Monster M*A*S*H
Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
Hawk hd ready.jpg
Alan Alda as "Hawkeye" on the M*A*S*H TV series.
M*A*S*H character
Vital information
Rank: Captain (O-3), U.S. Army Reserve
Job/Role in Unit: Chief Surgeon at the 4077th M*A*S*H
Home: Crabapple Cove, Maine
Hair Color: Black, greying in later seasons due to age of actor (in TV series), Blond in 1970 MASH film
Eye Color: Blue in TV series, Green in MASH film
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Family/Personal Information
Born: 1919 (?), mentioned to be aged 28 in book, which would make his birth date around 1922
Birthplace: Crabapple Cove, Maine, U.S.
Spouse(s): None, confirmed bachelor
Unnamed wife in MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors
Common law wife Lieutenant Carlye Breslin (divorced) TV Show
Relatives/Children: Dr. Benjamin Franklin "Benjy" Pierce, Sr. (father in the novel) Dr. Daniel Pierce (in the TV show)

Unnamed mother, died when he was 10 years old
Unnamed sister (mentioned in earlier seasons)
Aunt Eloise (mentioned in one episode)
Aunt Sarah (mentioned in one episode)
Billy (cousin, mentioned in Bless You, Hawkeye)
Billy, Stephen, and Karen Pierce (children in the novel)

About: Impetuous but highly skilled surgeon who, along with sidekick Trapper John McIntyre and later B.J. Hunnicutt, seem to rail against the Army establishment
First appeared in: "Pilot (TV series episode)"
Last appeared in: "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"
Appeared on/or in: M*A*S*H (TV series)/MASH (film)
Played by: Donald Sutherland (film)
Alan Alda (television series)

Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce is the lead character in the M*A*S*H novels, film, and television series. The character was played by Donald Sutherland in the film and Alan Alda on television.

About Hawkeye (TV series)[]

Born and raised in Crabapple Cove, Maine (though in early episodes he mentions Detroit and Vermont), Hawkeye is the son of Dr. Daniel Pierce who settled in Crabapple Cove in 1911. His nickname "Hawkeye" was given him by his father, taken from the name of a character in the novel The Last of the Mohicans, the only book Hawkeye's father ever read.

After his medical residency in Boston, Hawkeye is drafted and assigned to the 4077th MASH during the Korean War. Between long, intense sessions of treating wounded soldiers, he makes the best of his life in the isolated Army camp by indulging in heavy drinking, carousing, and pulling pranks on the people around him, particularly Majors Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan.

Hawkeye proved time and again to be an excellent surgeon, which was rewarded by Colonel Blake when he appointed him Chief Surgeon, much to Frank and Margaret's disgust (and Hawkeye's reluctance); a warranted visit from General Barker eventually convinces him that Blake made the right decision. His excellence was also noticed by even higher ranks when, in The General's Practitioner, Lt. General Korshak decides he wants Hawkeye as his own personal physician (more for image and prestige than necessity), but Hawkeye is completely disinterested in "society doctoring" and, citing Army brass' assertion that the soldiers should come first, chooses to stay on at the 4077th to do the work that he was trained to do.

Running gags[]

A running gag throughout the series is that Hawkeye, a reluctant draftee, shows little respect for Army brass, rarely ever saluting or even standing at attention when a ranking officer enters a room; his brass-bucking stems from his disdain of the Korean war itself. Among the few times Hawkeye follows US Army regulations includes Sometimes You Hear the Bullet, in which, after a close friend of his dies on the operating table, Hawkeye reports an underage soldier (played by Ron Howard) to Margaret and the MPs so the boy can be sent back stateside. In The Red-White Blues, Hawkeye refuses to alter Colonel Potter's high blood pressure readings, stating that for once he agrees with Army regulations.

Hawkeye has given formal salutes only four times throughout the series, two of them being to Radar: the first time at the end of Fallen Idol when he gives Radar his Purple Heart after being wounded, the second in part 2 of Good-Bye Radar through the window of the OR during surgery just as Radar is about to leave for home. The third time was in Captains Outrageous with the rest of the main cast, when Father Mulcahy was finally promoted to Captain. The final time was in the series finale when he and B.J. formally salute Colonel Potter as he himself is about to leave camp for the last time.

Another running gag is Hawkeye's frequent chasing of the opposite sex; though he often and openly flirts with nearly every woman he comes in contact with, Hawkeye is also shown to be very caring and respectful toward them and sees them as human beings. On more than a few occasions he realizes how remarkable many of them are; one example includes Hey Look Me Over, in which he has it pointed out to him how he frequently overlooks Nurse Kellye merely because she is not as physically attractive as the other nurses, but after watching her tender bedside manner with a patient who dies while talking with her, Hawkeye finally realizes how wonderful Kellye truly is.

Hawkeye and his Dad[]

Hawkeye's father, Dr. Daniel Pierce, still resides in Crabapple Cove, but despite being a world apart, the two remain close; in Our Finest Hour, Hawkeye reveals that he hasn't seen his father in two years. Early on in the series Hawkeye mentioned his mother and a sister, but later said that he is an only child, and his father remained single after his mother died when he was ten years old. Only in later seasons, Hawkeye's father was established as a physician in his own right; earlier on he was referred to (by Klinger and B.J.) as Mister Pierce.

In Mail Call Three, Hawkeye and Radar have a heart-to-heart about Radar's jealousy over the fact that his widowed mother is dating, and Hawkeye tells about how his dad became interested in another woman not long after his mother died. Though Hawkeye never let on, his father could pick up on his resentment. In the end, his father remained alone, which Hawkeye began to regret, surmising that his father needed his approval so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own heart's desire for his son's closeness.

In The Late Captain Pierce, when Hawkeye finds out that the Army wrongly listed him as dead and have already informed his father, his main concern is to contact his grieving father to let him know he is still alive, but to his aggravation the phone lines have been temporarily knocked out, and all stateside communications have been restricted due to General Eisenhower's impending visit to Korea. Hawkeye very nearly deserts as a cadaver, but with wounded arriving he reconsiders and stays, and is eventually able to call back home to his father.

In Sons And Bowlers, a worried Hawkeye frantically tries to call home to get in touch with his father, who is about to undergo major surgery. Between attempts, Charles keeps vigil with him, admitting that while he still loves and respects his own father, he is envious of the closeness that Hawkeye and his father have, saying, "Where I have a father, you have a dad."

Moral stance[]

Hawkeye has a very strong moral code. He often questions the validity of the war and why they're all there in the first place. He also loathes racism and is angered whenever someone else uses ethnic slurs, especially the word "gook" (a vulgar epithet for a Far Easterner); in The Moose he chastises Sergeant Baker for using the word, and in another episode Hawkeye abruptly ends a date with a nurse who reveals her own racist tendencies when she uses the same word. In another episode he even corrects Colonel Flagg when he calls his wounded prisoner by that word.

His moral stance also extends to guns. In Officer of the Day, when Burns gives him a sidearm to wear while on OD duty, Hawkeye steadfastly refuses to carry it. In Hawkeye Get Your Gun, he disobeys an order by Colonel Potter to fire a gun at an enemy patrol, saying that he will treat wounds but not inflict them. But after some coercion by Potter to use it as a gigantic noisemaker to scare them, Hawkeye decides he can do that and empties the gun into the air (which earns the observation from Potter that, "you're a crazier soldier than a surgeon!").

Hawkeye is also a considerable alcoholic, frequently partaking of martinis, his favorite mixed drink, at the Officers Club, but in the Swamp he also keeps a small gin still that he built with Trapper John and continues to maintain with B.J. On a few occasions the side effects of Hawkeye's alcoholism (particularly in the episode Bottle Fatigue) cause him to rethink and reconsider his actions.

One of Hawkeye's many pet peeves is the food served in the Mess Tent, often causing Hawkeye to toss off insults at the server (most often Igor) and smelling his food before eating it, which is a source of irritation, especially to B.J.

Notable surgeries and injuries[]

Hawkeye's duties as a surgeon near the front had more than their share of dangerous and potentially deadly moments, including, but not limited to:

  • When he had to operate on a wounded soldier with an unexploded grenade embedded in his abdomen
  • In Bottle Fatigue, he struggled to keep a wounded POW from setting off a live grenade he had snuck into the OR.
  • In Hawkeye, he fought to maintain consciousness after crashing his jeep and suffering a serious head injury.
  • In Out of Sight, Out of Mind, while Hawkeye was trying to fix the nurses' stove, a gas pocket builds up and explodes, flash-burning his face and rendering him temporarily blind.
  • In The Best of Enemies, while on his way to Seoul for R&R, Hawkeye is captured by a North Korean who forces him at gunpoint to save his dying comrade. He ultimately fails, but the NK soldier lets him go. (Hawkeye stays long enough to help the NK soldier dig a grave for his dead comrade)

Also on many occasions, situations arose that caused Hawkeye to suffer emotional, mental, and psychosomatic issues, many of which warranted a visit from Dr. Sidney Freedman:

  • In Hawk's Nightmare, after operating on a young patient, Hawkeye begins having recurring dreams about his childhood in which his friends are violently killed; Sidney explains that the peacefulness of his dreams are being invaded by the harsh realities of the war.
  • In Bless You, Hawkeye, after treating a wounded soldier who had fallen into a ditch of moldy water, Hawkeye begins sneezing uncontrollably and develops a serious allergy; Sidney had Hawkeye recall an incident from his youth in which it turns out he had suppressed being pushed out of a rowboat by his cousin and nearly drowned, and after which he had suffered the same symptoms. Sidney points out to Hawkeye that odors can be very powerful memory triggers.
  • In C*A*V*E, when the camp had to temporarily relocate to a nearby cave, Hawkeye revealed that he has suffered from claustrophobia since childhood.
  • The most notable of all of these was in the series finale, in which Hawkeye, being treated at a mental hospital in Seoul, suffered a nervous breakdown after witnessing a Korean mother kill her own infant to prevent the group from being detected by an enemy patrol; Hawkeye had suppressed this memory, which had contributed to his breakdown, but after Sidney helped him to get it out in the open, Hawkeye began to recover.

Differences in TV and Film portrayals[]

Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye in the 1970 film

The television version of Hawkeye is somewhat different from the book and the film; while his professional and social life was much the same, he gradually evolved into a man of conscience trying to maintain some humanity and decency in the insane world into which he has been thrown. This change was largely due to actor Alan Alda's influence, as he infused the character with some of his own political ideals and morals. Some fans disliked the change in Hawkeye, feeling that he eventually became too self-righteous and sanctimonious for his own good and the good of the show, and profess that Hawkeye worked better as a sardonic goofball.

MASH underwent some significant changes by the time Larry Gelbart developed the TV series, most notably of which was the exclusion of Duke Forrest, stemming from the fact that Tom Skerritt, who played Duke in the film, turned down the TV role. Consequently, Hawkeye became the center of the MASH unit's medical activity as well as the comedic (and, to a initially lesser extent, dramatic) center of the series itself. In the book and the film, Colonel Blake appointed Trapper John to be chief surgeon, but in the series, Blake gave it to a reluctant Pierce. In the book and the film, Hawkeye and Trapper had both played football in college, but in the series, while Wayne Rogers' Trapper looked sturdy enough to have played football, Alda's Hawkeye proclaimed (with some pride) that he was not the athletic type.

Richard Hooker, who wrote the book on which the show (and the film version) was based, noted that Hawkeye was far more liberal in the TV show (in one of the sequel books, Hawkeye facetiously makes reference to "kicking the bejesus out of lefties just to stay in shape"). Although the Robert Altman film followed Hooker's book somewhat in structure, much of the dialogue was improvised and thus departed even from Ring Lardner, Jr.'s screenplay. The screenplay itself departed from the book in a number of details (e.g. Frank Burns became a major instead of a captain, and was identified with Major Hobson, the zealously religious officer that Hawkeye and Trapper got removed from their tent and, subsequently, the camp), but on the whole, the main characters and their respective personalities were left intact.

Married or Single?[]

Perhaps the most significant change in Hawkeye's characterization from book to film to television comes through his marital status. In the book, Hawkeye identified as married with children to Evelyn Pierce, and remains faithful while in Korea (as far as the reader is concerned). He offers love advice to several doctors, including "Jeeter" Carroll, extolling the virtues of extramarital sex though never partaking himself. In the film, Hawkeye is still married, but being so far from home he indulges himself, convinced that nobody else will ever find out, and also believing that it will reduce stress for both involved. As such, Hawkeye rationalizes his extramarital dalliances and gives himself some moral leeway, entering into a relationship with Lt. Maria "Dish" Schneider (Jo Ann Pflug), who is also married.

By the time M*A*S*H came to television, Hawkeye was depicted as a confirmed bachelor and an incorrigible philanderer, flirting with nearly every woman he comes in contact with. Presumably, the change in his marital status rendered his numerous romantic liaisons morally acceptable in the eyes of Gelbart and other series officials as well as the TV audience. In the pilot, however, Hawkeye told Lieutenant Dish that he was engaged. In Ceasefire, he broke up with several women claiming that he had a wife back home, but it was a ploy he had contrived that backfired on him when it was revealed there was no ceasefire. In The More I See You, a nurse assigned to the 4077th turns out to be Hawkeye's former common-law wife with whom he lived with for just over a year.

Hawkeye's Women[]

In the TV series, out of all of Hawkeye's romantic dalliances, few went beyond casual; emotionally speaking, he never allowed himself to get too close to the women he dated, nor did he allow them to get too close to him. But there were a few examples where he was willing to let himself get closer, but for one reason or another these never panned out:

  • In the Season 6 episode In Love and War Hawkeye falls for a Korean woman who has been taking care of her ailing mother and some refugees, but at the end, after her mother dies, she has no other choice but to permanently move farther south, away from the fighting, where the two would never see one another again.
  • In Season 7's Inga, when a Swedish lady doctor visits the 4077th, Hawkeye is initially head over heels in lust, but then finds himself on the male end of the perennial Battle of the Sexes. After an incident in Post Op during which Inga helps one of Charles' patients (for which he is chauvinistically ungrateful), Hawkeye realizes how foolish he has been and apologizes to Inga; after she teaches him a Swedish dance he realizes they have much to share with one another, but she is due to leave in a few hours.
  • In Who Knew? (season 11), Hawkeye found out, albeit too late, that a woman he was dating couldn't bring herself to admit that she had developed strong feelings for him. He offered to deliver the eulogy for nurse Millie Carpenter, whom he was dating when she was killed by stepping on a landmine; Father Mulcahy gave Hawkeye her diary in which she wrote her deepest thoughts, particularly her feelings for Hawkeye, causing him to do some serious self-examination, and during which time he promised to try not to withhold his own feelings for others.

On more than one occasion, Hawkeye's moral code prevented him from lettings things get too deep:

  • Season 6's two-part episode Comrades In Arms presented Hawkeye with his first real relationship challenge by no less than his long-time foil and nemesis Margaret. During a routine mission, while staying at a wayside hut, they fell under a mortar attack and the two were driven into one another's arms. The next morning, Margaret was very eager to begin a long-term relationship with Hawkeye, but mindful of Margaret's crumbling marriage to Donald, and his concern over their mutual working relationship, Hawkeye hit the brakes on the idea, which initially caused the friction between them to become worse than ever, but they eventually came to an understanding and began a genuine friendship.
  • In the Season 10 premiere That's Show Biz, a young USO performer named Marina Ryan is brought in to camp with an inflamed appendix, and she soon falls head over heels in love with Hawkeye. Seeing that it would never work (and also seeing the age difference), Hawkeye continually cuts himself off at the knees in front of her to make himself look bad, but Marina is not fooled and insists on staying to get to know Hawkeye better. He gently explains to Marina that they are completely different and that it would never work out, which Marina sadly accepts, but promises to send him a post card on New Years Eve.

After the war[]

At the end of the television series, Hawkeye was the last of the senior staff to leave the now-dismantled camp with the announced intention of returning home to Crabapple Cove to be a local doctor who has the time to get to know his patients instead of the endless flow of casualties he faced in his term of service.

In Hooker's two sequels to M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine and M*A*S*H Mania, Hawkeye returns to live in Crabapple Cove, near to the town of Spruce Harbor, Maine. Having left the Army, Hawkeye is established to be working for the Veterans Administration. In May 1954 he is laid off. At this point, Hawkeye, now thirty-one with three children, has little money in the bank.

The same day he is dismissed from the VA, Trapper John comes to visit and sets Hawkeye's future in motion. Trapper John, now a Lieutenant in the medical organization of Maxie Neville in New York City, arranges for further thoracic training for Hawkeye, first in the East Orange VA Hospital in New Jersey, then at St. Lombard's in Manhattan from July 1954. After two years Hawkeye breezes through the Thoracic Boards. At the end of his training in June 1956, two Spruce Harbor locals, Jocko Allcock (the man who was responsible for Hawkeye being fired by the VA) and "Wooden Leg" Willcox (the local fish magnate) come to visit Hawkeye to set him up in practice—by betting favorably on the outcome of his operations.

The first operation with Trapper's assistance (upon Pasquale Merlino) is a success, and thanks to his superior training Hawkeye becomes the local surgeon. As time goes by, Hawkeye is given more patients by the local general practitioner of note, "Doggy" Moore; goes into private practice with ex-Spitfire pilot Tony Holcombe and plots the eventual reuniting of the Swamp Gang. By 1959 Hawkeye has lured Duke Forrest, Trapper John and Spearchucker Jones into his net, and thanks to the proceeds of the "Allcock-Willcox" syndicate, a new "Finestkind Fishmarket and Clinic" is set up along with the new Spruce Harbor General Hospital.

In the twenty-year period described in Hooker's two sequel novels, Hawkeye becomes notably more conservative politically (he supported Republican "Crazy Horse" Weinstein for governor of Maine and railed against people with "Recall Ford" bumper stickers), but remains as playful and humorous as ever. His golf game improves to an eight handicap depending on the time of year. He donates heavily to various causes, such as to needy children, to the re-education of a local clam digger, and spends an inordinate amount of time caring for his patients.

Personnel of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital
Commissioned Officers
Henry Blake | Major Frank Burns | Augustus Bedford "Duke" Forrest | Major Sidney Freedman | B.J. Hunnicutt | Oliver "Spearchucker" Jones | Captain "Trapper John" McIntyre | Father Francis Mulcahy | Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce | Colonel Sherman T. Potter | Walter "Painless Pole" Waldowski | Charles Emerson Winchester III | Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan | Nurse Margie Cutler | Nurse Ginger Bayliss | Nurse Kellye Yamato | Nurse Peggy Bigelow | Lieutenant Maria "Dish" Schneider
Sgt. Maxwell Q. Klinger | Corporal "Radar" O’Reilly | Sergeant Zelmo Zale | Pvt. Igor Straminsky | Sergeant Luther Rizzo | Sergeant Major Vollmer | SSGT Gorman | Corporal Judson | Private Lorenzo Boone