M*A*S*H Question & Army Reality

Frank Burns occasionally describes his cushy practice waiting for him back home. But, why is he a Major and Pierce and McIntyre are just Capts? Along these lines, I should ask why is Henry a Lt. Col. when he was drafted-in, too?

I guess I’d figure the regular Army men would hold the higher ranks. (Like, isn’t Hot-Lips a Major because she’s all Army, and not drafted, I assume?) And, perhaps out of respect, the drafted Docs would ALL be Captains. (Isn’t that the lowest rank an Officer can hold?)

Last, if I were a Doc with a good practice back home, would it really hurt me to not follow orders and be dishonerably discharged? I mean…I’m self-employed back home, right?

Just wondering…

  • Jinx

I believe that all ‘professionals’ such as doctors and lawyers start off at the rank of captain (which is actually the 3rd rank for officers).

I was unaware that Henry Blake and Frank Burns were draftees, but can only assume that their higher ranks are due to having greater experience as doctors.

Failing to follow orders during wartime can result in much more than a dishonorable discharge. You’d be more likely to end up in prison depending on the circumstances, although you probably wouldn’t be shot.

Henry had been previuosly signed to Honolulu. It was never stated but one could assume he had been a Major there and was promoted when given command of the 4077[sup]th[/sup].

In the movie, Henry was regular army, though not very by-the-book. At one point he says “I’ve served … since the dark says before Pearl Harbor”.

For the series, his character was changed to a draftee for some reason, probably just for comedic reasons since he was really more akin to Hawkeye and Trapper.

I don’t know about the 50s, but nowadays, any professional (eg pharmacist, doctor, lawyer) who enters the military does so as an O3, which in the Army is a Captain.

Question? In the later episodes, Why is Major Houlihan when in uniform not wearing her hair up, like in earlier episodes, her being Army and all?
I was in the Navy, with long hair and when I was in uniform it was always up.

My guess about the hair issue is that some people don’t sweat the detail in TV shows or movies - even those that are supposed to be serious. But I’m not a TV or movie professional, so it’s just an unprofessional opinion.

Regarding Hot Lips’ hair, she did kind of loosen up after Burns left and even more so after her divorce. Plus the 4077 was rather lax in regard to following military regs especially being so close to the front, so Hawwkeye and the gang may have rubbed off on her after a while.

As for Burns not following orders, he was too gung-ho all-American to be insubordinate, remember how he would toady up to any general visting the camp or Col. Flagg.

Besides, Hawkeye was told in one episode when threatened with court martial that a dishonorable discharge would have resulted in the loss of any GI benefits and a permanent criminal record that would follow him back to civilian life in addition to any imprisonment. Someone as cowardly, snivelling, shallow, and concerned with status and reputation as Burns, remember the “$35,000 house and two cars”, would never risk all of that on the chance to get out sooner. What would the neighbors say?