Anachronisms in M*A*S*H


Introduction

An anachronism is an object or a person or a thing that doesn’t belong in the time period it is found in, like a Roman soldier using a machine gun. Any film or television series set in the past has to be careful to present the time period as accurately as possible. However, it is inevitable that some historical inaccuracies will take sneak in. For example, a film set in the early 1960s using music from the late 1960s would be considered anachronistic.

The producers of M*A*S*H worked hard to make the series feel like it was set in the early 1950s, but it is understandable that a few anachronisms would slip in. Usually, these mistakes would take the form of a passing reference to a film or some other aspect of pop culture not realized until after the Korean War ended in July of 1953. Pointing out these anachronisms is not meant as a slight against the series.

The Huey Helicopter

In several early Season Two episodes, a model of a helicopter can be seen hanging from the ceiling in Henry’s office. It appears to be the same “Huey” model on the banner in the Officer’s Club (see above). According to posts by Larry Gelbart at the alt.tv.mash newsgroup on Usenet (see here, via Google Groups) the model was made by his son and removed once it was found to be anachronistic.

Helicopter Model Helicopter Model
Left: “For the Good of the Outfit;” Right: “Kim”

In many episodes, a red banner/poster with the words “4077th MED CO AIR AMBULANCE” and the image of a helicopter with a red cross on it can be seen in the Officer’s Club. However, the helicopter is not the famous type seen in the opening credits that was actually used in the Korean War. It may be a “Huey” chopper that was used in Vietnam.

Helicopter banner Helicopter banner
Left: “For the Good of the Outfit;” Right: “Wheelers and Dealers”
Other Anachronisms on M*A*S*H

Browse through the following list of anachronisms discovered so far:

In several episodes, various characters drink from aluminum beer cans, which weren’t used until the late 1950s/early 1960s. See The Can Manufacturers Institute for more information.

In the first season episode “Tuttle,” Radar is seen reading an issue of Captain Savage and His Battlefield Raiders! which was originally published by Marvel beginning in 1968. The issue in question is #10, from January of 1969. See Comics.org for more information.

Captain Savage #10
“Tuttle”

Submitted by EC:
In “Mail Call Three,” Radar states that his mother’s boyfriend takes her to bingo night in his Nash Metropolitan, a vehicle not introduced in the United States until March of 1954.

Submitted by BZ:
The pinball machine in the Officer’s Club is a Gottlieb “Spot-a-Card,” not introduced until 1960, some seven years after the war ended. See The Internet Pinball Database for more information.

Pinball Machine Pinball Machine
“Wheelers and Dealers”

Submitted by Eddie:
In the Season Eleven episode “Give and Take,” Klinger hands out Hershey chocolate bars to soldiers recovering in Post-Op. Universal Product Codes (or UPCs) are clearly visible on the back of the wrappers. UPCs were not used until 1974. In an earlier episode, Season Four’s “The Bus,” Frank pulls several chocolate bars from his knapsack and hands them out; no UPCs are visible.

Visible UPCs No visible UPCs
Left: “Give and Take;” Right: “The Bus”

Submitted by Eddie:
At the start of Season Four’s “Der Tag,” Radar is seen reading a copy of the Avengers comic book, which was first published by Marvel in 1963. Additionally, the issue itself switches from #72 (originally published January 1970) to issue #60 (originally published January 1969). Another mistake! See Comics.org and Comics.org for more information.

Avengers #72 Avengers #60
“Der Tag”

Submitted by Eddie:
The Godzilla movies were mentioned, but Godzilla wasn’t released in the United States until April of 1956, several years after the war had concluded. The original Japanese version was released in November of 1954. See the Internet Movie Database for more information.

Submitted by Eddie:
Another film, The Blob, was also mentioned, but it too wasn’t released until long after the war had ended in September of 1958. See the Internet Movie Database for more information.

Submitted by Steve:
In “Movie Tonight,” Radar does an impersonation of John Wayne, from the film McLintock!, which wasn’t released in the United States until November of 1963. See the Internet Movie Database for more information.

Radar impersonates John Wayne
“Movie Tonight”

Submitted by Matt:
In “Aid Station,” when Colonel Blake is picking a corpsman to go with Hawkeye and Hot Lips, Hawkeye objects to Blake being the one making the decision because he always has something up his sleeve. Blake says he’ll let Father Mulcahy choose, “You do trust the father, don’t you?” Hawkeye replies, “It says so on all my money. If you can’t trust your money, who can you trust?” The phrase “In God We Trust” wasn’t added to all U.S currency until September 1957. See the United States Treasury for more information.

Not Anachronisms

Submitted by Robert, Corrected by Phil:
Captain Stone’s use of a Minox camera at the end of “A Smattering of Intelligence” is not an anachronism. Although the specific make and model of the camera he is using cannot be determined, Minox cameras were first produced in 1938/1939, long before the Korean War. See The Minox Historical Society for more information.

Stone's Minox Camera
“A Smattering of Intelligence”

Published March 20th, 2005
Last updated November 3rd, 2013

53 Comments

  • Steve Burstein says:

    I’ve got a feeling that the MASH writers assumed that ANY 50s reference was all right, regardless of what part of the 50s it was.

  • Steve says:

    My wife says in at least one episode the use of disposable needles for injections is seen. These were not in use at this time

  • Donald Andrews says:

    In the episode “Dear Sigmund” Klinger mentions wearing hula hoops in his ears as a way to get his section 8. The modern hula hoop was invented in 1958.

    • A Piece of Cornbread says:

      Not only that, but in a later episode Klinger tries to get Charles to invest in the hula hoop.

  • Scott Forster says:

    The episode where Pierce is being court martialed has a scene where Burns is searching Radar’s desk, he pulls out several comics including X-Men, Avengers and Amazing Spiderman, None of these were published until 1963

  • Joe says:

    in one episode Hawkeye sings a line from the theme to THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB but that didn’t start until 1954

  • JOHN BRYK says:

    In one show, they have an Asian destroying an American in ping pong.

    1. The style of play did not start until years later.
    2.The paddle was too modern.

    The whole attitude of the show was to make fun of Frank who claimed Americans were best – but the writers knew better (although at that time period Americans were the best and Asian players did not appear on the scene until well after the war.).

  • JOHN BRYK says:

    During a soccer game, the player throws the ball in with the two handed overhead throw. That was not used in soccer until many years later.

  • Ruby says:

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  • Scott says:

    In one scene Hawkeye has the rubber trim around one of his dog tags, they did not use or have them in the Korean war.

  • Nikki says:

    The moment in Depressing News when Hawkeye is wearing blue 1980s Adidas.

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