M*A*S*H Timeline


With contributions from Kara and Big Daddy O’Reilly.

Introduction

It’s hard to believe that eleven years worth of stories were supposed to have taken place in the three years of the Korean War. To get around this time problem, the writers of M*A*S*H decided not to worry about it and concentrate instead on telling quality stories. Still, it is interesting to try to piece together a timeline for the series using dates mentioned in a variety of episodes.

When Do Colonel Potter and B.J. Arrive?

Perhaps the most confusing timeline issue when Colonel Potter and B.J. arrived at the 4077th. During the teaser at the end of “Welcome To Korea” (Season Four), Colonel Potter’s arrival is said to take place on September 19th, 1952. However, in the episode “A War For All Seasons” (Season Nine), we see Colonel Potter and B.J. at the camp on New Years’ Eve 1951, and in “Death Takes A Holiday” (Season Nine) Potter and B.J. are there for Christmas 1951. April Fools’ Day 1951 finds Colonel Potter and B.J. there as well, seen in “April Fools” (Season Eight).

Also, the episode “‘Twas the Day After Christmas” (Season Ten), should be set the day after Christmas 1952, seeing as Christmas 1951 was “Death Takes A Holiday.” Christmas 1952 would be the last Christmas of the war, since it ended in September 1953. However, in “Trick or Treatment,” which takes place after “Death Takes A Holiday,” we see a Halloween party, meaning it is October 31st, and apparently 1953.

How is all this possible? The most likely solution is that the writers realized after “Welcome To Korea” that they had made Colonel Potter and B.J. arrive too late in the war, that Trapper and Blake shouldn’t have been there for a year. That explains how Potter arrives in 1952 but is shown in 1951. It doesn’t explain Halloween of 1953, which can’t be explained as anything more than a simple mistake.

Kara contributed the following:

“And also in the episode “Dear Sis” I believe that is another Christmas episode which can’t really be explained either. unless we assume Trapper and Henry were only there for a couple months. I agree with you. The writers must have gone back and repeated time over again because the series continued for so many years. They needed more time so they went back and rewrote some in.”

The following timeline is simply an attempt to chart some of the dates given in episodes of M*A*S*H. We all know there is no way to cram eleven years worth of episodes into three years of war. So keep that in mind. Dates in italics took place in reality.

1950

June 25th, 1950
The North Koreans cross the 38th Parallel and start the Korean Conflict.

Presumably at least the first season of M*A*S*H is supposed to take place during 1950; at the very start of “M*A*S*H – The Pilot” the subtitle “Korea 1950” is shown on the screen. However, in “Requiem For A Lightweight,” the third episode of the first season, Henry states that he can’t use the same fighter in a boxing tournament that he used “last year.”

The entirety of Season One took place during less than nine months, because Henry’s wife gave birth stateside in “Showtime” and as Radar noted, Henry must have been present for “the important part” of making a baby.

September 10th, 1950
Margaret tells Klinger it is Independence day and he replies that it is September 10th (“Lil“). This can’t be explained unless we assume it is September 10th, 1950 since it takes place before the April Fools Day episode 1951.

September 19th, 1950
Colonel Potter’s last stint in surgery before coming to the 4077th (in “Welcome To Korea” it is stated twice that Colonel Potter hadn’t been in surgery in two years, this could be a rough estimate).

1951

April 1st, 1951
Colonel Potter tries to keep the camp from playing any practical jokes during April Fools’ Day, as a stiff-nosed Colonel is coming for a visit (“April Fools“).

June 1951?
The Interview” is said to take place during “the second year of the war,” which could mean it occurs anytime between June 1951 and June 1952.

August 9th, 1951
Hawkeye is fed up with army life, and the 4077th, and hides out in Rosie’s Bar, as eventually the rest of the camp does too; all the while, Margaret encounters Jack Scully for the first time, Klinger plays Craps with some Korean locals, and Radar discovers a passed out major with no records on him (“A Night a Rosie’s“).

August 10th, 1951
Hawkeye and B.J. wake up in the now trashed out Rosie’s Bar, where the major whom was found passed out finally awakens, last remembering he was in Hawaii… on the night of July 4 (“A Night a Rosie’s“).

September 11th, 1951
Private Rich is wounded while in combat, sustaining a throat injury, and is air lifted to the 4077th, where he undergoes surgery, and awakens in Post-Op, next to an obnoxious patient, who tries to act like he’s in more pain than he really is in order to get better care, and lengthen his stay (“Point of View“).

September 12th, 1951
Rich wakes up the next morning, and sees what an average day is like at the 4077th, including Margaret giving him a sponge bath, Klinger giving him a tour of the camp via wheelchair, communicating with Colonel Potter and Hawkeye through a note pad which he is using to write to his parents (which is date 9-12-1951). Rich later suddenly has trouble breathing, and needs to be rushed back into O.R. (“Point of View“).

September 12th, 1951
The 4077th sets up near the front (in “Welcome To Korea,” Hawkeye states that he had lived with Trapper for over a year and Trapper left somewhere around September 12th, 1952).

September 13th, 1951
Rich awakens and learns that his fracture larynx was the cause of his sudden breathing problem, but he is now able to speak more coherently when his breathing tube is squeezed (“Point of View“).

September 19th, 1951
Hawkeye stole a steam shovel from the Tokyo Provost Martial (according to his record in “Change of Command“, Colonel Potter said that “a year ago…” which could be a rough estimate).

October 17th – 22nd, 1951
Radar records the weekly report of the 4077th’s antics, including Sidney Freedman’s first observation of Klinger, and Trapper’s patient dying from contaminated blood after the I.V. is smashed by a berserk Chinese P.O.W. in O.R. (“Radar’s Report“).

December 25th, 1951
B.J. works to keep a dying man alive until December 26th so that his children don’t have to remember Christmas as the day their daddy died (“Death Takes A Holiday“).

December 31st, 1951
On New Year’s Eve, the 4077th looks back on 1951 (“A War For All Seasons“).

1952

June 13th, 1952
Radar receives his study guide for a correspondence course in enrolled in for the Las Vegas Writing School in (as stated in “The Most Unforgettable Characters“; this episode also features Hawkeye and B.J. staging a fight for Frank’s birthday the same day, which conflicts with Frank’s birthday in “For Want Of A Boot,” which takes place during the middle of winter… unless that was his half birthday).

September 9th, 1952
Trapper receives his orders to be shipped stateside (this occurred 3 days before he left, as stated in “Welcome To Korea“).

September 9th – 10th, 1952
Trapper got drunk (stated in “Welcome To Korea” that he was drunk for two days before ).

September 12th, 1952
Trapper John leaves the 4077th, B.J. Hunnicut arrives at the 4077th (if the next episode took place a week from this one).

September 19th, 1952
Colonel Potter arrives at the 4077th to take command from Frank Burns, replacing the late Henry Blake as commanding officer (“Welcome To Korea“).

October 5th, 1952
Colonel Potter starts 6 days of R&R, leaving Frank in charge (“The Novocaine Mutiny“).

October 9th, 1952
Clete Roberts returns to interview the staff of the 4077th a second time (“Our Finest Hour“).

October 11th, 1952
Hawkeye assumes command after being in charge goes to Frank’s head. He is later brought up on charges (“The Novocaine Mutiny“).

December 26th, 1952
Colonel Potter has the enlisted men and the officers switch places for a day (“‘Twas the Day After Christmas“).

1953

April 22nd, 1953 Klinger tells “Captain” Schaffer that by April 22, he will have been wearing ladies’ dresses to buck for a Section-8 for exactly two years (as stated in “Fade Out, Fade In“), which suggests he would have been drafted, and shipped out just before April 22 of 1951.

July 4th, 1953
Members of the camp hold a party on a beach in Inchon, on the way back they are almost spotted by North Koreans, in order to keep from being heard a Korean mother smothers her baby, which causes Hawkeye to become mentally unstable (“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen“).

July 11th, 1953
Hawkeye returns to the 4077th after being treated by Sidney (if he was gone for a week after July 4th).

July 27th, 1953
The Korean War ends when the cease-fire goes into effect 12 hours after the armistice was signed.

September 26th, 1953
In the first episode of AfterMASH, Sherman Potter writes a letter to Klinger informing him of his reconciliation with his wife after returning from Korea.

October 31st, 1953
The 4077th has a Halloween party, and Father Mulcahy performs a “miracle” (“Trick or Treatment“).

Last Updated October 19th, 2013

10 Comments

  • Donnie Love says:

    I like how you have all the dates listed. I made a M*A*S*H chronology for my website and the dates just don’t line up. They’re like the stardates in Star Trek, they go backward and forward except the camp isn’t traveling at warp speed. The sad fact is that television writers pay far less attention to continuity than fans do. I look at it this way: In the novel MASH, Hawkeye arrives in November of ’51. They raise money for Ho-Jon in June of ’52 (Pilot Episode) and Ho-Jon leaves in August (end of season 1). In season 10, instead of dates, there are mentions of Eisenhower running for president (Nov ’52) and taking office (Jan. ’53) and the war ends in July. As I say on my site, this order sort of makes sense if you ignore most of the dates given in the TV series. I say “sort of” because of course the book and the show don’t M*E*S*H together well, because Hawkeye is actually Trapper and goes home in Feb. ’53, Major Burns is two different people who go home in ’51 and ’52, Henry doesn’t go home (or die) and there’s no Col. Potter.

  • I’ve got a new one for you RJ:

    In “Hot Lips in Back in Town,” there’s a small calendar in the Nurses’ Tent that reads December… the year is a little hard to make out, but it looks like it might be 1952… I wouldn’t swear to it though (especially considering it seems like most of Season Seven took place in 1951).

    It’s also strange that the calendar would say December, because its clearly not a winter episode: no one is wearing coats and parkas, and no one’s complaining about the frigid cold.

  • EK says:

    In 9-14 (#212) – Oh, How We Danced: Hawkeye says to Winchester, “Charles, it’s only a routine inspection tour. Pork Chop Hill’s already been taken!”

    Pork Chop Hill has been taken on April 18, 1953, its defenses were rebuilt during May and June 1953. On the night of July 6, Chinese offensive started, and on July 11, Pork Chop Hill was lost. This puts the episode somewhere between the end of April and the beginning of July.

  • TLR says:

    I think that no one had any idea how long the show would last. The creators probably figured the show might last for 2 or 3 seasons, so there was no concern at first about using up Christmas episodes, etc.

  • Tf says:

    Note-the last factually correct mash episode was “the late captain pierce”. Which takes place in December 1952. (President elect Eisenhower trip to Korea after being elected president)
    After that the writers turned the timeline back to 1950-in a real timeline Winchester wouldn’t have arrived until about April-may of 1953
    By the way mash won’t on for far too long-the late captain pierce should have been Hawkeyes swain song exit from the show…too bad that their couldn’t have been a aftermath where Hawkeyes has to go to prison for the 7 months of the war he deserted from-or make it up by being head of a Indiana veterans hospital along with the rescued Henry Blake-who also have to work off his missing years-all the while Hawkeyes has to feud with the hospital administer-general frank burns!,

  • Ncrdbl1 says:

    Cannot understand how a show with so many dramatic errors could ever be considered for awards for writing.

    Hawk-eye has a sister and his mom was alive in the first years. The later he is a single child and mom died when he was a kid.

    Margaret’s dad comes back from the dead.

    Henry’s wife’s name changes. He has only 2 daughters and a new born son in season 1. But in season 3 his son is much older.

    The 4077th got movies before they were even filed. They got to see the Blob which did not come out till 1958.

    Radar does imitation of John Wayne from McLintock which did not come out till 1963.

    Constant mention of Godzilla which did not come out till 1954 in Japan and did not come to US till 1956.

    Potters child changes from a son to a daughter. and Grand child from a grand daughter to grand son.

    Margaret and Hawkeye demonstrated a procedure using a clamp which was not created till later on in the season.

    In one of the dear dad episode he mentions an argument between Margaret and Frank which did not happen till the next season

    • Ncrdbl1 says:

      Not to mention when I Corp sent the psychiatrist to check out the staff to see if they should be disbanded. The officer that sent him mention they company clerks name was Radar O’reilly. A nickname is never on a 401 file.

  • Michael Skaggs says:

    I just ignore the years on the show that are mentioned. Episode 1 takes place just after the Korean War breaks out, the last show is when it ends, and all the stuff takes place in between in order with each one beginning the day after the previous episode.

  • Rick says:

    I am a big fan of MASH, but I never thought much of the timeline. Now you have me thinking, I don’t know the episode but the storyline was about the 1951 Dodgers/Giants pennant race. Potter didn’t arive till 1952. Still love the show!

  • Lisa Marie says:

    My theory is it took place in some alternate reality where there is a weird time loop where even their realities kept changing. There’s the explanation.

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