"M.A.S.H." even close to the real thing?

Discussion in 'Korean War' started by primalclaws1974, Dec 1, 2014.

  1. I grew up on the show, and I loved it. It was funny, sensitive, scary, heart-warming and sad. I still watch reruns once in awhile. I have heard that vets from the Korean war have criticized it for being inaccurate. It seems pretty plausible to me, being that it is basically a comedy. Can anyone give me any incite on this? Thanks.
  2. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Consider if you will, an American ubanite sitting in the comparatively safety and comfort of his flat. Compare this with a soldier on bivowac sitting in a war-filled foxhole in the dark listening for the approach of an infiltrating enemy soldier whose purpose it is to kill him. These are the differences between the television show M*A*S*H and real combat.

    Have you seen the movie called M*A*S*H? Now compare it the earlier flicker called "Battle Circus". Both are about the same topic but done with different direction.
  3. I saw the movie M.A.S.H. when I was young. I basically just remember it being a lot more serious than the TV show. I realize that there wasn't drinking every night, sleeping around and running off in a jeep at a whim, as the show portrayed. I doubt the camp hospitals in real were as sturdy as the show implies either. The tents and buildings seem to well-constructed to be properly mobile.
  4. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Prime, you need to see "Battle Circus". it starred Humphry Bogart and was made in the 50s, much closer to Korea. And it was a Drama rather than a sit-com.

    M in Mash stood for Mobile. That is why they were in tents. And the doctrine was to be as close to the front as practicable. And the Korean front in Spring and Fall meant MUD.

    You may also want to read a book called "Up Front". Though it is about WWII, Bill Mauldin did a good capturing the war experience from the perspective of the "dogface", the average soldier. His experience was Italy and southern France, and MUD, MUD, MUD. In my mind's eye I imagine the real Mash unit experience was closer to what Mauldin lived rather than M*A*S*H the tv show.
  5. jrj1701

    jrj1701 Member

    The author of M*A*S*H* Richard Hooker complained that they didn't do it the way he would have, and blamed Alan Alda for messing up what he had started.
  6. mkCampbell

    mkCampbell New Member

    Don't take this as fact as I've not checked it. But my mom loved MASH and she had a book about it that I remember saying something about the book being based on stories from doctors in the 8055? Maybe 8555 Surgical Unit. I'm on a small pad and checking Google would be a huge deal so I'm hoping somebody will help me out here.

    The original author of the book, not the TV fan book my mom had, was named... Hooker, Hookson, or something and he was a army doctor and the book started as stories from his service. The book also mentioned something about the early episodes being loosely based on real stories told by war surgeons that were done by members of the crew. I don't know if that's "Movie" Crew or "TV" Crew.

    So, in the beginning starting with the original novel, I think it all was based on real events but towards the end was just a TV show with a great cast and good writing. One piece of trivia I do know is that the original author, Hooker I think, was conservative while Hawkeye is differently not and that his tent was nicknamed the "SWAMP" as that was a trivia question that I missed that's been stuck in my brain for years.
  7. helpingcollier4

    helpingcollier4 New Member

    I am a huge fan of M*A*S*H. I own all eleven seasons and have seen all the episodes a number of times. it is one of my favorite television shows of all-time, but it is a classic example of writers, directors, and actors taking theatrical license with the truth. One has to keep in mind that the series debuted in 1972, during the height of the Vietnam War. The writers of the show, particularly Alan Alda, were vehement opponents of the war in Vietnam, and they used the backdrop of the Korean Conflict to vent their frustrations. When they make fun of military intelligence (who will ever forget Col. Flagg?), they are venting their frustrations at the American government under Johnson and Nixon who exaggerated enemy body counts, censored American soldiers' mail, and experienced a series of intelligence blunders in their efforts to root out the "real" enemy.

    The one area where I think M*A*S*H* did an excellent job was in their medical research. The staff had an on-site M.D. who consulted them to ensure that the surgery scenes were as realistic and accurate as possible. As a television show, they were definitely ahead of their time in that regard.
  8. preacherbob50

    preacherbob50 Active Member

    I wasn't in Korea but I definitely was in Vietnam. I went to Camron Bay on a couple of occasions during DCS missions and the scenes there could compare pretty well with the MASH scenario. There was a great NCO and Officers club nearby and I am sure the docs and nurses found a home there in their off time. They did have billets that they stayed in rather than the tents seen on tv. Camron wasn't really set up to move at a moments notice.
    Funny thing though, I was with the 195th Assault Helicopter Co. and we stayed in GP mediums, (7 man tents) the same as portrayed in the series.

    Over all, I would give the show a pretty good thumbs up from what I know of front line medical units in Nam. But let's face it......if it was made to look like the real thing, not many people would want to see it.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
  9. helpingcollier4

    helpingcollier4 New Member


    First, thank you for serving our nation! I don't know how often you hear it, but I hope you know that Americans like me are very grateful for your service!

    I would like to respond to your last point, where you wrote, "If it was made to look like the real thing, not many people would want to see it." It seemed that as M*A*S*H* developed, later seasons showed a bit more of the darker aspects of war. I remember an episode where a man had to be told that his leg had been amputated. Another one featured a soldier with a facial injury being talked out of suicide. It seems that M*A*SH* evolved from being a dark comedy about a bunch of draftee doctors into being an even darker drama with comedic elements that dealt with the horrors of war.
  10. Watson

    Watson Member

    I was serving in Korea at the time of the film's release and I can attest to the fact that even though it was 20 years after the fact the movie rang true with those of us who were there. As far as the medical questions go, I am not qualified to comment, but as far as the attitudes and situations go, it was spot on.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
  11. I agree that the show became more dismal as it went along. Was this due to viewer's complaints that it was too light? I remember one episode where Hawkeye ends up in a psychiatric ward, in full denial when he saw a Korean woman kill her own baby to silence it, when the enemy was near. That was pretty racy for the late 70s and early 80s. But I am sure that kind of thing really happened.
  12. preacherbob50

    preacherbob50 Active Member

    If I remember correctly (probably not) the segment you are referring to didn't really make the "series." It was one of those enactments that came up after MASH ended and became one of those,"lost shows." Every now and then they still come up with one or two that were not widely published.

    I remember seeing the movie when I came back from Nam. It was funny but it really didn't portray actual circumstances. Then the series came out and it was more like the real deal. It seems, [with a fair amount of planning] they kept adding more and more reality to the show as viewers became a iittle more relaxed with it. Even I, at times back then, would turn it off because I was already fighting a couple of bouts with some memories of the realities of Nam. As time has gone on, things have gotten better so I have seen each episode of MASH at least a half dozen times.
  13. Watson

    Watson Member

    I enjoyed the first couple of seasons but stopped watching when the cast started changing. It seemed like the more the cast changed the more the theme of the show did as well. Instead of mere entertainment it became a soap box for the writers or maybe those new cast members on which to voice their opinions on any number of topics.
  14. No, preacherbob, it was an actually episode. He was in the care of Sydney the psychiatrist that made regular appearances on the show. I actually enjoyed the later seasons when I was older, because it tugged on my heartstrings. When the show was still on I was in elementary school, so many of the points they were trying to make went over my head. I am sure I have seen the entire series many times over, but I will still watch it once in awhile.
  15. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    The sequence of Hawkeye being under psychiactric care of Sydney Freeman come in the very last episode, the series finale. It was based on, I understand, a real incident of retreating refuges where a mother was forced to smother her own child to save her own life and the lives of others. But that happened in WWII. Still, it is arch-typical of war.

    The changes in the comic-drama spectrum of the series was a conscience one. The Producers, Directors, and Writers began the series as a gay, madcap romp of khaki surgeons and the pranks and pratfalls of an army hospital. Little or no blood was shown. Little or no death. Little or no limb amputations. It was just comedy.

    But the powers that be allowed the series to grow. It evolved. Case in point, the sequence were Henry Blake's plane was announced as crashed was with Radar cold-reading the letter to the cast, who were all ab-libbing. In other words, no one knew what was the episode ending was. Tough but brillant was to exit a character.
  16. Interesting information. Thank you. I am sure that many sacrifices were made in major wars throughout the history of the world. I am sure many of the stories from MASH came from true sources, but as you said, many were not limited to the Korean war. I am gald the series evolved. If it hadn't, it would not have ran 11 years, and would not be as timeless as it is today.
  17. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Look at MASH, the series, as literature. The first season saw two-dimention charicatures for most of the charactures. As I said earlier, it was Army Medicine Hy-jinks. Most of the actors did the best they could at fleshing out their roles, with one exception: Frank Burns. I don't know if it was the fault of the writers, producers, directors, or of Larry L. himself, but the character never seemed to change, grow or evolve. He remained as "Ferret Face". Or, worse, he seemed to devolve from adult to a man-child. He was, after all, a military officer. But rather than at least 'respect for the uniform' most everyone walked on him.

    Initially he had a partner, Major Hollihan. They even had a 'covert affair'. But Margaret was allowed to evolve as a characture. She eventually transfered her focus of relationships and emotionally divorced Frank Burns. Mean Frank remained the emotionally-stunted, barely competent farce that he was as created. Frank Burn as a character must `die' for the good of the show. Enter Major Winchester, dripping competence and condensation.
  18. I heard that Larry Linville was actually a respected and likeable guy off camera. He was nothing like his character in real life. He chose to leave MASH because his character was always the butt of jokes, and as you said, never allowed to change. There is one note, I do believe it was the episode where they wrote him out (don't think he was on that episode). When they are talking about how he goes insane and runs from place to place, Hollihan is having problems with her husband, Penobscot. Hawkeye says, "Well, he is no Colonel Penobscot". Houllihan turns to him, and says, "In ways he is no Frank Burns". This showed (perhaps for the first time) respect towards Frank, but it was as he was being removed, so it seemed too little too late. I don't know if this was supposed to be a more respectful farewell, or if it was merely a line in the show for Margaret to say.
  19. nailah783

    nailah783 Member

    Well it was a comedy. I think people need to take things for what they are. Of course it's not going to be one hundred percent accurate for the laughs.
  20. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Yes, the show started out as Hy-jinks in Khaki, but it evolved, as I wrote above. I doubt any who skipped from the first season directly to the final show would have thought it the same show, except a few characters remained the same (Hawkeye and Margaret). I think that was one reason it lasted so long.
    jrj1701 likes this.

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