Attention. Attention. The following personnel are assigned to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital:
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Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
Played by Alan Alda. Chief surgeon of the 4077th MASH, he was one of the few people assigned to the unit for the entire run of the show; he lived in what was officially the Bachelor Officer Quarters, but almost always called "The Swamp". Hails from the fictional Crabapple Cove, Maine (Vermont in some early episodes) where his widowed father still lives.
The Ace: Generally considered the best all-around surgeon of the show. Occasionally Charles in later seasons would get the nod for his specialties.
Big Brother Instinct: ...and he does not take it well if anything happens to Radar ("Fallen Idol") or if someone (Frank) mistreats him.
Broken Ace: Had multiple mental breakdowns over the course of the series, and it's generally implied he takes the sufferings of war to heart much more than the other characters.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: As mentioned on the Main Page, it was pretty much impossible to fire surgeons when the army was in such desperate need of them. Hawkeye knew this. And took advantage of it.
The Casanova: And at one point called out on it by a nurse he hadn't hit on. Because he hadn't hit on her.
Character Development: He grows increasingly more depressed and neurotic as the show progresses and the war begins to take its toll. On the other hand, he also shows his kinder, more compassionate side more often and treats the women he pursues with more respect.
Character Filibuster: He's occasionally prone to these, particularly when his righteous indignation is roused.
Character Tics: He has a frequent, and vaguely disgusting, habit of sniffing his food prior to eating it. B.J. even calls him out on it in one episode. (Although, given the usual quality of the mess-tent fare at the 4077, it's kind of justified.)
Chivalrous Pervert: He may be a womanizer but respects the nursing staff professionally, grows to respect and care deeply for Margaret, actually turn down a romance with a girl barely out of her teens in the USO episode (a pet the dog moment), and seems to have been humbled by his encounters with Kelly and Inga. He also won't seduce a nurse he thinks is married, though it turns out she just wears a ring to fend off attention she doesn't want.
Claustrophobia: He suffers from it, as revealed in the "C*A*V*E" episode.
Doesn't Like Guns: Also doesn't like anti-aircraft artillery, ammo dumps, or tanks. Or war.
Drinking On Duty: Calls someone else out on it. Who then suggests that Hawkeye having a still in his tent suggests something.. He later gets called out on it himself by Radar and by Potter. Potter expresses disbelief that a surgeon of Hawkeye's skill and professionalism would do such a thing.
Dynamic Character: Hawkeye's personality gradually changed as the series went on, until he became almost a completely different person from who he was in the early episodes. He started out as a carefree, energetic, irreverent trickster; by the end, he was a troubled, insecure man prone to depression and brooding, having gone through several emotional breakdowns. While the Doylist explanation for this is simply that the tone of the series as a whole gradually shifted to be more sombre and serious, the progression is also fairly logical from a Watsonian perspective: from the very start it was made clear just how much Hawkeye hates the war, and how constant exposure to it drains him; it simply wore him away, season by season.
On the other hand, he always, always puts the patients first, and no matter what he will not let someone die on his watch if he can avoid it. He never crosses over into Stepford Smiler territory, but he almost always has a good bedside manner no matter how miserable he is.
Heroic Comedic Sociopath: To some extent, in the early seasons. He was never outright evil by any stretch, but he could certainly play very cruel tricks on anyone who got in his way. Always for a good cause, though.
It's All About Me: One of Hawkeye's flaws. One episode had him asked to eulogize a nurse he'd met once (sleeping with her, of course.) His eulogy for her mentioned her once, and was all about how he felt about the camp. Not the time, buddy.
"I may care about things more than I ever have before, because there's so much more to care about here. On the other hand, I really don't give a shit what happens, 'cause it just doesn't matter anymore."
Not to mention his calling Lt. Park a "son of a bitch" as he's taking his prisoner away for presumed Jack Bauer-style interrogation in "Guerilla My Dreams". This was actually the first (un-bleeped) use of the b-word on U.S. network television.
Donald Sutherland, who'd played Hawkeye in the original film, once told a story on a talk show about when he was standing next to his television counterpart in a receiving line for Queen Elizabeth II. Alda whispered in Sutherland's ear: "Thank you for my life."
The Trickster: Especially in the early seasons, Hawkeye would often pull complicated tricks (which would often grow more and more complex as the episode went on) to get something out of the Army, his friends, his enemies, or anyone else he happened to come across. Usually he used these for the greater good, trying to make life bearable for those affected by the war, but of course sometimes he'd just do it for entertainment. Later in the series this aspect of Hawkeye somewhat faded: he'd still sometimes play pranks on other characters (and they would play ones on him, as well), but these were usually for fun; the role Hawkeye's schemes played in solving major plot elements was greatly reduced.
Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Not nearly to the same degree as in the novel and film, but while his heart is generally in the heart place he's not exactly a stranger to egotism, self-righteousness, sexism, etc.
Yiddish as a Second Language: He's been known to employ a Yiddish phrase now and again, though is at a loss for the term for "bedbug" note vonce when doing a crossword puzzle.
Played by Wayne Rogers. A surgeon from Boston, and the first of Hawkeye's sidekicks in the Swamp. Originally supposed to be equal to Hawkeye, he ended up as more of a sidekick, much to the dismay of the actor. This, combined with issues with Rogers' contract, resulted in Trapper being Put on a Bus (back stateside) after the third season. He was not made an unperson, though—jealousy of him worked into two later B.J. stories. The nickname, as related in the original novel and film, is from an incident in his past, when a woman he was having sex with claimed he had "trapped" her.
Character Development: He actually did get some, despite his relatively short time on the series. He starts out simple as The Lancer to Hawkeye before showing some shades of his War Is Hell philosophy when he almost kills a North Korean POW as well as getting drunk and punching out Hawkeye when he attempted to get back home to see his family. Some of these developments would later be mirrored by B.J.
Chivalrous Pervert: While still an enormous womanizer, unlike his movie counterpart he never forces himself upon a woman even when presented with the perfect opportunity such as in "Bombed". Not exactly chivalrous, but not exactly movie-level perverted either.
Cool Shades: He briefly wears these while hungover in a couple of episodes.
Deadpan Snarker: He's arguably even more of one than Hawkeye, with much of his day-to-day dialogue being delivered in this manner.
Even the Guys Want Him: It was jokingly implied in an early episode that Hawkeye had seen guys taking peeks at him during calisthenics. Trapper didn't take it to well.
Trapper: Which guys are taking peeks at me during calisthenics?
Hawkeye: I'd rather not say, some of them were married.
Of course, in real life, it was a "Take That" against actor Wayne Rogers, who had acrimoniously left the show because he was fed up with the fact that Trapper was being treated as a sidekick instead of an equal. In addition, he was also greatly frustrated with a "morals clause" in his contract, which stated he could be suspended or fired if he did anything the producers found objectionable. When Rogers left, in fact, the producers actually sued him for breach of contract, but their case fell apart when it was discovered that Rogers didn't even sign the contract in the first place, due to the clause issue.
Tranquil Fury: Gets a moment of this in "Radar's Report", when he almost murders a wounded North Korean POW (who'd inadvertently caused the death of one of Trapper's patients while trying to escape from the O.R.) by pulling his IV. Only Hawkeye walking in on him and reminding him that "that's not what we're about" prevents him from following through on it.
Yank the Dog's Chain: "Check-Up" has him believing he's going to be sent home due to a stomach ulcer, and even getting a big going-away party from the camp...only to learn that this isn't the case.
In "Kim" he comes to love (and makes plans to adopt) the titular Korean boy, who's presumed to be an orphan. Then the kid's mother turns up.
Your Cheating Heart: And not sorry about it, although he also seems to genuinely miss his wife and daughters back home.
Lt. Col. Henry Braymore Blake
Played by McLean Stevenson. The Mildly Military commander of the 4077th for the first three seasons. Almost always seen with a fishing hat (with lures that made any salute attempt risk a Purple Heart), he was from Bloomington, Illinois. He tried his best to keep the camp running, although between Hawkeye, Trapper, Burns, Houlihan, and Radar... well, OK, Radar's goal was to keep the camp running, too.
Henry: All right, people, I'm gonna give it to you straight. Starting right here and now, we're all going to have to put our shoulders to the wheel, our noses to the grindstone. We've got to hunker down and pull together, all for one and one for all.
In the first season he has a regular girlfriend in Lt. Scorch, and there are hints of a couple other extramarital dalliances.
The "Henry in Love" episode from season 2 has him falling hard for a much younger woman he met on R&R in Tokyo, to the point where it actually jeopardizes his marriage...at least, until Radar puts things right.
Then in "Life with Father" he experiences the other side of this when he discovers his wife had a fling with an orthodontist in his absence.
Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (at one point also Penobscott)
Played by Loretta Swit. A no-nonsense, by-the-book soldier, and head nurse. Another of the few people who saw the whole show through at the 4077th. The first seasons had her in an illicit relationship with Frank Burns; after meeting Donald Penobscott, she breaks off with him. Later she breaks off with Donald, too, and spends the rest of the show single.
All Women Are Prudes: She was definitely in touch with her more...liberated side. However, she was always very prudish and conservative in public. Nobody was fooled.
Alliterative Name: Her early nickname ("Hot Lips" Houlihan) sort of achieves this effect.
Battleaxe Nurse: Averted considering that even in her most hardassed period to coworkers in the early years; she is unquestionably professional and caring to the patients.
Brainless Beauty: Subverted. though in earlier seasons she tended to get rather silly alone with Frank, she was always responsible, took her job very seriously, and presented as intelligent and competent, even when she was treated on the show as a bit of a babe. Both the audience and her former antagonists grew to respect her over the course of the show.
Casual Kink: Hinted at in some of her interactions with Frank. A whip is mentioned in one or two episodes.
Character Development: Moved from being a one-joke, unlikable character to a nuanced, much more sympathetic one.
No Accounting for Taste: Her relationships with Frank and Donald. Scully is somewhat better, but she still dumps him because he doesn't respect her enough.
Pet the Dog: Had several of these has she started becoming nicer, especially in instances where she learned to be kinder to her nurses. As early as the second season, we saw her maternal instincts coaxed out by the Korean orphan Kim and her budding friendships with Hawkeye and Klinger in "Aid Station."
Had a literal one in one episode where she secretly adopted one of the local strays, feeding it scraps of food from the mess hall when no one was looking. Reveals a much more human side to her when she breaks down in tears at the news that the dog was run over by a truck and killed. This leads to another when she befriends a nurse she had berated earlier for being too emotional with the patients. (Ironically, the nurse in question didn't even bat an eye about the dog, while Margaret barely made it to her tent before she collapsed in tears).
She's Got Legs: Those rare occasions when she wears a skirt, or shorts, or a short nightgown, or runs out of the shower wearing only a towel (and, curiously, pantyhose).
Sugar and Ice Personality: Specifically noted by Hawkeye in one episode, where he describes Margaret to his father like this: "The major is a paradox. A woman of considerable passion, she is also a stickler for military correctness. I wouldn't mind making a grab for her myself, but I don't know how to do that and salute her at the same time."
Stepford Smiler: Much tougher and gritter than the usual example, but definitely one. Even in an early episode we see her smiling over her younger sister getting married, though it's clear that Margaret is bothered that she, herself, is not.
Team Mom: To her nurses, in a way. She's very hard on them but she's also quite protective of them.
Vitriolic Best Buds: To Hawkeye and BJ, with some underlying Belligerent Sexual Tension with the former. She never stops snarking at them, but eventually warms up enough to play practical jokes on them and even tickle-attacks Hawkeye in one episode.
Well Done, Daughter Girl: Shares a moment like this with her father at the end of the episode "Father's Day." Col. Potter gives her this a couple times, as well.
What Could Have Been: Loretta Swit actually wanted to leave the series in the show's penultimate season to play Christine Cagney on Cagney & Lacey, but the producers wouldn't let her out of her contract.
Maj. (offscreen, Lt. Col.) Franklin "Frank" Marion "Ferret Face" Burns
Played by Larry Linville. The camp's second-in-command, and a real Jerk Ass. The closest anyone came to enjoying his company in the series was Maj. Houlihan, with whom he had an illicit relationship—he has a wife and family back in his home of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Abusive Parents: Frank Burns once told Trapper, "I'm from a very strict family. We weren't allowed to talk at meals. We couldn't even hum. Anybody who hummed got a punch in the throat."
During a phone call with his mother, he comments that his father only pretended to like him, a comment seemingly undisputed by his mother.
Birthday Episode: Both "For Want of a Boot" and "The Most Unforgettable Characters" have Frank's birthday as a subplot. Oddly enough, the former episode is set in the dead of winter while the latter takes place in June.
Butt Monkey: Squarely in the sights of anyone on the show with a rank of Captain.
Can't Hold His Liquor: Played with. He seems to imbibe without feeling it or reacting to the taste. Possibly he can hold his liquor, and happens to drink large quantities of alcohol on the few occasions that he lets his hair down.
The Neidermeyer: What he actually is. In about every field he was involved in, whether military or medical.
The season one episode "Major Fred C. Dobbs" had Henry Blake refer to him as "a fair but competent surgeon", implying that Frank was not really a bad doctor but merely an inferior one when compared to Hawkeye and Trapper (and later B.J. and Winchester), but as time went by the writers just went more and more with the all-around bad doctor jokes. Granted, those were ubiquitous from the beginning, and was in fact a defining trait in the book. Henry's anger at Hawkeye and Trapper may have led him to give Frank more credit than he deserved.
First Name Basis: Pretty much every other officer in camp routinely addresses him this way (save for Col. Potter, who's Regular Army enough to call him "Major" or "Burns" despite having no more respect for him than any of the others).
Jerk Ass Woobie: As much of a jerk as he is, you really are supposed to feel a bit sorry for him on occasion, such as during the telephone call scene in "Margaret's Engagement." Most of the time, his suffering at the hands of his tentmates is classic Comedic Sociopathy material.
Lawful Stupid: When commanding, he discovered that the "M" in "M.A.S.H." stood for "mobile". So he naturally decided to move the entire camp 100 feet down the road... and then, the next day, moved it back.
Leader Wannabe: He often would covet being the CO, and would thus relish the times when (as 2nd in command) he would be temporarily put into command (his underlings, not so much).
Mean Character, Nice Actor: According to his castmates, the late Larry Linville was one of the nicest people you could ever meet, not to mention well-read and highly intelligent. By the end of his tenure, even he grew weary of the one-note character Frank had become and just asked to leave the show.
Mistaken for Gay: The episode "The Chosen People" has a scene where Frank is on the phone with another Major from headquarters. After bitching about the slipshod way things are being run at the 4077th, Frank tells the other officer, "You're my kinda fella... Hey, maybe we can get together sometime? I have a feeling that we're very much alike." While we only see/hear Frank's side of the conversation, it's clear from his subsequent, horrified reaction that the guy propositioned him.
Momma's Boy: Frank's mother is probably the only one who truly loves him. Significantly, he keeps a photograph of her next to his cot but none of his wife or kids.
My God, What Have I Done?: In the "O.R." episode, after discovering he was trying to remove a kidney from a patient who only had one. Frank's surgical incompetence is usually Played for Laughs, but in this particular case he seems to be genuinely horrified at what he nearly did...and uncharacteristically grateful to Trapper for pointing it out to him in time.
Frank: Oh, Margaret, you're my snug harbor. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have you to sail into.
Triage Tyrant: Sent in American soldiers ahead of Korean ones even though the Koreans are in much more critical state. However, this IS Truth in Television, as this was the actual standard triage procedure at genuine MASH units. It's the WAY he went about it, however, that put the "tyrant" in Triage Tyrant.
Your Cheating Heart: Cheats on his wife with Margaret Houlihan but never planned to get a divorce for her. Also carried on an affair with his receptionist before coming to Korea, which it is implied he intends to renew upon his arrival (he is still in contact with her and making references to the hotel they would meet at in letters).
Cpl. Walter Eugene "Radar" O’Reilly
Played by Gary Burghoff. The company clerk, and the epitome of Hypercompetent Sidekicknote To the point where the trope was originally called The Radar on this very wiki.; Steve Jackson has actually used him and his ability to know things 'before the Colonel' as full-blown Psychic Powers in two of the company's roleplaying games. In fact, his nickname derives from announcing incoming helicopters before anyone else can. Early on, he's shown as pretty savvy and worldly, and occasionally even a little bit devious; later, the Ottumwa, Iowa native develops more into the lovably naïve Woobie we all know. Note that we didn't say he stopped being savvy and worldly... whether he simply opted to behave better for the new CO is up to the viewer.
Absentee Actor: Gary Burghoff renegotiated his contract to limit his appearances beginning in the fourth season, so there are actually quite a few episodes that have Radar "away on R&R".
And Starring: Burghoff was billed this way in the season 8 episodes up to and including "Good-Bye, Radar".
"I have a message...Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake's plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors."
It also falls to him to inform Trapper he's not going home in "Check-Up", and to tell Hawkeye that Trapper did go home (while Hawk was away on R&R) in "Welcome to Korea".
In "Change of Command" he has to tell Frank Burns that Potter's replacing him as CO, an assignment that fills him with such terror that Hawkeye and B.J. accompany him as backup. (To everyone's surprise, Frank accepts the news with calm professionalism...at least until he's alone with Margaret in her tent.)
In "Dear Sigmund" he composes a letter to the parents of an ambulance driver killed in a crash, which Potter then signs.
It usually falls on him to wake up a sleeping surgeon, typically because all Hell has broken loose (incoming wounded, patient getting worse, etc).
Don't talk badly about his teddy bear. Or Iowa. Or his mother.
It's also not such a good idea to shoot the bugle out of his hands during morning assembly.
Making fun of his short stature is also a source of annoyance for him.
Big Eater: He is seen quite a few times carrying or devouring a huge tray full of food, and is the only person in camp who never complained about the quality of the food. Hawkeye at one point suggests ending the war by having Radar eat North Korea.
Broken Pedestal: "Fallen Idol" is all about Radar's disillusionment after learning Hawkeye performed surgery while hung over.
No, he was disillusioned because he practically worshipped Hawkeye, and saw him as a, "Super surgeon" who could do anything under any kind of pressure; when he learns that Hawkeye had to run outside and throw up while Charles had to finish for him (though Radar was never told it was because Hawkeye was under tremendous guilt for getting him wounded in the first place), he feels let down and sees Hawkeye as being flawed and no longer able to be looked up to for walking out on an operation. They both chew each other out rather nastily before reconciling.
Dawson Casting: After seven years, Gary Burghoff was noticeably older than his character was supposed to be, to the point where the writers fought in vain with him to keep his hat on so viewers wouldn't see his receding hairline.
Even with his hat, the receding hairline was still noticable: compare any episode from the first season, where Radar had tufts of hair sticking out from under the brim of his cap, to an episode from his last, where you see no hair whatsoever sticking out under the brim.
He's also apparently the only one in camp that drinks it. In one episode from well after his departure, we learn that the O Club still has a huge supply of the stuff since nobody else would touch it.
Flanderization: Grew increasingly more childlike and naive as the show went along.
It is debatable if he actually regressed emotionally from what he was like in the earlier seasons or if he simply curtailed his naughtier behavior because he knew the more stern Col. Potter would never tolerate the kind of foolishness that the more laid back Col. Blake had looked the other way for. And Potter was a Reasonable Authority Figure.
Height Angst: Radar is periodically embarrassed by or ashamed of his shortness, combined with others teasing him this makes him very angry.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: Generally the main interaction between the unit and I Corps. One episode is built entirely around Hawkeye and Trapper John trying to get an incubator, going all the way up to (and disrupting the press conference of) a brigadier general. In the denoument, Radar reveals he just traded for one.
Especially in the early seasons where Colonel Blake was "in charge," Radar pretty much ran the unit and pointed to the lines where Blake needed to sign. (One episode had Blake "jokingly" admitting that Radar actually ran things at a camp assembly. Absolutely nobody laughed.)
Later in the series, Col. Potter plainly and proudly said "Radar really runs the base" to his worried doctors when his departure to an indoc required Burns to be in charge.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Radar is called as such because he seems to be psychic, knowing when choppers are coming before they do and completing his superiors sentences when asked to do an order. The show makes it vague at whether Radar is psychic or just has extremely good hearing and knows rules, regulations and what his superiors will tell him by heart. Once, Potter managed to foul it up by giving him an order he didn't expect; Sherman was, to say the very least, pleased.
Misplaced Wildlife: He has a skunk. In Korea. Skunks are mostly New World creatures; the few that aren't (stink badgers) are from Indonesia and the Philippines.
Obfuscating Disability: Meta-example: Gary Burghoff has a congenital deformity of three fingers on his left hand, and would always hide his hand the best he could whenever possible on camera.
Precision F-Strike: From the last person you'd expect. But in the episode where Potter's horse takes sick while he's away, the doctors have trouble taking the animal's ailment seriously until Radar lets looks with the dreaded H-bomb (followed by "H-E-double-toothpicks!")
This had been a minor Running Gag through the series up until that point, with Hawkeye randomly commenting that Radar's tonsils would have to come out eventually.
Cpl. (later Sgt.) Maxwell Q. Klinger
Played by Jamie Farr. A corpsman forever trying to get out of the Army on a psychiatric discharge, most notably by dressing in women's clothing; he cited a family history of this. Of his family, most are not English-speaking, and most are in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. And yes, both the Toledo Mud Hens and Tony Packo's are real. (The Mud Hens at one point slaughtered the big-league Detroit Tigers in a pre-season game. It was a rebuilding year.)
Jamie Farr also served in the U.S. Army in the '50s, including a brief stint in Korea (albeit after the war's end). Klinger's dog tags are actually Farr's.
Always Someone Better: After Radar goes home, Klinger takes over his job as company clerk. Things don't go so smoothly at first, with Klinger taking a lot of flak for not being able to perform to Radar's high standards. However, Potter later admits that it was wrong to expect Klinger to simply be Radar and not give him a chance to grow into the job.
Klinger eventually becomes a clerk on par with, if not even better than, Radar. He eventually earns a promotion to sergeant.
Becoming the Mask: At one point, he worries about his orientation, given that at one point he's looking at sexy catalog shots... and contemplating how the outfits would look on him. Out of character, fears of this being implied by Farr's dressing in drag on TV every week and the fact that his children were becoming old enough to watch their father on TV in same led to Farr lobbying to get the crossdressing diminished and nearly eliminated as the series wore on.
Breakout Character: Klinger had been intended as a one-time throwaway gag character (meant to reference Lenny Bruce and (rumours of) his attempts to get out of World War II dressed as a WAC). Kinger proved so popular with the audience and the cast that they just kept writing him into episodes.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: For all Klinger's discharge schemes, he never does them at the expense of his duties. That in turn explains why his antics are usually tolerated by the commanding officers even while they are never fooled.
Click Hello: Pulled this on a North Korean POW who tried to assault him using a scalpel.
Klinger: Are you crazy? You wrecked a thirty-nine dollar dress! Your people will pay for this! *Pulls back the lever on his rifle and points the barrel not five inches from the POW's face.*
Determinator: When it comes to trying to get out of the Army, he is an absolute marvel of perseverance.
Henry: (*pulls out binder of Klinger's forged letters*) Father dying, last year. Mother dying, last year. Mother and father dying. Mother, father, and older sister dying. Mother dying and older sister pregnant. Older sister dying and mother pregnant. Younger sister pregnant and older sister dying. Here's an oldie but a goodie: half of the family dying, other half pregnant. (*puts file down*) Klinger, aren't you ashamed of yourself?
Klinger: Yes, sir. (*beat*) I don't deserve to be in the Army.
After he learns his wife has left him for someone else and wants a divorce, he goes looking for sympathy, but everyone thinks it's another con to get a Section 8. Ripping off part of his dress demonstrates he's not joking around this time.
Had this reaction after getting hassled over not living up to Radar's high standards immediately.
One episode shows him trying to decorate his living area with personal mementos, but Potter chastizes him for it. His quarters are the headquarters for the camp, so Potter demands a more professional look and no mementos at all. Klinger responds that everyone else gets to decorate their living areas with reminders of home and expressions of their identity, so he deserves the same freedom. In the end, they compromise and Klinger is allowed to set up some small items.
Klinger once became seriously ill, but everybody believed that Klinger was faking illness to get out of work. When a Jewish soldier develops symptoms identical to Klinger's, that soldier is believed without question, something that Klinger calls the medical staff on. Its eventually discovered that Klinger had developed hemolysis from taking the antimalarial Primaquine, and his life was in serious danger.note In real-life, Primaquine was discovered to lead to hemolytic anemia in patients with G6PD-deficency—for which people of African, Jewish, and Mediterranean descent are a high-risk group. At the time, only Africans were believed to be at risk for this reaction.
Early Installment Weirdness: In his second appearance, Klinger was portrayed as having a Hair-Trigger Temper, to the point where he plans to threaten Frank Burns with a live grenade as revenge for Frank chiding him in postop (and refusing to allow him to wear a lucky red bandana his mother had given him). The incident was never mentioned again, and Klinger was generally portrayed as good-natured and easygoing from that point on. Well, he does have a Berserk Button when it comes to Sgt. Zale, specifically if Zale insults either his manhood or Toledo. In the fifth season episode "Hepatitis", when Hawkeye comes to check Klinger (who's in the kitchen) to see if he's showing any signs of the disease, Klinger brings up Zale insulting Toledo and starts getting worked up and throwing things around. He apologizes, but then gets worked up again with the same results. It gets to the point where Hawkeye has to pin Klinger against the wall just to keep him from doing it again.
Extreme Omnivore: Invoked in one of his more famous one-off attempts to get a Section 8, where Klinger methodically starts disassembling an Army jeep and ingesting the parts. Deconstructed in that not only does it fail to work, Klinger has to be operated on to remove the bolts, oil and windscreen wiper rubber that he ended up eating after they cause him severe stomach pain.
Failure Is the Only Option: Almost always, with his efforts to get out of Korea. Only two have a chance to work, and he nixes them. In one, he fakes a form to go home, to desert; after What Have I Done, he rushes to get the form rescinded—just as the brass are ready to approve it. In the other, the war ended. He stayed for his new wife.
In the Season 2 episode "Radar's Report," Sidney Freedman offers to put his discharge through - if Klinger signs a form stating that he is a transvestite and a homosexual. Klinger balks, especially when Sidney emphasizes that Klinger would have to keep wearing dresses for the rest of his life.
Hidden Depths: Klinger has no real love for the Army, but he always does what is expected him at the camp. He desperately wants out of Korea, but he's not going to endanger a patient because of it. And the whole reason he wants out is because, as he explains to Father Mulcahy in one early episode, "I was brought up to respect life, and that's impossible with all this killing."
Demonstrated with his tireless efforts as an orderly. No matter what scam he was pulling, he never once shirked his responsibilities. Even the time that he tried to convince everyone that he was crazy by acting as though he were home in Toledo, he still assisted in triage (under the guise of helping victims of a traffic accident, but still).
As mentioned above, he called out the officers for believing that he was faking an illness to get out of work. He was obviously very offended that they would think he would shirk his responsibilities.
Love at First Sight: Averted oh so hard with Soon-Lee. When they first meet, he is in charge of watching her after she is arrested. Their relationship builds over several episodes.
His entire M.O., as he seeks a Section 8 to get out of the Army. In one case, he really milks this trope by pretending his surroundings are Toledo, that he's a mere salesman and that he has no memory of the unit. It almost works, but Potter tricks him in the end.
Wholesome Crossdresser: Well, as wholesome as an average U.S. Army corporal can be. Abandoned (along with most of the other Section 8 dodges) once he becomes company clerk.
Lt. (later Capt.) Francis John Patrick Mulcahy
Played by William Christopher—at least, for the most part. Didn't get billed in the opening credits until much later in the series run. A Catholic priest, Mulcahy is the 4077th's quietly devout company chaplain. And one of the few characters who managed to get a promotion.
Badass Preacher: Whether it is performing an tracheotomy under enemy fire or disarming a desperate AWOL soldier covering him at point blank range, Father Mulcahy knows no fear when called upon.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: Suffers from it more than anyone on the show. Epitomized in the episode where he demands to be promoted to Captain.
Mulcahy: The meek shall inherit the Earth, but the grumpy get promoted!
Good Shepherd: Mulcahy is very obviously NOT a parody priest, instead being very devoted to his charges and the care of their souls. He extends this even to the Koreans in the vicinity, raising money to help orphanages in the area and ministering to Korean civilians as much as Army personnel. He's also non-legalistic and ecumenical in his theological outlook (which is slightly ironic for a devout Catholic), to the point of being fascinated by and even supportive of the locals' customs and beliefs. It seems that to him, what you have faith in isn't nearly so important as that you have faith.
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: He is a man of the cloth, after all. So you know he's really miffed when, for instance, he tells the camp (in the "Blood Brothers" episode), "You're all a bunch of...stinkers!"
My God, What Have I Done?: After belting a patient, in "Dear Sis". Then again, said patient did justify the use of force, although medics usually don't go for a punch in the jaw. He actually suffers a minor BSOD over it, when the patient angrily suggests that he went to seminary school at a boxing gym. Turns out Mulcahy taught boxing at the CYO.
In "Blood Brothers", he starts acting like a jerk when he finds out a visiting Cardinal will be there for his weekly sermon and he wants everything to be perfect. When he finds out one of the patients in Post-Op has been diagnosed with leukemia (when offering to be a blood donor for a wounded comrade), he breaks down during his sermon and says he feels ashamed that he behaved so selfishly over trivial matters,
The Other Darrin: Another actor portrayed him in the pilot episode, and the character was openly named "Dago Red" in that episode. When the blond Christopher was cast, the "Red" part of the name no longer applied, and the "Dago" was quietly dropped to avoid the wrath of Italian-American groups.note Although in the 1950's 'Dago' was a common nickname for San Diego, Mulcahy's hometown.
Running Gag: If there's some sort of betting pool among the personnel, Mulcahy will usually win (and then donate the money to the orphanage).
Soldier At The Rear: As an Army Chaplain, he is not allowed to fight and most people understand that. One episode, "Mulchahy's War", is all about him making an unauthorized trip to the front precisely so he can better relate to what the patients he ministers to are going through.
There Are No Therapists: Averted thanks to him. Both he and Sidney Freedman (an actual therapist) admit that he's more the camp's sounding board and confidant than he is their actual spiritual leader. He's even able to notice when Sidney himself needs some counseling. And when he needs one, he usually turns to Hawkeye, of all people. Multiple times throughout the series, he questions his own usefulness amongst the destruction, and notes that the stakes are higher with his line of work.
Mulcahy: [to Hawkeye] When you lose a patient, he's out of his misery. When I lose a patient, he's lost his soul.
Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt
Played by Mike Farrell. A competent surgeon from San Francisco, California. He's introduced as a clean-shaven nice-guy replacement surgeon at the start of the fourth season (replacing Trapper John). As the series goes on, he starts slipping in his sanity (although not quite as far as some); granted, in the first episode, he has to deal with a farmer using his daughters as minesweepers and roadside surgery. Later he would grow a Seventies Porn Moustache, and start letting out another facet foreshadowed in a Mockumentary episode: a growing anger.
Berserk Button: He's one of the nicest character on the show, but he has his buttons.
Don't question his loyalty to his family. Aside from his rant in "Period of Adjustment", he threatens to "break every bone" in the body of a colonel who insinuated that he fathered a half-Korean child.
He's also very protective of Hawkeye. He frequently stands up for him verbally and once completely lost his cool, threatening to "break the neck" of a soldier who tried to throttle his friend.
Generally, he was the resident Nice Guy family man on the show but when he lost his temper and let his frustration out he could get violent. Namely by getting stinking drunk, smashing the still, and punching Hawkeye in the face. Later, after the confrontation with the soldier who tried to hurt Hawkeye, he turned to Father Mulcahy, who suggested using his speedbag for a bit. BJ knocked the thing off its mounting with one hit.
BJ: I...er...I'm sorry, Father.
Mulcahy: Nothing to worry about, my son. beat Maybe you should try needlepoint.
Hawkeye also discovered that B.J. was an even better, devious prankster than anyone in the camp.
The Big Guy: Mike Farrell is one seriously tall man (then again, so were Wayne Rogers, McLean Stevenson and David Ogden Stiers). A Running Gag is his shoe size - never revealed, but apparently massive. Most of the time, though, he falls into Gentle Giant territory.
Break the Cutie: Gradually over the show's run. Doesn't quite complete, but he's waved goodbye to Hawkeye with his knuckles at least once.
Character Development: In the earlier episodes, B.J. tends to be idealistic, passionate, but a bit naive whereas Hawkeye was the more cynical of the two. By the end, Hawkeye would frequently be the passionate one trying to enact some kind of change with B.J. acting as the cynical voice of experience restraining him.
Cool Bike: He acquires one in "Blood and Guts" (although it's taken and subsequently wrecked by another character), and a different one in "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen".
Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Hawkeye spends an entire episode trying to find out what "B.J." stands for. It turns out that's his actual name, given by his parents: Bea and Jay.
Your Cheating Heart: Cheats on his wife with a nurse jilted by her husband. Unlike Trapper and Blake and Frank, he feels genuinely awful about it. Is tempted in a later season by a reporter, but resists temptation.
Col. Sherman Tecumseh Potter
Played by Harry Morgan. His eventual hometown is Hannibal, Missouri, where his wife still lives and yet again waits for her husband to come back from war. 1/4 Cherokee as well ... and onetime member of The Cavalry. He even gets a horse, Sophie, during the series.
Cruelty to horses, or even borrowing Sophie without asking. Deliberately used by B.J. and Winchester to get rid of an unwanted companion.
Only two people ever got away with taking Sophie without permission: Klinger (who was in the midst of an Heroic BSOD after he thought he had reenlisted in the army) and an old Korean cavalry soldier who was just wanting one last ride before he died. Both times, they were forgiven immediately.
Never, ever put soldiers in danger for your own glory. He shuts down two of his old war buddies that get wounded because they took a line command in the name of promotion or glory.
Genre Savvy: Enough of a leader to know that his officers need to be... eccentric once in a while, and to also know when they need to blow off steam, such as approving of a "regulation-type bonfire".
Happily Married: He loves his wife who must be understanding and supportive. They have grown-up children and form a happy family.
Heroic BSOD: One episode, during a briefing about phosphorous-tipped bullets, Potter loses control and howls about when they're going to "stop this stupid war!"
Meaningful Name / Irony: He's named after a Civil War general who felt "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" and a famous Native American chief.
Whose name was said general's middle name.
Military Moonshiner: When stationed in Guam during World War II he had a still until one night it blew up. He got a purple heart for the injuries he got from the explosion.
Not Himself: About once per season toward the end of the show's run, there'd be an episode in which the usually even-tempered Potter would take a sharp left turn into Grumpy Old Man territory, usually brought on by some personal or marital crisis.
Papa Wolf: He fills in as a father to Radar, but the "Wolf" part comes in when Margaret's distant father comes to visit. When he sees her father's lack of tangible approval and Margaret's need for his respect, he absolutely lays into the man. And when someone in the 4077 is sending reports to I-Corps about how non-regulation the camp is, the pain in his voice when he tells Hawkeye and BJ about this is heartbreaking.
Reasonable Authority Figure: He's career Army like Houlihan, and rather more authoritative and no-nonsense than his predecessor Blake, but still capable of relaxing certain regulations when needed. Including, with morale plummeting and a pair of corpsmen tasked to Kill It with Fire on some infected uniforms going overboard, giving in and instructing the camp to build "one regulation bon-type fire" as a way to blow off steam. Potter might be Regular Army, but he was enough of a Cool Old Guy that Hawkeye and B.J. saluted him in the final show.note Hawkeye only ever saluted to one other person in the show: Radar.
You Know I'm Black, Right?: He's one-quarter Cherokee, and takes offense to Burns complaining about operating on a North Korean and phrasing it as Hawkeye getting cowboys and he Indians.
You Look Familiar: Harry Morgan had earlier appeared in season 3's "The General Flipped at Dawn", as a general who showed up to inspect and review the 4077th (and turned out to be nuttier than a fruitcake). The producers were so impressed with his performance that it led to his being cast as Potter.
Your Cheating Heart: He admits to his unfaithful son-in-law that he was once unfaithful to his wife, and while she never found out, he knew and it was a worse punishment. However, while in Korea, he's never really tempted, and when Radar was worried he was going to have an affair with a visiting officer, he replied he just wanted to spend time with someone his own age for once, and it was strictly platonic. He was also in love with Doris Day, but she never knew about it.
Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III
Played by David Ogden Stiers. A (very) proud thoracic surgeon and pediatrician from Boston, he was initially stationed in Tokyo. Once Frank was Put on a Bus, the 4077th put in a call for a fourth surgeon. The call was taken by a colonel he was thoroughly trouncing in cribbage. One ill-timed boast later, and welcome to Uijeongbu.
Badass Boast: In his first episode, he gives one of these to Potter after learning he has to remain at the 4077th:
"But, know this: You can cut me off from the civilized world. You can incarcerate me with two moronic cellmates. You can torture me with your thrice-daily swill, but you cannot break the spirit of a Winchester. My voice shall be heard from this wilderness, and I shall be delivered from this fetid and festering sewer." (*smirk*)
Bald of Awesome: He's a jerk and bald, but his Pet the Dog moments and awesome medical skills make him pretty cool.
Berserk Button: Don't make fun of stutterers. Chiefly because his dearest sister has a strong one. It's notable that she's completely unconcerned and unselfconscious about it in her audio letter.
Blue Blood: He comes from a distinguished American old-money family from Boston. American version of the aristocracy.
Break the Haughty: Hawkeye and B.J. constantly tried to do this, but Hawkeye admitted he never was successful when writing his will:
"To Charles Emerson Winchester, though we may have wounded your pride, you never lost your dignity. I therefore bequeath to you the most dignified thing I own: my bathrobe. Purple is the color of royalty."
However, what did finally break him was the death of the Chinese musicians he'd been teaching to play Mozart in the final episode. After learning of it, he suffered a Heroic BSOD and smashed the record of the song he tried to teach them. Later in the episode, he told the camp during his farewell speech, "For me, music has always been a refuge from this miserable experience... now it will always be a reminder."
Catch Phrase: "Gentlemen." Used as his final line in the final episode.
Dr. Jerk: Jerk with a Heart of Gold type. That said, he had a reputation to maintain. At one point, he agreed to take Hawkeye's OD duty, so Hawkeye could get some leave, on one condition - that Hawkeye never told anybody that Winchester had done something nice. Mostly because then everyone would start asking him for favors. Overjoyed Hawkeye swears he'll never call him anything but completely rotten.
Dreadful Musician: Ironically enough, he appears to be one of these, based on his French horn playing in "The Smell of Music".
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: One Christmas Episode is the shining example — throughout the episode, everyone thinks of Winchester as a creep because when the 4077th hosted a group of Korean orphans with a potluck dinner, Winchester's contribution was a meagre tin of smoked oysters. However, Winchester had anonymously donated a large amount of chocolate to the same orphanage a day previously. Winchester argues vehemently with the orphanage owner when he finds out that the chocolate was not given to the children but instead sold to the black market. He calms down when the owner explains why he did it — the chocolate would have made the children momentarily happy, but the sale generated enough money to buy enough staple foods for the orphanage for a month.
Klinger: I'm sorry, sir. The giver of this meal wishes to remain anonymous.
Lonely Rich Kid / Parental Neglect: Hinted at. In one episode he admits to Hawkeye that he and his father have never been that close emotionally, while in another he tells Sidney Freedman that "I had my fill of psychiatrists by the age of nine".
Charles: (to Hawkeye) My father's a good man. He always wanted the best for me. But, where I have a father... you have a dad.
Neat Freak: Although the "Pressure Points" episode has him deliberately becoming The Pig Pen as revenge against Hawkeye and B.J.'s slovenly housekeeping.
Not so Above It All: Just as capable of pranking as Hawkeye and B.J.. In his first appearance, he even turns the tables on them with a snake in the bed prank. He even would collude with pretty much the entire camp to help teach Hawkeye a lesson in one episode.
Smart People Know Latin: Amusingly subverted. In "Snappier Judgment", Winchester defends Klinger at a court-martial for allegedly stealing a camera. At one point during the proceedings he objects on the grounds of "unum piliolae, acidus salicilicus tres in diem, post sable"... which, as the presiding officer points out, translates to "aspirin three times a day".
Played by Timothy Brown. Originally introduced in the novel and movie as a ringer for an interunit football game, he vanished about midway through the show's first season, ostensibly after the writers learned that there weren't any black surgeons in the theatre.
You Look Familiar: Long after Ugly was written out of the series, actor John Orchard returned in a season 8 episode as a different Australian, an MP named Muldoon who takes bribes to let Rosie's Bar stay open.
Pvt. Igor Straminsky
Played by Jeff Maxwell (usually; Peter Riegert replaced Maxwell in two sixth season episodes).
Camp Cook/Lethal Chef: Although technically, he merely serves the awful food rather than cooking it. (The actual cook, a Sgt. Pernelli, was mostly unseen but did appear in a few later-season episodes.)
The Ditz: He's frequently portrayed as a mild version of this.
Staff Sgt. Zelmo Zale
Played by Johnny Haymer. The 4077th's irascible supply sergeant.
On the other hand, she's been seen with Radar and a number of other guys, so it kind of fell flat, although her beef may have been because she seemed to be the only nurse that Hawkeye hadn't tried to sleep with.
Badass Decay: Few fans remember that crazy CIA agent Col. Flagg was a seriously dangerous character in his first appearance, even pulling a pistol on Hawkeye. He was also far more laid back and even participated in the camp poker game.
CIA Evil, FBI Good: Although he keeps it a little fuzzy who he works for in his first appearance, the writers eventually settled on him being CIA.
Too Kinky to Torture: Hard to tell if it's an actual fetish, but Flagg seems extremely willing to do physical violence to himself at the slightest prompting. Over the course of the show, he purposely crashed a helicopter, broke his own arm, and bashed his head into a wooden cabinet—all in the line of duty, of course. He also mentioned that he trained himself not to laugh by poking himself with a cattleprod while watching shorts from The Three Stooges.
You Look Familiar: Edward Winter had previously played a different character, one Capt. Halloran from CID, in the show's second season. However, since that character was also involved in intelligence work and acted in a similar (albeit milder) manner to Flagg, it's fanon for some that Halloran was actually one of Flagg's aliases. (Possibly lampshaded and made canon by the show when, upon meeting Sidney Freedman in a later episode, Flagg says that the two had once played poker together - which Freedman and Halloran had done in Winter's first appearance.)
Maj. Sidney Freedman
Played by Allan Arbus. A psychiatrist assigned to the 121st EVAC Hospital in Seoul, he frequently visits the 4077 to assist on difficult cases... and to get in on the occasional poker game.
Actor Allusion: His role is a reference to his role as Jesus in Greaser's Palace. ("If you can feel, heal!")
Sudden Name Change: Freedman's first name is given as "Milton" in his initial appearance. (Perhaps the change was made so viewers wouldn't confuse him with the economist Milton Friedman?)
There Are No Therapists: Thanks to him, averted. Though he mentions at least once that he could use a therapist sometimes.
What Could Have Been: When Gary Burghoff left the series, the producers actually wanted to promote Sidney Freedman to series regular, with the explanation that he had somehow been assigned to take Radar's place as company clerk. However, actor Allan Arbus didn't want to commit to be anything other than a guest star, so Sidney remained an occasionally recurring character.
The owner of a small bar situated just outside the 4077, she provided a refuge for many of its personnel away from the routine of the camp.
Margaret with Donald 1 and 2. Neither lasted long.
Blue Blood: Apparently. Which doesn't stop him from being a tightfisted cheapo.
Big Ol' Unibrow: Hawkeye indicated that he had one, but it wasn't there in his two appearances (For that matter neither was the tattoo on his bicep that Margaret had mentioned.).
Financial Abuse: His system with Margaret is she sends him every paycheck and in return, he sends her an allowance of thirty dollars a week (Adjusted for inflation, equal to $263.16 up to $291.26 depending on what year of the war you're adjusting for), ostensibly so they can buy their dream house after the war's over. When there's a goof up with the pay, and Margaret appeals to him for a week's advance, he refuses to give her a penny. By the way, he and his family are supposed to be rich.
Your Cheating Heart: Though it destroys Margaret when she finds out, she decides to give him another chance. She doesn't file for divorce until she finds out Donald has requested a transfer without bothering to tell her.
The Cast Showoff: Wainwright is a professional singer-songwriter, so Spalding's appearances (limited to a handful of Season 3 episodes) mainly involved him singing and playing guitar.
Deadpan Snarker: In the "Big Mac" episode, he sings Henry and Frank the special ditty he's composed for Gen. MacArthur's imminent visit to the 4077th, and it's a masterpiece of smart-assedry.
Well, it's not Corregidor, you know, it's only Korea It's a lousy little war, but we'd still love to see ya And I'm sure we can scrounge up a beach And you can splash in and give us a speech With your corncob pipe and your five gold stars.
Greek Chorus: He kind of serves as one of these in "Rainbow Bridge".
Each of whom appeared onscreen in the show, albeit playing completely different characters. Todd Susman appears in "Operation Noselift", while Sal Viscuso can be seen in the episodes "Dear Sigmund", "Post Op", and "Tea and Empathy".