igor and used it to scare B. J. out of the shower after B. J. had given him a hard time. When Rizzo was found out Charles played a prank and as Rizzo threw the grenade in the Swamp, Charles dived on the inactive grenade stunning Rizzo. He had harsh words with Winchester when the latter, acting as motor pool officer, required him to completely disassemble a jeep's engine and lay it out on white sheets, for no good reason that Rizzo could see.
In the series finale, at the 4077th's final dinner Rizzo claimed that he would be going home to work on a new moneymaking venture: breeding frogs to sell to French restaurants. This is a minor error Rizzo had re-enlisted in the Army in a previous episode.
S/Sgt Zelmo Zale Edit
Staff Sergeant Zelmo Zale was portrayed by Johnny Haymer.  Zale is the supply sergeant  for the 4077th MASH and also is the camp's electrician he is shown trying to keep the camp's generator going until it blows up. He is responsible for repairing the juke box in the officers' club after the Marines bust it up. In the episode "Patent 4077", Zale describes himself a master craftsman. He mentions in one episode that he is from Brooklyn, which was the reason he didn't know what people who were heading to California in the late 1840s were looking for, when quizzed. He makes his first appearance in the Season 2 episode, "For Want of a Boot", and his final appearance in the Season 8 episode, "Good-Bye Radar" (which also marked Gary Burghoff's last appearance on the show as Corporal Radar O'Reilly). Zale's name is mentioned for the final time in "Yes Sir, That's Our Baby". A running gag is his feud with Maxwell Klinger – once Klinger hit Zale for insulting the Toledo Mud Hens and is put on KP for a whole month. Another time Major Burns manipulates Klinger and Zale into a boxing match, which results in Burns being knocked out by both men.
Sgt. "Sparky" Pryor Edit
Sparky is the mostly unseen telephone/radio operator at headquarters. His nickname is probably a carry-over from the days of telegraphy. Radar almost always needs to go through Sparky when he makes a call to Seoul, Japan, or the US. (Sparky seems to be at his desk around the clock). Sometimes, for special calls, Sparky requires a bribe to arrange the connection. The character is seen and heard only once, in the first-season episode "Tuttle". This is also the only time his rank and real name are mentioned. He is portrayed by Dennis Fimple, who plays him with a noticeable Southern American English accent.
Ho-Jon was portrayed by Kim Atwood in the film, and Patrick Adiarte in the series. In the original novel, Ho-Jon is described as a 17-year-old Korean, tall, thin, bright, Christian, and living in Seoul. He is drafted into the South Korean army, subsequently wounded and sent back to the 4077th for treatment. After rehabilitation, he resumes his position as "Swampboy". The Swampmen, who are very fond of Ho-Jon, arrange to have him sent to Hawkeye's old college in the US. To raise funds, Trapper grows a beard, poses as Jesus Christ (complete with a cross mounted on a jeep or hanging from a helicopter), and autographs thousands of photos which the Swampmen sell for a dollar apiece. In M*A*S*H Goes to Maine, Ho-Jon is briefly seen again, having pursued a successful career in university administration. In M*A*S*H Mania, he is shown to have become the director of admissions at Androscoggin College (Hawkeye's alma mater).
In the film, Ho-Jon is drafted, and Hawkeye drives him to the induction center. The Korean doctor who examines Ho-Jon discovers that Hawkeye has given him drugs to induce hypertension and tachycardia (so that he will fail the induction physical). Ho-Jon is last seen in the film being led away by South Korean soldiers while the doctor tells Hawkeye that he has seen through the trick.
In the screenplay, Ho-Jon is wounded and sent to the 4077th however, his surgery is unsuccessful, and he dies. The completed film omits this storyline, although a scene showing Ho-Jon in the operating room remains with overdubbed dialogue (Houlihan: "That man's a prisoner of war, Doctor." Trapper: "So are you, Sweetheart, but you don't know it.") and a scene showing a jeep driving off with the deceased Ho-Jon, causing a brief pause in the poker game. 
In the pilot episode, Ho-Jon is accepted at Hawkeye's old college, just as in the novel. In the TV version, the doctors raise funds for him by raffling off a weekend pass to Tokyo with Nurse Dish.
In the episode "I Hate a Mystery", Ho-Jon steals many valuable items and Hawkeye's poker winnings in order to bribe the border guards to bring his family down from the North. This contrasts with an incident in the pilot where he receives his college acceptance letter and leaves to tell his parents, who presumably live nearby.
Igor Straminsky Edit
Private Igor Straminsky was generally portrayed by actor Jeff Maxwell, although Peter Riegert played him in two sixth-season episodes. He debuted in the second season and appeared on and off up until the series finale. He has appeared in more episodes than any recurring character except Nurse Kellye.
Igor's role was often to serve food out in the mess and therefore also to serve as the foil for a lot of the complaints about the state of the food. He is also sometimes tasked with duties with Radar, as seen in the episode "Mulcahy's War". As a comic relief buffoon, he takes the part of Frank Burns as the village idiot.
In "Promotion Commotion", Igor relentlessly tries to impress Hawkeye and B. J., so he can be promoted to Corporal. He once mentioned to Father Mulcahy that he sets aside three dollars from each salary payment for the local orphanage.
In "The Price of Tomato Juice", Igor identifies himself as "Maxwell", (a goof on the part of actor Jeff Maxwell) and Major Frank Burns also refers to him as "Maxwell" in the following line of dialogue.
Igor became a fan favorite with both the fan base and the network. In later seasons, his roles were expanding, making him more of a recurring cast member.
His name is a play on the name of the classical composer Igor Stravinsky.
Pvt. Lorenzo Boone Edit
A hospital orderly who is innocent and not especially bright. In the movie, he is played by Bud Cort, and Boone's humiliation at the hands of Maj. Burns leads to Trapper striking Burns later that day. In the TV series, he is first played by Bruno Kirby, though only in the pilot (in which he has no lines, is not spoken to, and is only visible in the background of a few shots). He thereafter appears in a handful of episodes as a very minor character, played by Bob Gooden.
Roy Goldman Edit
Roy Goldman is a medic who is assigned various duties at the 4077th. His name was not set for several seasons. In "Officer of the Day", while with another soldier, he is referred to as either Carter or Willis (it is not clear which of the two is which). He is also referred to in one episode, perhaps jokingly, as Fred. Later the name "Goldman" was firmly established as his own. He is usually seen in a non-medical setting (such as guard duty), though he also does chores within the hospital. Goldman appears off and on throughout the run of series, usually when a soldier is needed for a random line or reaction. When Hawkeye walks into the mess tent naked, for example, Goldman is the first one to notice, dropping his metal tray in shock. He rarely has more than one or two lines, though in the episode "The Red/White Blues", his reaction to a medication is an important plot point and he speaks quite a bit more. The character was played by an actor not coincidentally named Roy Goldman.
Dennis Troy Edit
Like Roy, he is a medic, and he is frequently seen together with Roy. Sometimes he is a jeep driver. Dennis has glasses and straight hair, and usually has a mustache. Dennis rarely speaks, and never beyond a few words. In one episode, "Officer of the Day", he appears with another soldier and his last name is said to be Carter or Willis (it is unclear who is being referred to). One of those names, however, applies to Roy Goldman (see above), thus one can assume that the name was merely a one-time usage.
Perhaps because his appearances are so fleeting, the production staff may have been felt that Troy could be seen without distraction to the audience in settings other than the 4077th. In the episode "Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde", Dennis is General Clayton's jeep driver. In "Bombshells", he is an ambulance driver for the 8063rd MASH and does not seem to recognize BJ Hunnicutt.
Pvt. Frank Daley/Daily Edit
An African American private with a mustache who is occasionally seen in group shots in early seasons. His name is only mentioned in the episode "Payday", though Hawkeye jokingly introduces him as his "brother-in-law Leroy" at the Officers Club.
PA Announcer Edit
The announcer on the public address system is heard throughout the film and in most episodes of the series. In the film, the voice is that of David Arkin. There were a few different voices in the series, among them Todd Susman's and Sal Viscuso's. In the series, it is unknown where on the base the PA announcer is posted, as Radar is the only one seen in control of the radio and PA system. In the episode "A Full Rich Day", Blake says, "Tony, hit it", cueing the national anthem of Luxembourg over the PA – Tony could have been the name of the announcer starting a record or the name of a "live" pianist.
Capt. Spalding Edit
Capt. Calvin Spalding, played by Loudon Wainwright III, is a guitar-playing and singing surgeon who appeared in three episodes in season three (1974–75), "Rainbow Bridge", "There is Nothing Like a Nurse", and "Big Mac". The character's name is a reference to the character "Captain Spaulding" played by Groucho Marx in the film Animal Crackers. 
Real Medium, big business
The popular TV show Medium starred Patricia Arquette as Allison Dubois, a psychic medium who used her powers to help local law enforcement solve murder crimes. What some may not realize is that Dubois is a real person, and whether or not one believes in her psychic abilities, Dubois told Oprah that she has assisted real police officers in criminal investigations for years. However, seeing her life blown up into a regular TV series brought new challenges to her routine — not because of Arquette's portrayal, but because of the public reaction it engendered.
Her newfound fame brought her a "a never-ending avalanche of people wanting me to work the murders," Dubois said, as transcribed by the Huffington Post. Constantly receiving requests from across the country put Dubois into a severe depression, and she stated that it was "very hard to live in that dark place for so long." Eventually, Dubois took a break from it all, which she said helped her process the emotions and "get back to being who I was."
John Orchard as 'Ugly John' and Muldoon
John Orchard played two characters on "M*A*S*H": anesthesiologist "Ugly John" and — in a single, significantly later reappearance — the casually corrupt MP Muldoon. Ugly John was a carryover character from Robert Altman's original movie, and during Season 1, he appears often as a supporting character and poker buddy.
The audience appreciated Orchard's work, and MeTV suggests that his reappearance as Muldoon was a gesture towards everyone who missed his presence as Ugly John. If so, the move was a success: "The performance was so memorable, most fans remember Muldoon as well as they do Ugly John." It made for a great send-off and an excellent tribute to an actor we could easily imagine being part of the main cast.
Most of Orchard's acting career predated "M*A*S*H," but he was a guest star staple of genre television in the '60s and '70s. He died in 1995.