M*A*S*H … the real thing in 1951.

M*A*S*H … the real thing in 1951.

M-A-S-H_TV_title_screen

I am sure that many of you will be familiar with the wonderful TV series M*A*S*H. The 256 episodes, originally screened between 1972 and 1983, followed the everyday lives of a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the “4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in Uijeongbu, South Korea during the Korean War. The 4077th is fictitious but it is based on events which occured in real MASH units between 1950 and 1953.

Korea, 1951

Korea, 1951

The Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) refers to a United States Army medical unit serving as a fully functional hospital in a combat area of operations. The units were first established in August 1945, and were deployed during the Korean War and later conflicts.

The “4077th MASH” unit depicted in the television series was smaller than real MASH units. The fictional 4077th consisted of four surgeons, around 10 nurses, and 50–70 enlisted men. In an average 24-hour period, they can go through 300 wounded soldiers. By comparison, the 8076th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital had personnel including 10 medical officers, 12 nursing officers, and 89 enlisted soldiers of assorted medical and nonmedical specialties. On one occasion, the unit handled over 600 casualties in a 24-hour period.

An aerial view of the 8055 MASH unit bw 1951

An aerial view of the 8055 MASH unit  (1951)

The following MASH units were active in Korea:

MASH Unit 8054th Evacuation Hospital
MASH Unit 8055th Staffed at onset of hostilities, June 1950.
MASH Unit 8063rd Staffed at onset of hostilities, June 1950.
MASH Unit 8076th Staffed at onset of hostilities, June 1950.
MASH Unit 8209th Originally 1st MASH, Arrived Korea September 1950.
MASH Unit 8225th Originally 2nd MASH. Deactivated end of May 1952.
MASH Unit 8228th Organized April 1952 to treat hemorrhagic fever patients.

 A group of nurses at 8055th MASH unit in Korea, 1951

A group of nurses at 8055th MASH unit in Korea, 1951 

During 1951, there were five U.S. MASHs and a Norwegian Mobile Surgical Hospital (60-bed capacity) in support of U.S. and U.N. troops in Korea. Standards for a MASH required that it could be disassembled, loaded onto vehicles, and ready to depart on six hours notice. After arrival at its new destination, it was operational within four hours. Each MASH operated five surgical tables in a shift with a highly organized system of managing shock patients. An ambulance platoon was attached to each MASH to facilitate the rapid evacuation when post-operative recovery was complete. Additionally, four helicopters were attached to each MASH. They, in turn, were utilized for resupply, rapid patient delivery to the MASH, and comfortable evacuation from the MASH.

A wounded American soldier is placed into the litter carrier of an evacuation helicopter at the 21st Infantry Regiment collecting station, Painmal, Korea 3 April 1951.

A wounded American soldier is placed into the litter carrier of an evacuation helicopter at the 21st Infantry Regiment collecting station, Painmal, Korea 3 April 1951.

A medical Corps team of the 8209th MASH, Korea, performs a front-line operation on a battle wounded soldier. 14 Feb. 1951.

A medical Corps team of the 8209th MASH, Korea, performs a front-line operation on a battle wounded soldier.
14 Feb. 1951.

A MASH nurse has a personal scrub in her tent after another day's ordeal.

A MASH nurse has a personal scrub in her tent after another day’s ordeal.

Credits & Sources:

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24 responses to “M*A*S*H … the real thing in 1951.

  1. Casual general knowledge Chris? Or is your interest somewhat bigger? Cool post thanks of a forgotten conflict.

    • If it links to 1951 then I’m interested. When pushed it is just about possible to link anything to 1951 even though it may only be remotely and indirectly connected. A case of cause and effect I suspect.

      • This is the year of the 65’ers, correct? In 1977 it was the life expectancy in Russia, while in the USA it was 78. Ivan the Great was 65 when he died, William Jennings Bryan dies after being cross-examined by Clarence Darrow at the Scopes Monkey trial – he was on the Book of Genesis side, was Bryant. 65-ers, huh?

      • Yes, the year of the 65’ers indeed. I am not 65 until November. Thanks for the information about people dying at 65 though. Cool. I will make a great effort to avoid any encounter with the Grim Reaper and try to make it though to 66. How old are you anyway, Bruce ?

      • I’m a Year of the Dragon boy, 1964 Kris, 52 in December. – I had some luck – a tweek of a glimmer of an enquiry after a textbook which has me excited.

      • 1964 … I was half way through secondary school when you arrived. Year of the DRAGON. Interestingly, I am watching Dragon’s Den on TV. at this very moment. The textbook enquiry sounds promising. Excellent.

      • Wow…. youngsters! In 1964 I was 18 and in a college in Cardiff!

      • You have an odd sense of humor! 🙂

  2. I knew a gentleman who was in a MASH unit, and he hated the TV show because (from his perspective) it glamorized and made light of actual circumstances. Interestingly enough, my father (who was in the RN on escort duties) had a problem with most WWII naval action movies for pretty much the same reasons. There was only one movie which he thought was representative of WWII as he experienced it “The Cruel Sea”.

    • I think the Cruel Sea is so good because the actors themselves had seen active service themselves.My Dad was in the RN himself, mostly engaged in deploying landing-craft.

  3. This is very interesting! What fabulous men and women.

  4. During my short pass through Korean War information, I had made note of the 8055th being the first unit and the model for the show. That is, until people with eye witness accounts began writing in and giving the crew stories to portray.
    https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/korean-war-4/

  5. Reblogged this on History Undusted and commented:
    A great article on the history of MASH units, with great illustrations! Enjoy

  6. Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.

  7. Pingback: M*A*S*H … the real thing in 1951. — 1951 Club – film critic online

  8. I love the TV show. Loved this post too, especially the nurses. 🙂

  9. Can you recommend someone who has knowledge of modern day warfare, it’s for a post I’m working on at http://www.thefairytalefinder.wordpress.com

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