Sure, playing a soldier on M*A*S*H did call for Alan Alda to use his talents. Yet he also was able to use his military experience as well.
Alda was an Army officer in Korea months after the Korean War. We get more about the actor’s tenure in the military from an article produced by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The future “Hawkeye” Pierce served between 1956-58 in the military. The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953.
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Was Able To Use Military Experiences Along With Soldiers’ Recall
He attended ROTC and graduated from Fordham University in 1956. Once out of college, Alda was commissioned in the Army Reserve. The actor was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. He then spent six months as an artillery gunnery officer in South Korea before receiving an honorable discharge.
So, the M*A*S*H star said that experience, along with meeting soldiers from the war, helped him shape Pierce. He also would use this as a way to write and produce scripts on the show. Alda was able to mix humor, with a delicate balance, while also bringing home traumatic experiences these soldiers went through in Korea.
The show was a winner for CBS and mixed humor and seriousness within episodes. Alda not only wrote but directed a number of them over the seasons. Yes, M*A*S*H does show the emotional horrors of war for soldiers and those who lived in Korea at the time.
Alda Also Was One of Two Who Knew Beforehand That Henry Blake Would Die
But we’d like to also bring up one of the most memorable scenes in the show’s history. You might remember McLean Stevenson from his portrayal of Henry Blake. Well, Henry dies in a helicopter crash. How does the cast find out?
This note from Mental Floss tells us Alda knew before other cast members. He did get a sneak peek and knew along with M*A*S*H producer and writer Larry Gelbart. See, Gelbart did something interesting: he passed out three new script pages to all regular cast members in manila envelopes.
Once everyone got one in their hands, Gelbart tells them to open them at once. They then find out that Blake dies. But how did we, as viewers find out? Gary Burghoff comes into the operating room at the 4077th as Radar O’Reilly and breaks the news. You can watch Alda, as Pierce, looks up and then gets right back to his work.
Some in the OR are shocked by the news and stop their own duties. It’s a scene that fans of the show remember very well. It also marked the end of Stevenson ever being a part of the show again.