Anachronism Stew: M*A*S*H

In general, the show was good about keeping the years straight, but it occasionally broke down in this regard.

  • In one episode, both Godzilla (1954) and The Blob (1958) are referenced. Neither of those movies were released during the Korean War (Gojira: 1954/Godzilla, King of the Monsters: 1955, The Blob: 1958).
    • In the same episode, Hawkeye claimed that the nurse he had been dreaming of was a rerun. In 1952, all television broadcasts were live. There was no such thing yet as a "rerun".
  • In "Der Tag," Radar is shown sleeping with a copy of The Avengers on his chest, with the 1970s' logo. One shot later, it switches to another issue of the same comic with the '60s logo. Further, The Avengers debuted in 1963.
    • In "The Novacaine Mutiny", Radar also has a Spider-Man comic.
  • The Points system is referenced several times, and is how Blake and Painless Pole are discharged. The Points system was discontinued for rotation of personnel several years before the Korean War, and was never used for surgeons.
  • BJ's latter-seasons hairstyle was much longer than a professional man in the 1950s would have worn. (This may be excusable, since the whole point was that BJ was rebelling against the Army.)
  • Several times, Korean soldiers are shown with AK-47-type rifles (actually stand-ins) before any communist nation even issued them yet.
  • In one episode Klinger hands out Hershey bars with UPC symbols on the back wrapper to recovering patients.
  • A pinball machine from the 1970s appears in the Officers' Club.
  • Henry uses a bullhorn that wasn't invented until after the war.
  • In "Officer of the Day," Flagg appears wearing the branch insignia for military intelligence. This insignia wasn't used by the Army until 1962.
  • Medics are always shown wearing helmets with the Red Cross painted on the front. This practise was stopped in early 1951 because North Korean snipers were using them to aim.
  • General MacArthur is almost constantly referred to as the Allied Commander. MacArthur was relieved of command in Spring 1951.
  • Colonel Blake had a framed photo of a UH-1 Huey helicopter. The Huey first flew in 1956.
    • In "Life with the Father", during the bris ceremony, shots of an aircraft carrier - presumably the Essex, where the Rabbi is transmitting the instruction for the bris to the 4077th - are shown. In one of these shots, a CH-46 helicopter is seen flying near the carrier. The CH-46 took its maiden flight in 1962, and entered serial production in 1964 - both well after the "end" of the Korean War.
  • Hawkeye and BJ are dying to see The Moon Is Blue, which was released on July 8, 1953, just three weeks from the end of the Korean War.
  • Klinger at one point tells Radar "Ready when you are, C. B.!" This is a direct reference to filming of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, filmed in 1956.
  • Klinger mentions he would wear Hula Hoops in his ears if he could. Wham-O first introduced it in 1958, and only started calling it that in 1962.
  • Radar's impersonation of John Wayne ("I'm not gonna hit you. Like hell I'm not!") is from McLintock!, released in 1963.
  • Grenades, more often than not, are painted flat black, as a subtle reference to Vietnam. In Korea, grenades were always olive drab.
  • In "The Gun", the revolver in question is a Colt New Service, in .45 ACP. The New Service was first introduced in 1898, yet either the frame or bone grips have an inscription with the date 1884.
  • The pilot of the chopper that flies Hawkeye out of the compound wears Nomex flight gloves. These were not used until 1967 during the Vietnam war. In Korea, pilots wore black leather gloves.
  • Virtually all clothing are cuffless permapress fatigues. Neither cuffless nor permapress utilities were available until the 1970s.
  • In "Bombshells", everyone is ecstatic about Marilyn Monroe is coming to the camp. While she did visit troops in Korea, Marilyn Monroe's big leap to stardom did not come around until Niagara in January 1953, while the camp had to make do with older films and film that new would not have reached them that late in the war. Before then, she was still relatively unknown.
    • In the same episode, Charles mentions "There's no business like show business" when pointing out a misspelling of Marilyn on a banner. While it could be a reference to Annie Get Your Gun, where the phrase "No business like show business" originated, it could just as easily be (and more likely is) a reference to the 1954 Marilyn Monroe film of the same name.
  • One examples teeters precariously on the borderline between averting this trope and being another egregious example. In one scene, Charles brags to Hawkeye and BJ that he once had dinner with Audrey Hepburn. Hawkeye and BJ scoff at the idea that such a famous beauty would have anything to do with Charles...until he shows off a photograph of the two of them together. The problem is that Hepburn didn't become a truly major star until the release of Roman Holiday, a film that came out exactly one month after the Korean War ended. However, she did have some measure of fame during the War. She starred in the original Broadway production of Gigi from 1951-52. So it's at least possible that Hawkeye and BJ had heard of her during the War, but given where they're from (Hawkeye's from Crabapple Cove, Maine, while BJ's from Mill Valley, California) it's extremely unlikely.
    • Within that same scene, Charles states he's never seen any of her movies. She had been in some movies by that time, but mostly in bit roles...with one big exception, where she had a major supporting role in the 1952 British film, The Secret People. Once again, possible but unlikely someone during the war would refer to her movies.
  • In "Soldier of the Month", Hawkeye and BJ walk past a sleeping soldier by the mess tent. Hawkeye points to him and says "Used to be Albert Anastasia's doorman," joking that the man was on guard when Anastasia was murdered. Albert Anastasia was murdered in 1957, four years after the Korean War ended.
  • In "Soldier of the Month", Potter mentions the soldier of the month was a directive by the War Department. After World War II, the Departments of War and of the Navy were merged into the Department of Defense.
  • Throughout the series, beer cans are one-piece aluminum cans with '60s and '70s era pull tabs (patented 1956 and first available in 1964 on Royal Crown Cola drinks) and modern aluminum stay tab cans not available until around 1980. Occasionally the correct three piece cans opened with churchkeys would appear.
  • In "Deluge", "Phisohex" bottles are seen in the "scrub" area. Phisohex was a cleanser used for antibacterial cleansing as well as an anti acne regimen. However, they are in polyethelyne containers not available until the 1970s. In the same episode, BJ is shown removing sterile latex surgical gloves, which were not developed until the early '60s.
  • In "The Incubator", an unscrupulous colonel selling materiel tells Hawkeye and Trapper that he could procure a B-52 if given a week's notice. The B-52 Stratofortress first flew in 1952, but did not enter service until 1955. In Korea, B-26, B-29, B-47 and B-50 bombers were used in bomber duty.
  • In "Five O'Clock Charlie", Burns mentions The Court Martial Of Billy Mitchell, which was released in 1955.
  • In "The MASH Olympics", Potter uses a Smith and Wesson Model 19 snub to start the crutch race, which turns into the stainless version, the Model 66, when he starts the partner race. The Model 19 was introduced in 1956, while the Model 66 was introduced in 1972.
  • This is a bit abstract, but the political landscape is not quite accurate to the time period. American politics is portrayed as being divided between liberal pacifists (the "good guys") and conservative warmongers (the "bad guys"), which is accurate to the Vietnam era when the show was made. However, almost all domestic opposition to the Korean War came from right-wing isolationists and actual communists (and yes, people at the time commented on the "strange bedfellows" situation). Mainstream American liberals supported the Korean War because (unlike Vietnam) it was being fought under the auspices of the newly-founded United Nations and was seen to promise a new era of left-wing internationalism. Essentially, Frank Burns is an anachronistic neoconservative and Hawkeye is an anachronistic New Leftist.
  • In "The Colonel's Horse", Radar spells out BJ's father-in-law's name, H-A-Y-D-E-N, to which Hawkeye quips M-O-U-S-E, parodying the Mickey Mouse Club song. The Mickey Mouse Club first aired in 1955.
  • In "Baby It's Cold Outside", while watching the Sonja Henie movie Sun Valley Serenade Colonel Potter says at one point of the movie "This is supposed to be where she does a triple axel and ends up in a split." Then he has to leave and says "Now I'll never get to see it." He wouldn't be able to see it until 1989 when Midori Ito from Japan was the first woman to complete a triple axel in competition, Tonya Harding was the 2nd woman to complete one and the only American woman. It's also unlikely Sonja Henie ever did something as complicated as a triple axel, even with her three Olympic gold medals.
  • In "Deluge", we are told that the Chinese have become involved in the conflict and have attacked with some 300,000 soldiers. This apparently refers to massive attacks by the Chinese starting on November 1, 1950. Although the numbers are correct, the US/UN forces were unaware of the numbers. As late as November 6, the Far East Command continued to insist that there were no more than 34,500 Chinese communist soldiers in country.
  • In "Souvenirs", the MP describes the antique vase Burns is supposed to have bought as "An 800-year-old seladon vase of the Ko-Yu dynasty". Later, Burns packs up a white vase to send to his wife. Seladon is by definition green, and that kind of color glazing definitely wasn't around in the 13th century. What Burns packs up looks most like early to middle Quing period - or rather a contemporary ripoff.
  • In "Last Laugh", when General Fox points to the star on his shoulder and asks Hawkeye, "What does this mean to you?" Hawkeye responds by quoting a famous Texaco advertisement rhyme, "Always trust your car to the man who wears a star." However, Texaco did not introduce this advertisement jingle until 1962, 9 years after the Korean War ended.
    • Major Houlihan tries to contact her husband at the "2nd Army" in Tokyo. The Second United States Army was a World War I and World War II formation and was not in Korea.
    • The green trash can Margaret dumps and puts over Radar's head is a mold injection polyethylene 5 gallon bucket not invented until many years after the Korean war.
  • In the opening scene of "Crisis", there is a reference to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. CPR was invented by Austrian surgeon Peter Safar. He didn't finish medical school until 1948; and hadn't begun teaching the technique of CPR until the late 1950s to early 60s, after the Korean War had ended. Mouth-to-mouth wouldn't have been a term used in this time frame.
  • In "Mail Call", Trapper shows Hawkeye a photo of his daughters. But the photo is in 1970s-quality color, with the girls dressed in '70s styles and striking a "K-Mart Special" pose that was not used for portraits in the 1950s.
  • In "Mad Dogs and Servicemen", when Margaret is reading the letter to Radar, she refers to Gogi Grant's "The Wayward Wind" as one of the letter writer's favorite tunes. The song, which was a #1 hit, was not released until 1956, three years after the end of the Korean War.
  • In the early seasons, when a pistol was needed, but wouldn't be fired, a Colt Commander (or possibly the Colt Combat Commander) was often substituted for the M1911A1. The Commander was an aluminum framed, compact 1911 introduced in 1950 in .45 ACP, 9mm and .38 Super, while the Combat Commander was an all-steel version of the Commander introduced in 1970. To differentiate the two models, the aluminum-framed model was renamed the Lightweight Commander. The Commander was not very common in Korea and, given the time the show was made and the higher cost of the aluminum version, the steel Combat Commander is more likely to have been used by Hollywood armourers.
  • BJ is stated to have attended medical school at Stanford University. Stanford Medical department did not merge with Stanford University until 1959.
  • In "The Long John Flap", when Frank visits Hot Lips in her tent, a Life magazine is visible on her cot. The issue shown is from August 25, 1967.
  • Occasionally, Jeep CJ-5s can be seen with the post-1968 amber front/red rear side markers simply painted over in olive drab. The Willys M38A1 (the military version of the CJ-5) appeared in 1952 and was used in Korea, the civilian version not until 1955 and with noticeable differences (tailgates and "JEEP" lettering stamped into the fenders).