The Korean War saw numerous technological and logistical developments fielded for the first time, and the field of battlefield medicine was no exception. The Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (or MASH, if you prefer!) were a concerted effort to rationalise and improve the treatment available to wounded soldiers coming off the front lines, and especially to decrease the length of time a wounded soldier would have to wait to receive surgery – one of the most crucial factors in determining the likelihood of survival. Coupled with the advent of medical evacuation helicopters, the MASH units revolutionised modern battlefield medicine, and formed the basis of the vast majority of more modern western field hospitals – indeed, the US Army only deactivated its last MASH unit in 2006!
While justifiably renowned for their real-world impact, the MASH units are best known in popular culture for providing the backdrop to the book, film, and (most famously) TV show M*A*S*H. Running for a decade, the series was at points tragic, touching, hilarious, and surreal, but always entertaining and beloved of its fans (of whom there are many here at Warlord Games HQ!). When Bolt Action: Korea came out and included rules for using MASH units in your games (see page 59) we knew that we simply had to produce our own homage to the legendary series! Let’s meet the characters!
Captain Benjamin Franklin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce as portrayed by Alan Alda
First up is Captain Benjamin Franklin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce. A notoriously hard-drinking and partying prankster and the focal point of much of the show, Hawkeye scorns military regulations (particularly when it comes to dress sense!), and our model has him dashingly (but informally) dressed in a red dressing gown and cowboy hat, with martini glass in hand. Despite his constant jokes (and drinking), Hawkeye remains a skilled and committed surgeon, working long hours without pause to save lives wherever possible.
Captain B.J. Hunnicutt as portrayed by Mike Farrell
Hawkeye’s partner in crime (and surgery) is Captain B.J. Hunnicutt. Somewhat firmer in his morals than Pierce, Hunnicutt nonetheless enjoys a good prank (particularly at the expense of Frank Burns), although this can and often does backfire on him. An excellent surgeon, he is willing to go to extremes to save his patients, sometimes improvising experimental new techniques in order to keep wounded men alive.
Colonel Potter as portrayed by Harry Morgan
Colonel Potter is the commanding officer of the 4077th MASH, and an excellent surgeon in his own right. A veteran of both the First and Second World Wars (having originally enlisted as a cavalry trooper) and recipient of no less than four Purple Heart medals for wounds suffered in combat, Potter’s martial bearing and service record bely his easy-going command style. Although he never lets the 4077th go too far with their antics, he understands the importance of keeping morale high (and enjoys the homebrewed alcohol made within the unit)!
Major Frank Burns as portrayed by Larry Linville
Major Frank Burns serves as the show’s antagonist, and the butt of many, many practical jokes. A well-off, highly-strung doctor, he is theoretically the second-in-command of the 4077th, but his incompetence as a surgeon (he twice failed the entrance exams to medical school and has nearly caused the deaths of many of his patients) mean that Hawkeye is the de facto medical second. Nevertheless, his military rank does mean that he ends up in command when Colonel Potter is away – he’s no more capable in this role either, and is frustrated at every turn by Hawkeye, Hunnicutt, and the other men. Despite his flaws (and his wife!), Burns carries on an affair with the beautiful “Hot Lips” Houlihan – much to the disgust of many!
Major Margaret Houlihan as portrayed by Loretta Swit
“Hot Lips” herself (more properly Major Margaret Houlihan, the head nurse and senior female officer of the 4077th) is a thoroughly capable member of the unit and an effective (if somewhat stern) leader of the nursing section. Although she disapproves of the surgeons’ lackadaisical attitudes and penchant for mischief, she respects their skills (and is respected in turn) and over the course of the war her attitude towards them softens significantly. Eventually, following the ending of her relationship with Frank Burns, she even takes part in some of their hijinks, and comes to develop a respect for Hawkeye that seemed highly unlikely at the start of the war.
Major Charles Emerson Winchester III as portrayed by David Ogden Stiers
When Burns is returned to the United States, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III joins the 4077th in his place. An aristocratic Bostonian and extremely accomplished surgeon, he comes as welcome replacement for the unpopular and bumbling Burns. While often ranged against Hawkeye and B.J., he is more than a match for them in wits and culture, and their interactions are far less one-sided than they were with Burns. Despite his somewhat snobbish upbringing, he is shown to have a kind heart and a strong sense of decency, and is far better liked than his predecessor.
Father John Mulcahy as portrayed by William Christopher
Father John Mulcahy serves as the 4077th’s Chaplain. Unusually for such a hard-partying unit, he is treated with respect, and although he is rather confused by the carryings-on and rife immoral behaviour, he is normally forgiving, understanding the difficulties of life at war. Recognising that many of the men in the MASH are not Catholics, Mulcahy instead aims to lead and support by example, although his fears that his contribution to the war is negligible compared to that of the surgeons sometimes leads him to volunteer for dangerous missions.
Walter “Radar” O’Reilly as portrayed by Gary Burghoff
Serving as the unit clerk is Walter “Radar” O’Reilly, a naïve young farmboy who still sleeps with his teddy bear. Earning his nickname due to his uncanny ability to hear incoming helicopters before anyone else and even tell if they are loaded or not, he also has the almost preternatural ability to anticipate his commander’s needs regarding paperwork, and finishes his sentences well before their meaning is obvious to anyone else. Having lost his father at a young age, he looks up to Colonel Potter as a father figure, and is eventually granted a hardship discharge from the Army in order to help his uncle back on the farm.
Corporal Maxwell Klinger as portrayed by Jamie Farr
Taking over for Radar as company clerk is Corporal (later Sergeant) Maxwell Klinger, a man desperate to escape Korea and the Army by means of a ‘Section 8’ (psychiatric discharge). To this end, he behaves bizarrely, particularly when senior officers are present – most notably dressing as a series of women (he does, in fairness, have the figure for a dress!). This is completely unsuccessful, with Colonel Potter seeing through the charade with ease. When he becomes company clerk and receives a promotion, he more or less abandons his attempt to get a Section 8, and eventually finds love and happiness in Korea.
Bolt Action Korea
Fought between 1950 and 1953, the Korean War was one of the first major conflicts of the Cold War. Backed by the Soviet Union and Communist China, the North Korean regime battled for control of the peninsula against the South Korean government and a 21-country UN task force.
Inside the book, you’ll find a comprehensive history of the conflict with details of every major battle fought between the two sides. It also includes details of the various forces and their organisation, commanders, and equipment. Scenarios are provided for many of the battles, along with comprehensive force selectors to help you assemble your force.