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Helicopters

Click to hear M*A*S*H HelicopterM*A*S*H Helicopters - Major conveyance of injured soldiers on the Korean War comedy drama M*A*S*H/CBS/1972-83. The Bell H-13 Sioux army helicopter was an essential element on each episode of this popular wartime program. For starters, helicopters are seen in the opening sequence of each episode as nurses and doctors rush to the aid of newly arrived wounded soldiers who are strapped into wind-shield protected metal baskets attached to the chopper's landing struts.

Corporal Walter O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff), the company clerk at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M*A*SH) has an uncanny ability to sense the arrival of these helicopters long before any else hears the whirling of their rotor blades. His unique talent earned him the nickname "Radar."

Throughout the series the helicopter or their pilots were featured in a variety of storylines, as well. During one episode an insensitive, money-hungry helicopter pilot refused to stop using local Korean children to sift through mined battlefields to collect souvenirs that he could then sell for a profit. Trying to keep the impoverished kids out of harms ways, Dr. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce (Alan Alda) threatened to find something medically wrong with the man and ground him unless he stopped his black market dealings. Putting flying over profit, the pilot chose the more noble path.

And, on episode "To Market, To Market" (aired 9/24/72) Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake's (McLean Stevenson) beautiful 100-year-old antique desk was illegally procured to pay off black marketers who wanted to exchange much needed drugs for Henry's fine piece of furniture. Captains Pierce and John "Trapper John" McIntyre" secretly carried the desk to a helicopter pad where it was whisked away to its news owner.

On the series finale, a helicopter also played a key role in the program's sign-off. As Dr. B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell) drove away on a motorcycle, a helicopter with Captain Pierce aboard slowly lifted off the ground. Directly below, Hawkeye began to see a message left by his close friend B. J. who had spelled out the word "Goodbye" using a pile of field stones. (episode "Goodbye, Farewell, Amen" aired 2/28/83). The final shots of the series are viewed from the vantage point of the helicopter overhead as a convoy of retreating M*A*S*H personnel line the roads below.

TRIVIA NOTE: In the opening credits sequence of Robert Altman's the  movie M*A*S*H (1971) that inspired the TV series, we see helicopters leaving the front lines and heading to nearby M*A*S*H medical units. The scene is complemented with the soothing but mocking lyrics from the film's theme song "Suicide is Painless" which reveal such sentiments as "the sword of time will pierce our skin, it never hurts when it begins"; "the game of life is hard to play, I'm gonna lose it anyway." See also - "Henry Blake's Desk"

Pile of stones forming the word 'GOODBYE'


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