MASH is one of the most iconic war TV shows of all time, and some of its cast members had first-hand knowledge of the comedy-drama’s source material, having served the U.S military in Korea. A spinoff of the 1970 movie of the same name, MASH is a sitcom about the experiences of doctors and support staff, namely Hawkeye Pierce, at the 4077th “Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in South Korea during the Korean War. Despite the show being remembered for its comedic elements, MASH was not afraid to lean into the serious aspects of the Korean War, especially the experiences of its soldiers.
A huge reason MASH was able to pull off its special blend of comedy and serious war drama is because several of its main cast and crew had previously served in the military prior to being on MASH. A surprising amount of MASH’s main cast served in the military, spanning several military branches and years of service. Although not all of its military veteran cast members served in Korea, MASH’s casting of veterans influenced the authenticity of MASH’s main characters.
2 Main MASH Actors Served In Korea
Although several MASH actors served in the military at some point, only two of the MASH main cast members served in Korea. One of the show’s main actors who served in the Korean War was none other than series lead Alan Alda, who played Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce. Alda was part of the United States Army Reserves, which led to him serving six months in Korea. Along with the experiences of MASH’s other real-life veterans, Alan Alda’s military service in Korea helped serve as an inspiration for the serious side of MASH’s depiction of the Korean War.
The second main MASH cast member to serve in the Korean War was Jamie Farr, who portrayed Corporal Maxwell Klinger, a soldier who cross-dressed in an attempt to get sent home on a Section 8 discharge. Farr was drafted into the United States Army, serving two years in both Japan and Korea. His experience in the Korean War was also incorporated into MASH, with Farr wearing his own personal dog tags from the Korean War while playing Klinger.
Other MASH Actors Also Served In The Armed Forces
Although Alan Alda and Jamie Farr are the only two main M*A*S*H actors to have served in Korea, they aren’t the only ones to have served in the military. Both Wayne Rogers (“Trapper” John McIntyre) and McLean Stevenson (Henry Blake) served in the United States Navy prior to appearing on MASH. Mike Farrell, who played Trapper’s replacement B.J. Hunnicutt was in the United States Marines. MASH incorporating the experiences of so many veterans-turned-actors in their cast and stories helped lend it authenticity, making it the unique combination of drama and comedy MASH is remembered as.