Post by Michelangelo Scarlotti Post by Will Dockery
Good Lord, Pendragon... you don't even like M*A*S*H?
M*A*S*H was unrealistic in its depiction of an Army medical unit as a hippie commune. Altman wanted to satirize the Vietnam War, but couldn't (because the war was still being fought), so he used the Korean War instead. Commie North Koreans = Commie North Vietnamese. Only to make sure that audiences "got it," he stuck a motley array of 70s characters in what should have been the early 1950s.
Even the theme song, "Suicide Is Painless," doesn't fit the supposed time period.
On a side note: "Supernatural" is a television show on the CW that I'm a big fan of. In the 8th season of "Supernatural," the main characters discover a "Men of Letters" bunker, which they appropriate as their home/headquarters.
The Men of Letters were a Knights of Templar like group dedicated to obtaining and preserving knowledge regarding the supernatural. The bunker was locked down in 1958 when a demon infiltrated, and massacred the group.
The Men of Letters used to take turns being stationed in the bunker -- two at a time; and among the possessions remaining inside the bunker, the lead characters discover a small collection of record albums. During the first episode in which they inhabit the bunker, they play two of the records.
"Get Thee Behind Me, Satan," Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Weston & His Orchestra; and "On the Sunny Side of the Street," Frankie Laine, Paul Weston & His Orchestra. Both are album cuts from... wait for it... 1958.
The implication is that the Men of Letters kept the bunker supplied with currently released albums -- much as a doctor's office keeps current issues of magazines in its waiting room.
Think about it -- they could easily used any record from the 1950s for these scenes and very few people would have known. In fact, I doubt very many people made the connection between the release date of the albums (which is never mentioned on the show) and the closing of the bunker. But they took the trouble to do it anyway.
"M*A*S*H" doesn't even make an attempt to approximate the early 1950s.
Richard Hooker, the writer of the original M*A*S*H novel, based the story on his own experiences....
*****************MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors is a 1968 novel by Richard Hooker (the pen name for former military surgeon Dr. H. Richard Hornberger and writer W. C. Heinz) which is notable as the inspiration for the feature film MASH (1970) and TV series M*A*S*H. The novel is about a fictional U.S. Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea during the Korean War.
After graduating from Cornell University Medical School, he was drafted into the Korean War and assigned to the 8055 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H. or MASH).
M.A.S.H. units, according to one doctor assigned to the unit, "weren't on the front lines, but they were close. They lived and worked in tents. It was hot in the summer and colder than cold in the winter." The operating room consisted of stretchers balanced on carpenter's sawhorses.
Many of the M.A.S.H. doctors were in their 20s, many with little advanced surgical training. During battle campaigns, units could see "as many as 1,000 casualties a day".
"What characterized the fighting in Korea", one of Hornberger's fellow officers recalled, "was that you would have a period of a week or 10 days when nothing much was happening, then there would be a push. When you had a push, there would suddenly be a mass of casualties that would just overwhelm us."
There were, another surgeon recalled, "'long periods when not much of anything happened' in an atmosphere of apparent safety—plenty of time to play ... When things were quiet we would sit around and read. Sometimes the nurses would have a little dance."
A colleague described Hornberger as "a very good surgeon with a tremendous sense of humor." Although Hornberger did label his tent "The Swamp," he was politically conservative.
Hornberger's later assessment of his unit's behavior was: "A few flipped their lids, but most just raised hell in a variety of ways and degrees."
After the war ended, Hornberger worked in a VA hospital before returning to Maine to establish a surgical practice in Waterville. In 1956, he began attempting to put his memories into a book.
In the 1960s, a visit with a former M.A.S.H. colleague and his wife—a nurse at the unit—led to a session of drinking and storytelling. Hornberger later claimed the evening gave him new motivation to finish his manuscript.
A chance event brought Hornberger and Heinz together. "A doctor named J. Maxwell Chamberlain helped me write my novel The Surgeon and, previous to that, a Life cover piece about a lung operation," Heinz told American Heritage magazine. Hornberger, who had studied under Chamberlain, sent Heinz a letter suggesting that they collaborate. After Heinz's wife read the manuscript and enjoyed it, he agreed to contribute: "I cleaned it up, since it was full of those jokes that doctors like to make about the body. Then it took quite a while, maybe a year, back and forth. I eventually tied everything together. As much as it got tied together; there isn't a hell of a story line in MASH, just a succession of operations and techniques and humor. The only thing that holds it together is the characters and the familiarity that the reader comes to have with them."