M*A*S*H Question

I usually watch MASH (I’m not sticking the asterisks in every damn time) on the treadmill at the gym while I’m waiting for my fitness class to start.

I recently watched part of the episode where Winchester is introduced and I’m wondering why he was a major. BJ, Hawkeye, and Trapper are captains. Burns was a major but he was regular army. I can’t imagine a Haaavard educated elitist Boston snob like Winchester joining the Army, so I assume he was drafted. Why wasn’t he a captain too?

Until he was sent to Korea, he had a cushy job in Japan - which may have given him opportunities to get a promotion that Pierce and Hunnicutt didn’t get. Also he was a more experienced surgeon than Pierce or Hunnicutt (he was on track for a prestigious appointment before he was drafted), which may have had an influence on his rank.

Seems likely that the same connections that got him the cushy posting also got him a fast tracked promotion - an earned one, certainly, but half the doctors at the 4077 earned one just as well.

From my knowledge and experience of military practices, I would not be surprised if he had additional medical (or other) training that allowed them to boost his rank, either upon service entry or after. It’s also possible he had family connections that used some pretense to push that.

Under wartime conditions, especially unpopular ones, you can advance more quickly than peacetime (greater demand, less supply). If the conditions are just right, you can benefit for no good reason. I had a friend of mine who made E6 (Staff Sargent) in under 3 years during the Vietnam era, something which would have taken twice as long in between wars.

BJ was a very recent draftees so didn’t have time to progress in rank; Hawyeke was probably a recent draftee when the war started and likely doesn’t want any promotions. No idea about Trapper.

Whatever in-universe explanation you want to cone up with, he was a Major because he had to be side he was replacing the Major antagonist to Captains Pierce and Hunnicutt.

Charles was on track to become Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Boston General before he was drafted. As an experienced and skilled chest cutter, he would have gotten rank well before anybody else at the 4077th. Hawkeye had too many blots on his record to warrant promotion, BJ was too new. In the movie it was Trapper John who was the chest cutter, but they dropped that for the TV show.

He won his promotion in a game of cribbage.

So who was the chest cutter before Winchester showed up? It certainly wasn’t Frank Burns. Or did they just not have one?

Might have been a recalled WW2 Veteran. A fairly common occurrence in early years of the Korean War; and many ended up in godforsaken reactivated WW2 Pacific bases used as staging areas for men and material… Maj Winters of Band of Brother’s fame was assigned to one and he campaigned vigorously to be transferred to either the front or be discharged, he got the latter.

Charles might have wrangled a Tokyo posting, the hospitals there would be short changed with so many doctors being transferred to the front.

I’ve always wondered why Altman gave Frank Burns a promotion. In the novel, he was a captain.

^ Probably because O’Houlihan wouldn’t mess around with a lowly captain.

IIRC, they called for Hawkeye whenever anyone had a chest wound.

I don’t think so. Or was this a joke?

He won his trip to a MASH unit because he won a few games of cribbage against his superior officer.

So he got drafted and was assigned to Tokyo General? Then he pissed off a colonel over a game of cribbage and got sent to Korea? I could see Daddy Dear pulling some strings to make sure Chuck wasn’t assigned to the front after he was drafted.

My guess would be a combination of education and experience. When I enlisted in '73, I came in as E-2 because I had a year of college. Otherwise, I’d have been E-1.

There’s a similar situation on the civilian side of DoD. I went to work for the Navy as an engineer after I resigned my commission. I was hired as a GS-7. Had I not had the years of experience on active duty, I’d have started as a GS-5. And if I’d had a Masters, I would have been GS-9.

So extrapolating from my personal experience, I’d say it’s entirely possible his rank was based on his background.

Mmm. Think of his experience and where he’d been. As a bigshot at Tokyo General, he likely had some people under his command - such as it is - and therefore that position might rate a major in it instead of a captain. Pierce et al, essentially had no one under their direct command and stayed captains.

Sometimes it ain’t the person, it’s the job.

Mind’s Eye, Watering:

Yes, it was meant facetiously, I thought that would be obvious, but my tone clearly failed to come through.

Still, we don’t know that that didn’t happen that way :stuck_out_tongue:

I recently saw the episode in which Col. Blake made Hawkeye chief surgeon. This angered Frank, of course, and Blake pointed out the Hawkeye was “certified for chest as well as general surgery”. But what it really came down to was this:

Burns: “Are you saying he’s a better doctor?”

Blake: “Yes! When the heat’s on.”

I had two years of college, and I didn’t get an instant promotion in the same era. Could yours have been due to ROTC training or a specialty?