M*a*s*h

by Arnold Nelson

MASH stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. They were established in August 1945. They was conceived by Michael E DeBakey and other surgical consultants. The idea was to get wounded soldiers to help as fast as possible, because they realized the faster they could get wounded soldiers to help the more soldiers they can save . MASH units were located near the front lines. The MASH units were mobile so they could move around and stay as close to the front as possible and still do their work. MASH units were working at the end of WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm. In Korea they had success rate of 97%. That means 97% of the soldiers that reached a MASH unit lived to tell about it. The last MASH unit was closed down on February 16, 2006.

MASH units mainly did meatball surgery as it was called. It was just enough to stabilize the soldiers so they could be sent to a regular hospital and get regular care. That care was enough, for as I have said before, they had a tremendous success rate, 97% of the wounded soldiers in Korea that got to a MASH unit lived to tell about it. The MASH doctors work hard sometimes around the clock when there was heavy fighting. They had quite a bit of down time too, when fighting was slow.

In 1968 Richard Hooker wrote a novel called M*A*S*H. This novel made M*A*S*H a household word. In 1970 they made a film about M*A*S*H and in 1972 to 1983 there was a very popular TV series called M*A*S*H. I will take these one at a time and talk about them. I tried to find out how MASH got changed to M*A*S*H. The only answer I could find was that someone thought it looked nicer on the front of a book.

M*A*S*H the book took place in South Korea at the 4077 MASH in the beginning of the book Col. Blake asked for two new surgeons and he got them in the form of Capt. Benjamin Franklin Pierce known as Hawkeye because that was the only book his father ever read and Capt Augustus Bedford Forrest known as Duke. They were two of the best surgeons in Korea. In their off time they were against anything military. Beside the hospital there was what was called the Polish Painless Dentist and Poker Room. In that tent was a dentist, there was also a 24-hour poker game going. It is run by a man named Capt. Walter Koskiusko Woldowski. He was known is The Painless Dentist. A little bit later another surgeon arrived Capt. John McIntyre, known as Trapper because he was caught on a train one day, with a girl, and the girl claimed he trapped her although it was mutual. Trapper, Duke and Hawkeye lived in a tent they call the swamp.

While they were on duty they were the best surgeon you could ask for but in their off-duty they would do anything they felt like doing, they did not care for authority or the Army or anything else. They did do a few good things. They helped The Painless Dentists over his depression. They also helped a young Korean kid, who was cleaning up their tent and was interested in becoming a doctor, to get to America, where he could study medicine. They raise money and they provided transportation and a place for him to stay. When a Senators son got injured in Korea. Duke, Hawkeye, and Trapper were sent to take care of the young man and give him the best care possible. Luckily the young man didn't need a lot of care so the three them had a lot of time to play around. They even entered the golf tournament, but had to drop out because there were just little too tired after all their carousing. Hawkeye had a friend there who was an anesthetist. This friend took care of an orphanage in his spare time. One day the friend came up to the doctors and told them about a baby girl who would die if she didn't get surgery. So the doctors took the baby to the Army hospital and persuaded the hospital to let them operate on the baby, the baby survived, and Hawkeye made it possible for the friend and his wife back in the states to adopted baby.

All in all it was a fairly decent book the only complaints I have is that most of the characters in the book are two dimensional, there was no depth to them. Also every time you turn the page in the book someone is drinking, or smoking, or carrying on with the opposite sex. I was in the Air Force I know a lot of that goes on when young men are away from home. I was never involved in it, I didn't like it then and I don't care to read about it.

The book was written by H. Richard Hornberger and WC Heinz. Hornberger was better known as Richard Hooker. There were two sequels written by Hooker and a series of sequels written by Hooker and William E. Butterworth. Actually Hooker did not write the series of sequels it was just William E. Butterworth. Hooker did serve time as a surgeon in a MASH hospital. That was where he got most of his ideas for the book.

M*A*S*H the movie came out in 1970. It was written by bringing Ring Lardner Jr. And direct by Robert Altman. This was Robert Altman's first directing job and there were a lot of problems between the director and cast.

They use most of the stories in the book from but they change the order around a little bit. The one big change in the movie was the shower scene. There was no shower scene in the book. The shower scene had Duke, Hawkeye and Trapper making a bet on whether the head nurse Margaret Hot Lips Houlihan was a natural blonde or not ( Hot Lips got her name because of an affair she had with Frank Burns, who was another surgeon.) The Swampers arranged for Hot Lips to be in the shower tent alone. Then they arrange for the side of this of the tent to suddenly lift up. There was Hot Lips standing there with nothing on. She then fell to the floor and scream one of the most famous lines in movie history THIS ISN'T A MASH UNIT IT'S AN INSANE ASYLUM. This scene became the second most famous shower scene in all the movies, second only to the shower scene in Psycho with Janet Lee.

I want to add that Father Mulcahy got the name Dago Red, because of his red hair and Walter O'Reilly got the name Radar, because of his hearing. He could hear things before anybody else could. He also had a little esp.

In the movie they clean up some of the language and some of the drinking. I thought the movie was pretty good. There was actually depth to most of the characters.

The main characters in the movies were:

Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye,

Elliott Gould as Trapper,

Tom Skerritt as Duke,

Sally Kellerman as Hot Lips,

Robert Duval as Frank Burns,

John Shuck as the Painless Pole,

Gary Burgoff off as Radar,

Rene Auberjonois as father John Patrick Dago Red Mulcahy,

and Roger Bowan as Col. Blake.

When M*A*S*H the TV series had its debut in 1972 the ratings were originally on the low side and there was talk about canceling it. In 1973 they change the time it aired. They put it after a little-known series called All in the Family. After that M*A*S*H was one of the top-rated shows the rest of the time it was on TV. In 1976 they did something I don't think there ever been done before. They brought a newscaster on the set and he interviewed the cast just as if they were in Korea in 1951. They also showed the episode in black and white. There was no script for that show, the actors could answer the questions as they would think their characters would answer them. It turned out to be very good show Here are some of the quote from the show that I especially liked.

Clete Roberts: Do you see anything good coming from this war?

Hawkeye: Yeah me..... Alive that would be nice.

Father Mulcahy: When the doctors cut into a patient and it's cold the way it is now today...steam rises from the body and the doctor will---will himself in the open wound. Could anybody look on that and not feel changed? (That was actually a quote from a Father who actually in Korea and was interviewed in the same way as Father Mulcahy.)

Klinger: I think it's the most stupidest thing in the world. You call it a police action back home, right? Over here it's a war. A police action sound like we're over here arresting people and handing out parking tickets, war's just killing. That's all.

Clete Roberts: What you feel was the most difficult thing you had to adjust to overhear?

Hawkeye: I think it's that everything is painted green the clothes are green, the food is green....except the vegetables of course. Only thing that's not green is the blood...the blood is real. That's what you get the most of here.

Hawkeye: I've seen so many people to whom....killing just a casual thing. I don't know how we manufacture people like that, but it seems to me that we'll never run out of them.

A few years after M*A*S*H debuted on TV my mom got to watch the M*A*S*H movie she told me later she enjoyed the movie but had trouble following it because it had all different actors.

Hawkeye was played by Alan Alda in the series and Donald Sutherland in the movie.

Trapper John was played by Wayne Rogers in the series, Elliot Gould in the movie, there is also a Trapper John M.D. series that took place 20 years later and Pernell Roberts played Trapper John in the series.

Duke was dropped shortly after the start of the series.

BJ came in to replace Trapper John. BJ was played by an Mike Farrell.

Col. Blake was played by McLean Stevenson in the series and Robert B Bolan in the movie.

Col. Potter came in to replace Col. Blake when Col. Blake left the series. Col. Potter was played by Henry Morgan.

Frank Burns was played by Larry Linville in the series and Robert Duval in the movie.

Hot Lips was played by Loretta Swit in the series an Sally Kellerman in the movie. After a few years the name Hot Lips was dropped and everybody just called her Margaret.

Maj. Winchester came to the M*A*S*H 4077 to replace Frank Burns when Larry Linville decided to leave the series. Maj Winchester was played by David Ogden Stiers.

Radar was only major character to be played by the same actor in the movie and in the series that actor was Gary Burgoff.

Father Mulcahy was played by George Morgan in the pilot then they gave the role to William Christopher, in the movie Rene Auberjonois played Father Mulcahy.

Klinger was a character that was neither in the book or the movie it was created for the TV series and he was played by Jaymi Farr, Klinger was not much of a character until after Radar left and Klinger became company clerk.

M*A*S*H was a series that was listed as a situation comedy but actually I think MASH covered everything at one time or another there will never be another show like M*A*S*H it is still one of my all-time favorite TV shows

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