Even years after it concluded, MAS*H remains one of TV’s most influential beloved sitcoms. The laughs and tears of the medical staff based in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea captured the hearts of millions of viewers, immortalizing a host of memorable characters such as Hawkeye, BJ Hunnict, Margaret, and more in the annals of pop culture history.
And yet as memorable as their names, quotes, and hijinks may be, there are some things about the surgeons and servicemen of the 4077th that not everybody knows about. But considering the show’s length and the fact that it lasted three times longer than the actual Korean War, this isn’t much of a surprise. Here are 12 hidden details about the main characters of M*A*S*H that everyone missed.
12Winchester’s Accent Is Fake
Actor David Ogdren Stiers was born in Illinois so in order to give his role a stodgy air of class and pretense, he affected a classy Bostonian accent. Needless to say, this worked and helped define Winchester’s character and distinction. He’s also the only character in M*A*S*H to have a made-up accent.
11Col. Potter Is A Veteran Of Both World Wars
Back in World War I, he lied about his age to enlist in the cavalry – which explains his love for horses. Afterwards, he took up a medical degree and served as a surgeon in World War II. His services in both conflicts earned him lots of military recognition, though he’s proudest of his Good Conduct Medal.
10Radar’s Post-War Life Sucked
As bittersweet as Radar’s departure from the 4077th was, many believed he was on his way to a better life. This wasn’t the case because his life back stateside was so bad that he literally considered suicide.
The spin-off series AfterMASH and W*A*L*T*E*R reveal that Radar sold his family farm because he failed at farming. His wife Patty Haven also ran off with another man during their honeymoon. The pilot ends with Radar buying sleeping pills to overdose on. Thankfully, he’s talked out of it by the pharmacist Victoria and he luckily lands a job at the police station.
9Hawkeye Worked In Cook County General Hospital After The War
M*A*S*H concludes with everyone going their separate ways, and it’s up to audiences to figure out where each surgeon found themselves after the Korean War’s end. For some fans, their generally accepted theory for Hawkeye is that he continued practicing medicine in Cook County General Hospital, better known as the setting of ER.
Alan Alda portrayed Gabriel Lawrence in the long-running medical drama. Lawrence, who’s exhibiting early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, mentions that he worked in the US Army in the past – an obvious shout-out to Alda’s time in the 4077th.
8Fr. Mulachy’s Hepatitis Was Real
When shooting for the fifth season of M*A*S*H started, Fr. Mulachy’s actor William Christopher contracted a fatal case of Hepatitis. As a result, Christopher missed many episodes and producers were seriously considered letting him go.
Alda, however, fought for Christopher to be kept on the show. Alda knew that Christopher needed the steady work that M*A*S*H provided to raise his autistic son, and he even wrote the episode Hepatitis where Fr. Mulachy was quarantined for also contracting Hepatitis. Because of this, Christopher recovered and Fr. Mulachy made it all the way to the series finale.
7BJ Hunnicutt Took Notes From Patch Adams
To be as realistic and accurate as possible, the cast and crew of M*A*S*H worked closely with war veterans and other technical consultants. One of these consultants was the real-life Dr. Patch Adams, the well-renowned doctor and clown who advocated for serious change in the American healthcare system.
Mike Farrell consulted and befriended Adams while portraying series regular BJ Hunnicutt, using some of Adam’s advice and stories in his performances. More than a decade later, Farrell would serve as a producer on Adam’s biopic Patch Adams, which starred Robin Williams as the famous medical practitioner.
6Klinger Stopped Crossdressing Because Of Bullying
In his attempts to get discharged for insanity, Klinger would crossdresses around the base, acting as crazy as possible. This running joke (and the writers’ original plan for him to be a gay character) defined Klinger’s character until he inherited Radar’s position as company clerk, which is when he stopped doing it.
Klinger stopped wearing dresses and acting flamboyant not because of his new rank but because of bullying. Realizing that his young kids may be bullied for having a crossdressing father in a television show, actor Jamie Farr slowly but surely dropped the gag altogether.
5Trapper Left Because Of Hawkeye
While the third season finale is best known for a certain death (more on that later), it also featured the heartbreaking departure of Hawkeye’s friend Trapper. This wasn’t just used to show the war’s emotional toll but a way for actor Wayne Rogers to leave the sitcom.
In the first three seasons, Hawkeye slowly eclipsed Trapper, much to Rogers’ chagrin. The studio tried to sue him for breach of contract when he called it quits but Rogers never signed the paperwork, invalidating the case. Rogers, however, remained close friends with Alan Alda despite their professional differences.
4Maj. Frank Burns Wanted To Leave The Show
By the end of season five, the annoyingly stupid and selfish Maj. Frank Burns leaves the 4077th for good and gets an unearned promotion back in America. This wasn’t just the logical conclusion for his character, but an exit requested by actor Larry Linville.
When offered the chance to renew his contract for two more seasons, Linville declined because he felt that his character had nowhere else to go. For him, he ran the risk of turning Frank into an outright caricature instead of the detestable and antagonistic stab at military bureaucracy he already was.
3Lt. Col. Blake Died Because Producers Didn’t Like Him
The death of the beloved Lt. Col. Blake in an off-screen ambush isn’t just one of the saddest moments in M*A*S*H but in television history, and it only happened because the producers didn’t like the actor very much.
According to the cast, Blake’s actor McLean Stevenson was a father figure who had their best interests in mind. His death was apparently the studio’s retaliation for his demands for better pay and treatment, although the showrunners claim otherwise. Stevenson reportedly wanted to leave early and they wrote Blake’s death out of spite, although they regret doing so.
2Margaret Wanted To Outgrow “Hot Lips”
Maj. Margaret Houlihan was a shrill nurse better known as Hot Lips – a nickname she got after falling victim to one of Hawkeye’s pranks. By the end, she was a respected authority figures who wasn’t above goofing off with the other medics.
This was thanks to Margaret’s actress Loretta Swift, who wanted her character to outgrow the negative female stereotype she was. Because of this, Margaret transformed into a feminist icon in a time when such characters were rare. The nickname “Hot Lips” was also used less as a result, although the official scripts still referred to her as such.
1Hawkeye Was Based On A Real Person
M*A*S*H was based on the novels by Richard Hooker (penname of Dr. Richard Hornberger Jr.), who used his experiences during the Korean War for his comedic book. He also wrote himself as Hawkeye, and he vehemently hates what the series did to his avatar.
In the series, Hawkeye is a rebellious womanizer who hates authority and the war. The original Hawkeye, conversely, is a patriotic and married conservative. Hooker resented the series’ interpretation so much that in his novelized sequel M*A*S*H Mania, he wrote that Hawkeye frequents state universities to “kick the shit out of a few liberals.”