During its eleven-year run on CBS from 1972-1983, MASH was one of the most popular shows to ever air on television. Based on Richard Hooker’s novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, the series gained critical applause by being ahead of its time when it comes to issues involving race and sexual orientation.
The show’s lighthearted comedic approach mixed with touching, sometimes heartbreaking tragedy in times of war proved to be television gold, as it was nominated for over 100 Emmy Awards, winning 14. Its story-driven approach allowed fans a closeness with the fictional main characters that had never been seen before on television. So much so, that fans believed the characters could do no wrong but like many things based on emotion, the truth can be hard to swallow.
10 B.J. Hunnicutt: Hits His Best Friend
Hunnicutt and Hawkeye were always known for their comic relief. However, under his smile, Hunnicutt was struggling with missing his family, masking his pain with laughter. This comes to a boiling point when B.J. receives a letter from his wife that his daughter had mistaken Radar as her father upon meeting him.
When he won’t divulge the contents of the letter to his friends, Hawkeye knows something is amiss. While Hunnicutt is drinking in The Swamp, Hawkeye and Hunnicutt get into an argument over who misses home more, only for Hunnicutt to punch his friend in the mouth.
9 Benjamin (Hawkeye) Pierce: Responsible For The Death Of A Baby
As the war raged on, Hawkeye eventually began to suffer from a nervous breakdown. While being evaluated by a psychiatrist, he recalls an incident where he was on a bus that had to pull over to avoid being seen by an enemy patrol.
On the bus is a woman with a crying newborn baby. Hawkeye tells the woman to stop the baby from crying only for her to smother it to death. When Hawkeye no longer hears its cries, he learns of the grim news. It is only when he comes to grips with this tragedy that recovery begins.
8 Sherman Potter: Nearly Kills A Soldier On The Operating Table
Sherman Potter had served his country proudly as a surgeon and a soldier in World War I and World War II but by the time of the Korean War his skills were beginning to diminish, causing him great strife. While operating on a soldier, he makes a critical mistake causing Hawkeye to have to intervene to save the patient.
This mistake caused Potter to begin questioning his abilities. His frustration with himself soon boiled over, causing him to lash out at everyone around him. However, after airing out his concerns to a psychiatrist, Potter soon regained his confidence.
7 Sam Flagg: Sees Communists Everywhere
Colonel Sam Flagg was a paranoid officer who claimed to work for the CIA. It was never clear whether he even held the title of Colonel or any title for that matter, especially if he was an undercover CIA officer.
Flagg seems to see communist agitators everywhere, even going so far as to accuse Frank Burns of being a communist sympathizer because he has seen a Bolshoi Ballet in Tokyo and dares to read the Reader’s Digest, which Flagg cleverly reveals that if you leave out the 3rd, 5th and 6th letters it reads Red’s Digest.
6 Maxwell Klinger: Resorts To Petty Crimes To Pay The Bills
Klinger spent each episode trying to concoct a reason to be sent home from the war. Though, after finding the love of his life in Korea, he soon gets a change of heart about going home. Sadly though, once back in civilian life, Klinger fell on hard times, as his hometown wasn’t ready for a mixed-race couple and he soon found himself unemployed, having to rely on stealing to get by.
Right when he is about to be sentenced, Potter intervenes, pleading for leniency and giving Klinger the job he needs to support his growing family.
5 Henry Blake: Sordid Affairs
Blake is a man consumed by earthly pleasures, whether it be alcohol or women. While his drunkenness during the war was not just accepted but, at times, encouraged by the other soldiers, it was his affairs with younger women that drew him the ire of those around him.
A continual theme in MASH was the sordid affairs that many of the main officers had with women while they were abroad. Blake was no different as if not for Hawkeye convincing him otherwise, he intended to leave his wife for a woman twenty years younger.
4 Frank Burns: Goes AWOL
Frank Burns and his on again off again girlfriend Margaret Houlihan were always scheming of ways to make their fellow soldiers miserable. Houlihan had been searching for years for her Mr. Right and in Frank Burns, she believed she had found him. However, after numerous attempts to get him to leave his wife failed, she began to look elsewhere.
After finding out that Houlihan had tied the knot with someone else, Burns has a nervous breakdown, getting drunk in Seoul and assaulting a general in a steam bath leading to him being sent back home.
3 Margaret Houlihan: Affair With Frank Burns
Houlihan was a woman that sought love in all the wrong places. She had had countless relationships while in the military that had gone sour. None worse than her affair with the cowardly Frank Burns. For a time, Houlihan believed that the two would have their happily ever after once he left his wife.
However, when Burns’ wife finds out about the affair and threatens to leave him, Burns begs for her forgiveness, telling his wife Houlihan meant nothing to him. Upon hearing the conversation, Houlihan breaks up with Burns for good.
2 Charles Emerson Winchester III: Sent Nasty Letters To His Sister About Her Engagement
Winchester was a man who came from a distinguished background and wanted everyone to know it. His snobbish, bigoted behavior along with his boisterous showmanship made him an outcast in his own regiment. However, upon learning that his sister was getting married to an Italian, a drunk Winchester wrote her a series of scathing letters protesting the marriage.
Though, when his sister responded that the wedding had been called off because the man’s Italian family didn’t like his pedigree, he was offended by their attitudes, giving him a taste of his own medicine.
1 John “Trapper” McIntyre: Tried To Attack His Patient
While Trapper normally had an affable demeanor about him, he wasn’t without his dark side. He was a known alcoholic and cheated on his wife numerous times during the show. However, his most shocking moment comes when a wounded Chinese soldier’s actions lead to the death of one of his patients, Trapper becomes enraged and tries to lunge for the man.
Though harboring a murderous intent for a brief moment, he was soon calmed down by Hawkeye, who reminded him that their job was to save lives not take them.