“Springtime” Goof


I guarantee you I never would have noticed these mistakes in the third season episode “Springtime.” They have to do with Colonel Blake’s use of ham radio. I know next to nothing about ham radio but Adi, a licensed ham radio operator, was both knowledgeable and observant enough to recognize the following mistakes. In the episode, Colonel Blake contacts a ham radio operator in Des Moines, Iowa who agrees to help connect Klinger in South Korea with his bride-to-be in Toledo, Ohio so they can get married. Here’s the important exchange:

Henry: “Alrighty, BS2XYZ, I gotcha. That’s 6:00PM there, 4:00AM here. Righty-o, roger wilco, over and hour, ten-four and goom-bye. Okay, Klinger, you’re all set.”
Klinger: “Colonel, I could kiss you!”
Henry: “You do and I’ll chin myself on your nose.”
Klinger: “Are you sure this radio thing’s going to work, sir?”
Henry: Klinger, BS2’s a ham operator in Des Moines, Iowa, right? Now he’s gonna pick us up on his shortwave and call Laverne — your Laverne — at the chapel, collect, in Toledo, so he can patch her phone into his radio which we can hear on our radio and which Laverne can hear on her phone and her parents can hear on their extension. Simple?”

According to Adi there are two problems with the call sign BS2XYZ used by the unnamed ham radio operator in Des Moines. Call signs identify radio operators by the country of origin and area of operation. I don’t begin to understand how call signs work but you can read a little about call signs at this FCC page. The first problem with BS2XYZ is that the prefix BS has been allocated to China, so someone operating out of Iowa would not have used it. Second, the United States is split into geographic region — each assigned a numeral — and Iowa (along with Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) must have a 0 in it.

Colonel Blake says goom-bye

Colonel Blake says goom-bye

Later, during the wedding ceremony, Colonel Blake reveals that his call sign is KN5YVJ. Here’s what Adi had to say about this call sign:

The Korean code letters were HL & HM but some American military base ham stations abroad do use a US callsign. As it was never fully explained that MASH 4077 had any such station, I’m assuming that maybe Colonel Blake was using his own privet US callsign with military standard transmitter. But he was from Illinois and should use 9 in his callsign. However, as we know Colonel Blake as what he is, he is not strong with numbers.

Like most goofs, these mistakes had no impact on the episode itself. Most viewers probably didn’t even give the call signs a second thought. Anyone not familiar with the intricacies of ham radio call signs would never have known they were incorrect.

9 Replies to ““Springtime” Goof”

  1. I never noticed it when I was watching the first time, but after getting my license it was very noticeable. The musters had a Ham Radio episode and they sorta got Hermans right W6XLR4 which really should have been W6XLR/2 or W6XLR. The X in the suffix is used sort of like 555 as the FCC issues no ham radio call signs with suffixes starting with X. In Last Man Standing Tim Allens character uses KA0XTT a nice play on X-Tim-Taylor. It is formatted correctly all except for the X. Interestingly the plot line has led to Tim Allen actually getting his license and joining the ranks of entertainers like Joe Walsh, Marlon Brando and others.

  2. As a Ham for over 20 years, I’ve noticed many TV and movie bloopers when it comes to radio usage and call signs. The KN5 call could very well have been in the states. it’s legal to operate, with a reciprocity agreement, in other countries but the call should be prefaced with the country code and zone of the area you are actually operating in. So the call should have been W0/KN5YVJ.
    Also, the Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS) is a radio network operated under DoD authority using either ham or military radios in the same general frequencies as ham radio. Army and Air Force MARS are still around but the Navy MARS program was decommissioned on 30 Sept, 2015. The Army and Air Force MARS programs picked up those Navy MARS members who chose to continue serving.
    MARS Calls are easy to id, they are in this format 3 letters, 1 number, 3 letters. Navy calls started with NN, Army MARS calls start with AA, Air Force calls start with AG and the Pentagon station has the call sign WAR. So the ARRL MARS call sign is AAN1ARL.
    One final note, the FCC issues call signs based on where the license is issued and moving to a new location does not change the number in the call. For example my original call was issued as N2… and although i no longer live in a state in the 2 zone, I still use that same call sign even though I’m now in the 4 zone. It’s also possible for someone who takes the license exam outside his numbered zone will receive a license from the zone that he took his exam in. So if you live in NY but take the exam in FL you may have W4NNN (FL zone) rather than W2NNN (NY zone) as a license.

    1. Mike Keep in mind that being on a military base in a foreign country at that time sort of was like being in the US. Korea wold not have said much about, however the US Army would probably would have not allowed such operations during a police action. Today hams may apply to operate and would receive a HL9xxx call sign. Those that are Novice (not many of those around anymore would have a N as the last letter of the suffix and Techs would have a T, general and extra would be assigned a two letter suffix such as HL9CI. These are assigned not by the FCC but by the theater, but in reality it is delegated by order to the MARS commander.

  3. I want to leave all you blessed hams a story. My Dad was a ham, Robert B Blackwell, W3HVS. He was called silent by my brother on 01/15/1999, Robert Blackwell II, KD4VAC – IF I remember it correctly. (Now Dad had this sign in both MD and FL, and if I’m not mistaken he had that call sign in No. Cal. too. So y’all lost me on that one.) But the story…

    I’m 62 and during the Vietnam war, my Dad (living in Marin Co CA), used to sit for hours and patch thru calls to and from the soldiers overseas. I used to do my homework in the evenings in his “shack”, so I listened a lot. I don’t remember specifics, but I sure remember feeling so proud of him! <3 Telling this story is my way of being very grateful for *everything* y'all do! God bless!

  4. This is the problem with ham radio, too many autistic people crying and making an issue out of nothing. BS2 was an obvious joke callsign by a script writer because it’s Bullsh*t ie BS. As for colonel Blake’s callsign it doesn’t matter as they’ll try to use any random one that hasn’t been assigned to someone yet to avoid issue not to mention that requirement that you live in the number district of your callsign was rescinded long ago right around the time mash was still airing.

  5. I agree with Ms. Klover- this is just way too much quibbling and hair-splitting over an issue that simply has no impact on the integrity of the series! 99.9% of the viewership are simply not going to notice, or care, about the validity of the various call-signs! Yeesh!

  6. @ Lin N4YCI, “the FCC issues no licenses starting with an X in the suffix”? Not so. My call was issued by the FCC (not a vanity call sign), and it spells AC5XP.
    73s from sunny Florida.

  7. One never get to see the radio that colonel Henry Blake is using, but judging the few shots we see (which show partials of the side and back of the equipment), he is using a BC-191 transmitter (or possibly a BC-375 transmitter which is almost identical to the BC-191). This equipment is, in fact, authentic to the era in which the show is framed (early 1950s). The BC-191/375 was a shortwave transmitter of about 100 watts power that was heavily used during WWII and beyond, including the Korean War.
    Only problem is that it is only a transmitter, it would be accompanied by a BC-312 receiver for stationary base station setups (like the one showing Henry Blake), or with the BC-348 receiver when used in aircraft. Unfortunately this receiver is not shown at all in the episode of MASH.
    In fact, I have never seen any actual radio equipment in any of the MASH episodes with the exception of this episode. Which is weird because the BC-191 transmitter’s face is very photogenic, it would have been a great prop on the show. A missed opportunity for the makers.
    (In all fairness, there is one episode where Hawkeye communicates using an AN/PRC-6 walkie-talkie from an old school bus, but that is for another story)
    There is some kind of equipment shown quite often in the show, which looks like an audio amplifier or a battery charger (the thing with the two large meters and knobs on it), but it is definitely not a radio. For the rest, the MASH people seem to do all communications through wired, field phones, and they work remarkably well. Almost too good. They talk directly to the US through these phones, and to any other US/UN military base in Korea they desire, even during heavy artillery shelling. Apparently no North Korean soldier has ever considered targeting these cables….

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