Aside from the human characters, the first image that comes to mind when you think M*A*S*H might be helicopters. Two choppers arrive over the mountains at the start of every episode. The yellow M*A*S*H title overlays the aerial footage of arriving Army copters. The shots of the helicopters in flight were unused leftover footage from the 1970 MASH film.
Those particular aircraft — the dragonfly-like body with the bulbous glass cockpit and bare metal tail boom — were Bell H-13 Sioux helicopters. That model first took flight in the 1940s and belonged in a military show set in the Korean War from 1950–53.
However, if you look closely in the background of M*A*S*H, you will see other helicopters. And these particular choppers did not belong. In fact, they were temporally impossible.
Early in season two, keep your eyes peeled for a model helicopter dangling in the office of Henry Blake. Keen aircraft experts will note this miniature as a Bell UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the “Huey.”
There is just one problem. The Huey did not take its first flight until 1956, and was not used fully by the military until the end of the 1950s, years after the Korean War ended. The Huey is far more associated with the Vietnam War of the 1960s.Adam Gelbart glued together this helicopter model.
So how did one end up in Blake’s office sometime circa 1950?
Well, for starters, there were many little anachronisms on MAS*H, from 1960s pinball machines to Margaret’s perm. Radar reads an issue of The Avengers comic — a title that did not premiere until 1963. Oops.
But this particular error has a heartwarming backstory. MAS*H creator-writer-producer Larry Gelbart explained the origin of the Huey online in a Google Group in 1998.
“The helicopter which hung from the ceiling in Henry’s office was built by my then-young son, Adam,” Gelbart said.
That was not the only artistic endeavor by a young Gelbart child seen in Blake’s office. Behind his desk, you can spot a crayon drawing of an Eskimo. Gelbart noted, “The child’s drawings in Henry’s office — the Eskimo and others — were painted by my then-very young daughter, Becky.”
The Huey did not remain for long. “We took it down after a few episodes,” Gelbart explained. “It was a Huey-Bell — an anachronism in terms of Korea.”
That did not prevent M*A*S*H from making the same mistake later in the series. Pay close attention to the walls in the Officer’s Club. Hanging behind the pinball machine you will see a poster celebrating the “Air Ambulance” — a Huey helicopter.
You can get a good view of it in “Wheelers and Dealers” in season 10. Some fans theorize that these subtle Vietnam War images underline the fact that the 1972 series M*A*S*H, while set in the Korean War, was thematically dealing more with the effects of the Vietnam War.
Or, they were just little mistakes. It happens, even in the classics.