M*A*S*H Anachronisms

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


69 Replies to “M*A*S*H Anachronisms”

  1. This is definitely an Anachronism. In the episode the Interview (4.24) they are doing an interview that is due to be aired on television. Televisions were released to the public in 1948. From 1948 to 1950 there was a television freeze because of signal interference. Then the freeze was lifted shortly but it was put in place again because of the Korean War. Only 1% of households in the US had televisions in 1948. There was a spike by late 1952 to 32% of households having televisions. Chances are they wouldn’t be filming an interview like this for television because almost no one would see it. This interview was two years approximately two years into the war, but they were wearing heavy winter clothing so you can say it was late 1951 or very early 1952 (however, it is well known that the MASH timeline is flawed and that 1952 occurs with Henry Blake but 1950-51 occurs with Colonel Potter). So it can be argued that it is actually only 1950. Therefore maybe 3% of the US has televisions. In the middle part of the US (such as Iowa) practically no one had TV’s. The largest distribution was in NYC and LA. The networks were ABC, CBS, and NBC and the channels were either one of those three or a network affiliate.

    1. That’s very interesting. When you say there was a television “freeze”, does that mean that no broadcasting was done, or that no production or sales was occuring? I was aware that the television was not a common household item until well into the 1950’s, but had never before heard of a television freeze in the late 1940’s early 50’s.

      1. The television freeze refers to a freeze on licensing new TV stations. For example, Seattle had a TV station in late 1948, but it wasn’t until 1952 that Seattle had its 2nd TV station. Canada didn’t have TV until 1953.

        The first interview episode was based on Edward R Murrow’s interviews of troops in Korea in December 1952. The 2nd episode was just an excuse to get Winchester and Potter in on the action.

      2. Your posting stating that Canada didn’t have TV until 1953 is incorrect. Thousands of television sets capable of receiving U.S.-based signals were installed in Canadian homes near the U.S. border between 1946 and 1953 .The first Canadian stations (CBFT in Montreal and CBLT in Toronto) signed on in September 1952.

      3. Potter was in the first “Interview” episode, but Margaret wasn’t. Loretta Swit missed the last 3 produced episodes of Season 4, “The Novocaine Mutiny”, “The More I See You”, and “The Interview”, and appeared very little in her last episode appearance of the season, “Der Tag” (which has as its main plot line that Margaret is absent for most of the episode, so Col. Potter has asked Hawkeye & B.J. to be nice to Frank while she is gone).
        Ms. Swit once stated, I think in “M*A*S*H: The Exclusive, Inside Story of TV’s Most Popular Show”, that she appreciated the producers letting her leave the show 1 season a few episodes early to appear in a production of the play “Same Time Next Year”, and I think it was Season 4 when she did this.

    2. THE INTERVIEW episode was in fact based on an actual syndicated TV show, CLETE ROBERTS REPORTS, with the real Clete Roberts re-enacting his role! He REALLY went to Korea and did those interviews! WHY wouldn’t they produce the show? As long as ANYONE had a TV then they were going to make shows for it! It is most assuredly not an anachronism. You might as well argue that there was no point putting on THE MILTON BERLE SHOW because so few people had sets!

  2. I have been trying to look this up but in a two or more episodes they make reference to some soldgers geting enough points to go home. when I think they stoped useing the point system in WWII

  3. You’ve forgotten one of the original anachronisms which was the character of Spearchucker Jones. Played in the TV series by Timothy Brown, Spearchucker was in several episodes of the first season but the character was dropped when it was pointed out that no African American surgeons actually served in Korea.

  4. in the beginning Margret talks about her father being dead but later he is alive and well and goes to meet with all the other family members. I also seem to remember him showing up at the 4077 at one point.

    1. that wasn’t what I would call an “anachronism”. Lots of TV shows do things like that with the characters, etc.

  5. Another anachronism for you: In year 11 in the episode “Who Knew?,” Klinger appears to invent the hula hoop and the Frisbee. However, Wham-o trademarked and started manufacturing the hula hoop in 1958 while the Frisbee, originally known as the Pluto Platter in an effort to reap financial rewards from the UFO hysteria in the U.S. following WWII, and which was originally invented in 1948 by Walter Frederick Morrison, did not see full-scale production until 1957, again via Wham-O which bought the rights to design from Morrison.

    1. If he invented them in the episode, how would that be an anachronism? If he owned a hula hoop that was manufactured by whammo, that’s one thing. But if he simply invents a similar decide, that’s entirely plausible, although obviously fictional.

  6. I remember in one episode reference to the movie, “The Moon Is Blue” which in reality wasn’t released until 1953, one year after the Korean War ended. I also remeber an episode where reference is made to vice president Richard Nixon, who wasn’t elected to that office until 1954.

    1. I think that you need to learn some history: You stated that the movie entitled, “The Moon Is Blue” wasn’t released until 1953, one year after the Korean War ended, but in reality, the Korean War ended in July 1953, which was several weeks after the movie The Moon is Blue was released.

  7. The biggest anachronism in MASH are the hairstyles. They are totally and completely of the era in which the series was produced; not when it is set.

    Men’s styles during the Korean war period were extremely short, especially in the services. There are characters in some episodes where hair almost reaches “hippie” length; and things like sideburns (which would have not been PERMITTED in the Army at the time) abound. Hawkeye’s and Klinger’s hairdo’s are especially egregious. Their hair is longer than that of The Beatles circa 1963, which caused a worldwide controversy. And being too “busy” to get a haircut is no excuse. A regular Army commander like Col. Potter would never have put up with such hair length.

    Late in the series, Margaret Houlihan sports what can only be described as a Shag; a hairdo absolutely unknown until the ’70’s.

    1. WRONG! “The More I See You” was REVIVED in 1966, but it originally came out in the Forties! I think it’s from the 1944 fil DIAMOND HORSESHOE.

  8. in ABBYSINYA HENRY Radar tells Henry he’s being discharged because he “got all his points”. But the army had stopped using the “point system” after World War II, they had never used it for doctors and never for officers.

  9. In the episode “you never hear the bullet” s3e17 a nurse in Hawkeyes tent states she found a dirty book behind Aerosmith. An incredible feat considering Aerosmith first album wasn’t made until 1973.

    1. It was actually New Year 1951 celebrated at the beginning of the episode “A War for All Seasons”. Potter was dressed as Father Time (an old man) with a 1950 banner, representing the end of 1950, so this did fit in the context of the Korean War, though as it was pointed out Henry Blake left in 1952, so the timeline for MASH overlapped itself in later seasons. I figure that MASH chose to commemorate 1951 mainly for the surprise winner of the NL pennant, the [New York] Giants over the [Brooklyn] Dodgers, and had Klinger & Winchester involved in a bet that led to disaster for both of them.

  10. Regarding the pinball game in the Officer’s Club: In the first episode where the club and the pinball occur (S02E15) it is not the Spot-A-Card from 1960 by the entrance, it is a Williams Heat Wave from 1964. Even more anachronistic.

  11. From above:
    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.

    I served as a Huey pilot in both Vietnam (72-73) & Korea (75-76). I recall hearing while I was in Korea flying Hueys in a different unit, that the TV cast of MASH made a visit to Korea and was given a PR flight in a Medevac Air Ambulance Huey, which was flown by the 377th Dustoff unit. The 377th apparently gave the cast a keepsake copy of their red banner/poster – don’t know where and when it was apparently changed from 377th to the show’s logo – 4077th.
    Hope this helps!

  12. Not an anachronism but there was an episode where Hawkeye has a bottle of Japanese Scotch. I cringed over this error from my hero about my favorite drink.

  13. Not sure of the episode, but Hawkeye is pulling shrapnel out of a patient and he mentions its from a Claymore. The predecessor to the Claymore may have been around then, but they weren’t called that until the Vietnam war.

  14. In “The Incubator”, Colonel Lambert indicates he can get the docs a B-52 with enough notice. The B-52 didn’t enter service until 1956.

  15. Here’s one I’m surprised hasn’t been mentioned yet. In the episode The Colonel’s Horse Radar says he is looking for a Hayden and spells it out “H-A-Y-D-E-N”. Hawkeye quips “M-O-U-S-E”. However, the Mickey mouse Club did not debut until 1955, two years after the end of the Korean War.

  16. Hawkeye can be seen wearing blue, 1970s running shoes in the tongue depresser episode.

    BJ’s scarf is wrapped around his neck, unwrapped then wrapped in the episode where Potter has bad reports written about him and the camp.

  17. I had occasion to speak with a Woman who said she was an inlaw of “B. J. Hunnicutt.”
    She claimed to have worked on the “Set” of M. A. S. H.. She, like the show, projected a very Anti-American attitude. She claimed to be a Socialist. I Astounded her with my answer to her about Vietnam Service. I explained to her that we had been fighting Communism. I also explained to her the existance of Universities in Moscow And Peking whose sole purpose is to teach operatives how to make Americans hate their country.
    I believe Senator Mcarthy was right about communists in Hollywood. I think the Anti-American undertones in M. A. S. H. Are a glaring example.

    1. Yes, like the apparent use of the NVA(PAVN) flag on flag officers jeeps in a number of episodes. Note the large gold star on a red field instead of a smaller white star on red field, the correct version.

  18. In one of the episodes Maj. Houlihan is reading a letter to Radar from a young girl in the States. She claims that her favorite song is “The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant which wasn’t recorded until 1956.

    Also, on at least one occasion, the doctors use a blood pressure cuff with Velcro which didn’t exist at the time of the Korean War.

  19. In the episode where Hawkeye is named chief surgeon and is waiting for his patient to stabilize before operating, a General played by Sorrell Booke is seen with medals from the Vietnam War on his chest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.