In the midst of the horror and fighting of the Korean War, another war is being fought just a few short miles from the front lines. It is waged by the doctors and staff of the 4077th M*A*S*H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) who struggle to save the lives of the countless wounded who are rushed in and out of their semi-permanent camp. With precious little time, supplies, or support; they grimly continue on their task of saving as many as they can ... or letting them pass in quiet dignity even as the bullets and bombs rattle the operating rooms.
It's a difficult and soul crushing toil as they fight to maintain their own sanity and spirits on this battlefield. But the doctors, nurses, and staff soldier on and use laughter as the best medicine as the war grinds on...
A hugely popular and long lasting television series adapted from the 1970 film MASH. The film itself based upon a novel "MASH: A Novel About Three Doctors" that drew inspiration from a physician's real life experiences working at a MASH unit. M*A*S*H also had two sequel spin-offs series; After M*A*S*H and Trapper John, M.D.
There was a third attempt at a spin-off TV series, W*A*L*T*E*R which focuses on former Corporal Walter "Radar" O"Reilly as the main character. W*A*L*T*E*R failed to be picked up for syndication and there was only a single pilot episode that was instead shown as a single "Special CBS Presentation".
- Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
- Captain John "Trapper" MacIntyre
- Major Frank Burns
- Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan
- Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly
- Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger
- Father Francis Mulcahy
- Colonel Henry Blake
- Captain B.J. Hunnicutt
- Colonel Sherman Potter
- Major Charles Emerson Winchester III
- Staff Sergeant Luther Rizzo
- Dr. Sydney Freedman
- Colonel Sam Flagg
During the Korean War, the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital has been established less than three miles from the front lines. Composed of a stable of eccentric characters; the majority of the medical teams are not Army-trained soldiers but drafted recruits who are extremely non-military in their behavior and thinking such as their commanding officer, Colonel Henry Blake; a rather laid-back reservist who turns a blind eye to most of his command's outrageous behaviors.
Most of which revolves around the comedic antics of Hawkeye Pierce and his best friend and partner-in-crime, Trapper John who are the two best surgeons around and were unwillingly drafted by the U.S. Army. With little else to do other than helping the wounded; the pair spent their free time drinking, carousing, drinking, womanizing, playing practical jokes on unsuspecting bystanders, and drinking. Their main nemesis is Major Frank Burns, who is their superior only in rank due to his slavish devotion to the rules and regulations of the Army. Burns is rather inept as a surgeon and although he is married; is having an illicit affair with Major Margaret Houlihan, a fellow worshiper of Army regs and one of the few career soldiers. Both Burns and Houlihan go through great lengths to carry on their secret affair, unaware that the entire camp knows about it.
Among the more unusual members of the 4077th include Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly, the company clerk and the real person who really runs the camp. Gifted with the prenaturally acute ability to 'know' things before they happen, he has a heroic worship of both Hawkeye and Trapper. And last but not least is Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger. Klinger is perhaps the sanest man in the outfit who desperately wants to get out of Korea by wearing women's outfits in the vain hopes of convincing his commanding officers to give him a Section 8 psychiatric discharge.
In this backdrop of brief spurts of chaos and blood, the 4077th struggles to save as many soldiers as they can while struggling to hold onto their sanity with laughter.
M*A*S*H outfits might be medical units but to the Koreans, that just means that they have less guns to shoot back with. Over the course of the year, the wacky oddballs of the 4077th M*A*S*H will have to fend off an inept bomber pilot who makes a daily bombing run that has the camp is taking bets on how badly he'll miss! And then they'll have to spend some time undercover when a sniper decides to take a few shots at them. Those won't be the only hardships when a flu epidemic hits the entire camp and leaves only Hawkeye and Houlihan up and caring for all of the causalities.
Then Major Burns has finally had enough of Hawkeye and Trapper's shenanigans and demands a transfer; his lover Major Houlihan decides to go with him and leaves the 4077th up the short creek without a paddle with a dire lack of suitable replacements! For the good of the outfit, Hawkeye and Trapper will have to figure a way to convince Frank Burns to stick around. And since there's no way that they can appeal to Burns' humanity (he doesn't have any), they'll just have to appeal to good old fashioned greed and trick him into staying!
And finally its a case of spy vs. spy when the unbelievably paranoid Colonel Flagg (if that really is his name as he seems to have an excess of aliases) has infiltrated the 4077th M*A*S*H looking for communist sympathizers but finds a pair of practical jokers a.k.a. Hawkeye and Trapper who decide to doctor evidence to humiliate him instead.
The Korean War is getting stranger and stranger for the good ol' folks at 4077th M*A*S*H. Such as trying to arrange a prisoner swap between the Americans and the Koreans that gets fouled up thanks to Frank Burns or when Major Margaret Houlihan is too much woman for a hard charging General who keels over in her bed; his subordinates decide that his "death" is far too ignoble for the General and seek to arrange a suitable killed in action situation for him!
Things have a tendency to take an unusual twist at the 4077th and if that's not enough, the incompetent and unbearable paranoiac Colonel Flagg is bound and determined to find some sort of wrongdoing at the 4077th and is not so secretly lurking about; determined to find some evidence that proves Hawkeye Pierce of being a Communist sympathizer. And finally a shocking twist when Colonel Henry Blake is discharged and is in the midst of returning home only to have his plane shot down, killing him in the crash and leaving the entire 4077th distraught.
It started out as a good year for Major Frank Burns. He's been placed temporarily in command of the 4077th M*A*S*H and is determined to whip it into shape! Once he does so, Burns is convinced that the brass to leave him in charge. His glee is increased when Trapper John is discharged and returns home. However, he quickly is dismayed to learn that Trapper's replacement, the freshly drafted B.J. Hunnicutt is cut more in the mold of Hawkeye than himself. But his dismay only increases when a new Commanding Officer arrives in the form of Colonel Sherman Potter, an old school Army vet who has served in every single major conflict from World War I onward and is on the verge of retirement. Although possessing a similar laid-back command style to Henry Blake, Potter is far more professional and unwilling to tolerate shenanigans and pranks if they threaten discipline and in the operating room.
But sometimes its harder to know who the real enemy is in this war. Such as when Hawkeye Pierce has been declared legally deceased thanks to a paperwork snafu and is having a lot of trouble trying to convince the Powers That Be that he's still alive and kicking. Particularly when Hawkeye's got a morgue attendant whose overly eager to bring back Hawkeye's corpse to HQ. And since the paperwork is never ever wrong, he's either hoping that Hawkeye will drop dead in his tracks or he'll stumble across a corpse. Any corpse. Surely they gotta have a spare one laying around?
Then Radar gets into some real hot water when a wounded Colonel checks in and his fancy pistol checks out without him! The enraged Colonel quickly blames Radar and the hapless company clerk is accused of theft. And finally, during an extended grueling period in the O.R., the tyrannical Major Burns accuses Hawkeye of mutiny and demands a court martial! Of course, the military tribunal will have to judge the testimony for themselves ... but about the only thing that Burns and Hawkeye's versions agree on is the date and they were in Korea!
The Koreans are on the offensive! And the 4077th M*A*S*H is right in the midst of their path, forcing the medical camp to hastily demonstrate the "Mobile" part of their acronym and decamp before they arrive. But it's not the only uprooting that the staff will face.
While on leave in Tokyo, Major Margaret Houlihan has a whirlwind romance with a dashing Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscot. Sweeping her off her feet, Penobscot proposes and the happy couple becomes engaged! This shocking blow causes her long time paramour, Major Frank Burns to have a major meltdown. Particularly when Houlihan discovers that since Frank is busy cheating on his wife, he naturally expects Margaret to be willing to cheat on her impending beau with him.
And when she is determined to remain faithful to her fiancee, it results in a major feud between the formerly close pair. How will everybody's least favorite couple survive? And will everybody else survive the new Major Cold War between Burns and Houlihan?
The newly wedded Major Margaret Houlihan is off on her honeymoon with her newlywed husband, Lt. Colonel Penobscot! But her new martial bliss has caused Major Frank Burns to finally crack up, forcing the 4077th to bring in a new surgeon; Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, a blue blooded snob. Winchester is outraged at the primitive working conditions and constantly tries to get himself transferred back to "civilization", or at least Tokyo which the closest thing to it and is contemptuous of his fellow surgeons and medical personnel. Despite his arrogance, Winchester is tolerated by the others due to his superior surgical skills as he tries to fit into the zaniness of the 4077th.
Shortly afterwards Margaret Houlihan receives a rude shock when she receives a letter from her husband. Expecting a loving letter, she discovers that Penobscot put the wrong letter in the envelope and that she has received the one meant for his mistress! But she isn't the only one whose romance is suffering. Corporal Klinger goes on a rampage when he receives a letter from his wife proclaiming that she's found someone else and now wants a divorce, leaving him distraught and contemplating desertion. As they cope with their heartbreaks, the arrogant Winchester finds himself suffering a bitter comeuppance in trying to cope with the workload and conditions of the 4077th. Desperate to keep up his flagging strength, Winchester begins taking amphetamines and quickly becomes addicted, forcing Hawkeye and B.J. to confront him and get him to clean up.
The 4077th M*A*S*H is going to have to learn how to cope with the wild Korean weather. There's a scorching heat wave that sends the entire camp into a tizzy. But while the rest of the camp is trying to cool down, Klinger has a brainstorm and is wearing a fur coat and thermal underwear to prove that he's nuts. And he may have finally have hit on the perfect plan for his discharge! But the only question is will the heat cook his brains or will he keel over from heat prostration first?
Then a massive windstorm shuts down the camp for helicopter travel but leaves Winchester enraged as he was due to some nice R&R and since he can't fly out, that leaves driving. That should be much safer, right? Maybe not, maybe not.
And if that wasn't enough, a massive coldsnap leaves the 4077th rushing to cope with several soldiers suffering from extreme hypothermia.
Finally, everyone's favorite pastor, Father Mulcahy finds himself having a crisis of faith. In himself that is. He has been passed over for promotion and he can only offer spiritual aid to his flock who is in more dire need of surgical care and medicines than sermons. In the end, he seems to be do more for the dead by reciting last rites than anything worthwhile for the living. What is a man of the cloth to do in a warzone?
He's been the bedrock that the 4077th M*A*S*H has depended on for years. Whether it's forms or files, everyone knows that Radar can handle it all. But when his beloved uncle and the last patriarch of the O'Reilly Clan dies, Radar is granted a hardship discharge and leaves the 4077th with a mighty big hole to fill. It turns out of the few who are capable, the least worst of them all is Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger! But it's going to be a rough and rocky road as Klinger struggles to grow into his new role of company clerk ... and unfortunately the 4077th M*A*S*H is just going to have to bear with him.
The 4077th is going to bear with a lot more than Radar's absence though. A half American/Korean infant is abandoned by its mother at the camp and the staff find that the baby's chances of surviving are close to nil from the Koreans who seek revenge on its half-American heritage to those who seek to maintain their racial purity and can at best: look forward to a life of virtual slavery or as a total outcast. But the US Government is wholly unsympathetic and unwilling to allow the infant to be immigrated to the States for adoption and the 4077th finds itself in a war against the entrenched bureaucracy that it may simply not be able to wrest victory from this time.
And after receiving an outrageous bar tab, Hawkeye decides to become a teetotaler to prove to himself that he's not an alcoholic. However, he quickly is driving everyone else to drink with his obnoxious behavior, leaving him to realize that he is an addict and the rest of the camp to realize that Hawkeye is a total ass when sober.
The M*A*S*H 4077th is then honored to host a highly decorated wounded war hero, Sgt. Michael Yee but are horrified when after learning he will recover and go home; tries to kill himself and discovers that not all wounds are physical but psychological.
The doctors and the staff at M*A*S*H 4077th may be far from home but it's never that far from their hearts. Whether they like it or not!
If there's two things guaranteed are death and taxes. And taxes might be the death of Charles Emerson Winchester III. Even though he's busy working at the 4077th as a trauma surgeon, he abruptly finds himself deluged with boxes and boxes of his family's receipts when their family's unscrupulous accountant has skedaddled and leaving him holding the bag and trying to puzzle out and reconstruct his accountant's filing system.
Then, B.J. Hunnicutt is becomingly distraught over his enforced absence from his wife and newborn child. Her letters leaves him suspicious and increasingly paranoid of his wife's behavior leading to him to suspect that she's having an affair.
And after all of his schemes and tricks to try and con his way out of the Army, Corporal Klinger may have finally have flipped his gourd! Upon learning that his ex-wife Laverne is remarrying to his best friend back home, Klinger decides to re-up and re-enlist in the Army to the shock of everyone forcing his friends desperate to con him into stopping his re-enlistment until he calms down.
Through it all, the rest of the staff of the 4077th have their own trials and tribulations. Patients are coming down with staph infections which leads the doctors to suspect the source is the wooden planks of the operating room. Their solution? A concrete floor. Unfortunately while it may make perfect medical sense, this is the U.S. Army and they don't need no logic or rational explanations to deny the good doctors and their invisible germs. After all, a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital has be mobile and no concrete floor is that! It'll take all of their ingenuity and some back breaking labor to solve this problem!
It's a time of crime and punishment for the 4077th. First up; Father Francis Mulcahy finds himself faced with a crisis of conscience with a wounded soldier who is suffering from an odd affliction that leaves the doctors puzzled. He's suffering an allergic reaction to a blood transfusion. But that can't be right, no one's blood type spontaneously changes. Or maybe not. Because the soldier isn't who his dog tags says he is; because he swapped them for his dead buddy who was due to return home after his last patrol. But with his crime hidden under the seal of confession, the troubled Father Mulcahy is unable to tell anyone what he knows.
Then when a crime wave of pilfering rocks the 4077th; Hawkeye's new camera is stolen leaving Corporal Max Klinger is on the case! After snooping around and finding Hawkeye's property on the black market, Klinger buys the camera back only to be stopped by the MPs who are convinced that they have they have their pilfering thief in hand. On trial, Klinger finds that with friends like his; who needs enemies with their blundering gaffs on the stand and their testimonies!
And then the doctors at the 4077th are impressed with the care and solicitude of Major Weems for his wounded men. He's so downright caring, he's practically begging them to exaggerate their medical reports so that some of the wounded receive extra rotation points so that they can go home faster. Up until it becomes clear that Weems has a secondary agenda: because all of his wounded soldiers are black. And he has a habit of assigning the most hazardous and riskiest of duties to those African-Americans so that they either get killed off or send home faster. Either way, he wins. But it's all hearsay unless the doctors at the 4077th can fix this bigoted Major's goose.
And finally, Klinger's latest get-rich-quick scheme may have finally cooked Hawkeye's goose ... or rather, his goat. Klinger intends to raise a young goat for fresh milk that he's sure that a number of people would pay through the nose for. Meanwhile, Hawkeye has the unfortunate and unpleasant duty of being assigned temporary company paymaster but when wounded arrive, he's forced to hastily leave the payroll behind to rush into the OR. When he returns, Hawkeye discovers that the goat has decided to have the most expensive snack in history and is busy digesting over $22,000 in army script. Worse, I-Corps doesn't believe this cockamamie goat story and decides that Hawkeye is on hock for the $22,000! And if he can't pay up, I-Corps will be more than happy to take care of his accommodations ... for the next ten to twenty years!
War is hard and it's getting harder and harder at the M*A*S*H 4077th. Hawkeye finds himself unexpectedly tapped to deliver a eulogy for a newbie nurse that he dated when she has unexpectedly died in action. Hawkeye quickly finds that no one, not even him truly knew her and is humbled when he reads her diary and discovers a person whom he truly wished that he had the opportunity to know better.
Then, Colonel Potter finds himself forced to confront an old army chum whose desire to relive his glory days has resulted in numerous soldiers being wounded in combat. Investigating, Potter is dismayed to discover that his friend made confusing and conflicting orders in the heat of battle and is forced to turn in his old friend, ending a friendship that has spanned over two World Wars.
And then, peace finally breaks out in Korea but none too soon for the personnel at the 4077th. During a series of peace talks, Colonel Potter graciously decides that since there's no fighting, there's no reason why the medical personnel can't take a short vacation. But returning home, they happen across a family of refugees being hunted by a group of North Koreans and one of the women has a wailing baby that won't keep quiet until Hawkeye finally loses his cool and screams at her to shut it up. A horrified Hawkeye only learns afterwards that the mother smothered her own child to save all of their lives and he is so overcome with guilt that he suffers a nervous breakdown leaving Hawkeye's sanity the final casualty of this terrible war...