‘M*A*S*H’: Here’s Why Hawkeye’s Age Was So Unclear

by Joe Rutland
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(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

People who watch the classic TV show M*A*S*H fall in love with Hawkeye Pierce every time they see the show in reruns. So, just how old is Hawkeye? Oh man, this is one of the show’s most interesting mysteries. If you look at a timeline and add Richard Hooker’s book into the mix, then you might have a little road map to follow. But you’re going to be confused, too.

The book cites Hawkeye as being 28 years old when the Korean War begins. Well, when the war ends in 1953, he is 31 years old. That’s a three-year stretch. If you are looking for clarity from both the movie and TV show, then you are not in luck. The movie version starring Donald Sutherland in the Hawkeye role was done when he was 35. Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye in the CBS series, was 36 as the series kicked off in 1972.

Alan Alda Was Older Than Hawkeye Would Have Been In ‘M*A*S*H’

When M*A*S*H ended its TV run, Alda was 47 years old. There’s such a large discrepancy in the age question that vagueness might have been a good thing to have on the show. One reason they might have done this is because of the actor’s age, too. You can tell both Sutherland and Alda were older than what might have been the person’s original age.

Alda has been around the world of show business for a long time. He’s appeared in movies like Paper Lion, where he played author George Plimpton, who tries out for the Detroit Lions football team. Others include The Seduction of Joe Tynan and The Four Seasons. TV work besides M*A*S*H has included The West Wing.

Actor Makes One Of His First TV Appearances In Phil Silvers Show

But one of his first TV roles happened to be with Phil Silvers. Classic TV fans know that Silvers played Ernie Bilko on You’ll Never Get Rich. It was in this show that Alda initially graces TV screens. By the way, some people might also know the show as The Phil Silvers Show. The lead actor played a fast-talking master sergeant who would punch up his vocal outbursts. Silvers also was a talented Broadway star who appeared in Top Banana.

Alda was on his way up the show business charts at the time. While we’re talking about Hawkeye a bit, Alda said that he used his own experience as an Army officer in Korea to shape the character. The actor would be commissioned in the Army Reserve after college. Upon being stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., Alda would go on to serve as an artillery gunnery officer in South Korea. Six months later, he received an honorable discharge.

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