Little Bits of History

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2011

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen title card

February 28, 1983: The final episode of M*A*S*H is televised to the largest audience in American television history. It is estimated that 106-125 million viewers watched the two-and-a-half hour program. The Neilson ratings show a 77% share for the program. It is far more difficult to get a majority of viewers in an age of cable and satellite television offering hundreds of channels.

M*A*S*H was first a book written by Richard Hooker in 1968 that was turned into a movie of the same name in 1970. Larry Gelbert brought the program to the small screen in September 1972. The show ran for 11 seasons and 251 episodes. Alan Alda’s character, Dr. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, was the only person to be in all 251 episodes. He and Loretta Swit playing Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan were the only two actors to appear in both the first and last episode. The 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital was a field hospital in the Korean War [1950-1953].

Through the years there were cast changes that were seamlessly incorporated. Colonel Blake, the first to leave, was discharged. His plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan without survivors. This death of a star was horrifying to the fans and some stations edited the ending of the episode. No other starring characters were killed off, but left and were replaced by either discharge or transfers.

The final episode had a party bus to the beach turn into Hawkeye’s nightmare. A tank crashed into the hospital latrine and Major Winchester “captured” some Chinese refugees and became a music teacher, having the men play Mozart. Hot Lips helped Winchester with his job prospects. Father Mulcahy was deafened by a mortar round shelling the tank in the compound. BJ was discharged, left, and returned. A truce was signed and a huge party was held in the mess tent where all major characters told of their plans for the future. Klinger, after years of trying to get out of Korea, planned to stay with his new wife. Everyone said their goodbyes. Almost everyone. Hawkeye and BJ took their leave without BJ saying the word to his long time friend. He rode off on his motorcycle while Hawkeye took off in a helicopter. And there, the last shot after 11 seasons, was BJ’s and M*A*S*H’s final message. Written across the landscape in stones was the one word “GOODBYE.”

“Ladies and Gentleman, five minutes ago at 10:01 this morning, a truce was signed in Panmunjeom. The hostilities will end twelve hours from now at 10:00, THE WAR IS OVER!” PA Announcement

“Listen, when you love somebody, you’re always in trouble. There’s only two things you can do about it: either stop loving ’em, or love ’em a whole lot more.” – Colonel Potter [Harry Morgan]

“I can’t say that I’ve loved all of you either…(devilishly)…but I’ve loved as many of you as I could.” – Hawkeye [Alan Alda]

“I’ll see you in the states, I promise! But just in case I left a note!”-  BJ [Mike Farrell] to Hawkeye, last words of the last show of the television series M*A*S*H

Also on this day:
Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
B&O Railroad – In 1827, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was formed.


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