Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
Hawkeye AlanAlda
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 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)
Two unnamed sons 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)Edit

Born and raised in Crabapple Cove, Maine (though in early episodes he mentions Vermont), Hawkeye is the son of Dr. Daniel Pierce. 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. Though early on in the series Hawkeye mentions his mother and a sister, but later says that he is an only child and that his mother died when he was still young, which is why Hawkeye is very close to his father.

After his medical residency in Boston, Hawkeye is drafted into the Army 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 was reluctantly appointed Chief Surgeon, much to Frank and Margaret's disgust; a warranted visit from General Barker eventually convinces him that Blake made the right decision.

Running gags Edit

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 three times throughout the series, two of them being to Radar: the first time in 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 the series finale when he and B.J. 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 fairer sex; though he often flirts with nearly every woman he comes in contact with, Hawkeye is also shown to be very caring and respectful toward them. On more than a few occasions he realizes how remarkable some 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 solely 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 comes to understand how wonderful Kellye truly is.

Moral stance Edit

Hawkeye also 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 a later episode Hawkeye abruptly ends a date with a nurse who reveals her 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 moonshine still that he built with Trapper John and continues to maintain with B.J.'s help. On a few occasions the side effects of Hawkeye's alcoholism (particularly in the episode Bottle Fatigue, his excessively high bar tab) 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.

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 comrade, but he ultimately fails.

Also on many occasions, situations arose that caused Hawkeye to suffer emotional, mental and psychosomatic issues, each 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 the dreams are being invaded by the harsh realities of the war
  • In Bless You, Hawkeye, after treating a wounded soldier who came into camp after falling into a pond of moldy water, Hawkeye begins sneezing uncontrollably and develops a serious allergy; Sidney had Hawkeye recall an incident from his youth in which he was pushed out of a rowboat by his cousin and nearly drowned; suffered the same symptoms; he points out to Hawkeye that odors can be very powerful memory triggers.
  • In The More I See You, Hawkeye is unhappily reminded that he had a year and a half common law marriage with a visiting Nurse.
  • 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 Edit

The television version of Hawkeye proved to be a somewhat different character 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.

Developed for television by Larry Gelbart, the series departed in some respects radically from the film and book. The character of Duke Forrest was dropped altogether (primarily because the actor Tom Skerritt turned down the role), and Hawkeye became the center of the MASH unit's medical activity as well as the dramatic center of the series itself. In the book and the film, the Chief Surgeon was Trapper John McIntyre; in the series, Pierce reluctantly accepted the appointment by Colonel Blake. In the book and the film, Hawkeye had played football in college, but in the series, Alda's Hawkeye proudly proclaimed he was not the athletic type, while Wayne Rogers' Trapper looked sturdy enough to have played football.

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 Pierce and bunk mate Trapper John McIntyre got removed from their tent and, subsequently, the camp), but on the whole, the main characters and mood were left intact.

Perhaps the biggest change in Hawkeye's characterization from the book, to the big screen and finally to the small screen comes in his marital status. The Hawkeye of the book is married to Evelyn Pierce with children (according to the sequels) and faithful while in Korea (as far as the reader is concerned). He offers several doctors love advice, "Jeeter" Carroll for example, extolling the virtues of extramarital sex but never partaking himself. The film version of Hawkeye is still married, but gives himself more moral leeway, arguing that he is far from home, no one is ever going to know, and it will reduce stress for both involved.

Finally, the film's Hawkeye was transformed into the unmarried and womanizing Hawkeye of the TV series. In the pilot, however, Hawkeye told Lieutenant Dish that he was engaged and in a later first-season episode he broke up with several women, when he believed the war had ended, by telling him that he was married, although it was revealed to be untrue at the end of the episode. A later episode shows in fact Hawkeye had a one-year common law relationship with a nurse after graduating from medical college which he revealed to BJ after the woman in question is assigned to MASH 4077 as a replacement nurse.

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").

In the book and the film, Hawkeye had identified as being married. Near the beginning of the series, he claimed to be married, though this was a ploy on his part to get out of marrying a nurse he had been involved with. Presumably this alteration rendered his romantic dalliances (chiefly with nurses) more morally acceptable in the eyes of Gelbart and the other series officials. (In general, Gelbart tried to make the series less deliberately offensive and more "politically correct" than the film while nevertheless retaining some of its anarchic spirit.) Also, in early episodes, Hawkeye tells his father (Daniel) in a letter to say hello to his mother and sister, but in later episodes, he is an only child and his mother died when he was young. There is also a reference in the episode "Dear Dad", where he wrote a letter to his father, that their home is in Vermont and also in the Season 1 episode "Ceasefire", but all other references, including in the book and film, are to Hawkeye being from Maine. Most episodes refer to the senior Pierce as a physician, but in at least one episode, BJ addresses him over the telephone as "Mr. Pierce" (Pierce Service number was 19905607). In one episode Hawkeye nearly drowned when he was very young; he also suffers from claustrophobia, both of which were childhood traumatic experiences for him.

After the warEdit

At the end of the television series, Hawkeye was the second-to-last to leave the dismantled camp with the announced goal of returning to his hometown of Crabapple Cove, Maine, 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 doesn't have much money in the bank, is 31 years old, and has three children: Billy, Stephen and Karen.

The day he's released, Trapper John comes to visit and sets Hawkeye's future in motion. Trapper John, 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 John'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. who would have thunk

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
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