Dear Dad ... Three was the ninth episode of Season 2 of the TV series M*A*S*H, also the 32nd overall episode of the series. Written by Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks, directed by Don Weis, it originally aired on CBS-TV on November 10, 1973.
Hawkeye opens another letter to his father during a 'typical' day at the 4077th. The overall theme is the boredom of daily camp routine, but not without moments of intense drama such as when Hawkeye treats a bigoted sergeant who does not want blood "of the wrong color" or when another soldier is brought into the O.R. with a live grenade in his body.
Full episode summary
Hawkeye writes another letter telling his dad about life at the 4077th. The biggest enemy, he tells his father, is boredom. Life is so boring that Trapper ends up playing cards with Frank.
Later, however, things get more interesting. In the O.R. Hawkeye is operating on Sgt. Condon and sends Ginger off to fetch a bottle of plasma for him. While she is away, Condon whispers to Hawkeye to make sure that he gets blood "of the right color". He doesn't want the "darkie stuff".
Hawkeye is taken aback by the request but before he can digest it, Radar bursts into the O.R. to show an X-ray to Henry showing a soldier in the pre-op ward with a grenade buried in his body. Henry summons Hawkeye and Margaret to assist him. They clear the pre-op ward and there follows a few tense moments while they extract the grenade.
Later, while relaxing at one of the regular camp "Happy Hours", Hawkeye tells Trapper about his encounter with Sgt. Condon. Together they hatch a scheme to teach him a lesson. "Nothing violent," Trapper says, "just a bit of reverse prejudice."
Hawkeye and Trapper walk into Henry's office as Radar is setting up a film projector to show a home movie Henry's wife Lorraine sent him of his daughter Molly's 5th birthday party. The surgeons make themselves comfortable as they watch the color footage of Mrs. Blake hosting a group of children wearing party hats sitting at a table in the backyard. When the film shows all the kids holding signs that spell "MISS YOU", there's not a dry eye in the house. However, a black-and-white film starts soon after, featuring a younger Mr. and Mrs. Blake hosting the neighbors (Mr. and Mrs. Jaffe) at a backyard BBQ. Henry's embarrassed as his antics in the film have everyone roaring with laughter.
They go to the post-op ward where Condon is still asleep and paint him with tincture of iodine which makes his skin appear darker. When Condon awakes, he asks a passing Klinger whether he looks darker than he was when he came in. Klinger, who is in on the practical joke, asks, "Are you sure they gave you the right blood? ... It's happened before."
Ginger also comes around and adds, "They got you down as White. Good work, baby! ... Relax. I won't give you away." But Condon is not having any of this. "Get outta here!" he shouts at Ginger. This causes Ginger to retort sharply, "I'm a lieutenant, soldier. I don't care if you are passing. Watch your mouth!" which stuns Condon into silence.
Later, Condon meets Hawkeye and Trapper and demands to know if he had been given "the wrong color blood," Hawkeye and Trapper tell him that all blood is the same and ask if he had heard of Dr. Charles Drew. Hawkeye and Trapper tell Condon that Drew invented the process of separating plasma from blood so that it can be more easily stored, but he bled to death in a recent car accident because the "Whites-only" hospital would not let him in.*
A few days later, Hawkeye is at another "Happy Hour" in the Swamp finishing his letter to his father when Condon walks in. At first Hawkeye is alarmed to see Condon with his rifle, but it turns out that Condon is shipping out and just wants to thank Hawkeye for fixing him up and for giving him "something to think about." On the way out, Condon snaps to attention in front of Ginger and gives her a smart salute, leading Hawkeye to tell his father that this made it one of the "happier Happy Hours".
The episode also depicts other aspects of camp routine, some of which Hawkeye describes to his father: a volleyball game, Mulcahy practicing boxing, the "monthly" staff meetings which always disintegrate into chaos, and bringing of guests from other units to lend variety to camp social events - in this case, Trapper brings a Swedish nurse to the Happy Hour.
*The Charles R. Drew Story and the Myth
Hawkeye and Trapper referenced the story of Dr. Charles R. Drew. The irony of an eminent scientist who improved the process of storing blood bleeding to death because he had been denied a transfusion due to racial prejudice would have made an interesting plot point. Indeed, it could have been this very irony that Hawkeye uses to convince Condon of the error of his ways, but the story of how he died is untrue.
Hawkeye's account of Drew's achievements are largely factual. Although Dr. Charles R. Drew did not "invent" the use of blood plasma and the separation of plasma from blood, his work and that of his colleagues did contribute significantly to use of blood transfusions in medicine by developing the processes and standards for collecting and processing stored blood on a large scale. Drew's research focused deeply on the problem of how to "bank blood" and he set up an experimental blood bank in 1939. When World War II began, he was asked to direct the Blood for Britain project which delivered more than 5,000 liters of plasma to Britain. After this, Drew became assistant director for a pilot Red Cross project to mass-produce dried plasma which later became the model for the National Blood Donor Service.
However, Hawkeye and Trapper's account of Drew's death are untrue. Drew was critically injured in a car accident in April 1950, and he did receive prompt and competent treatment at a segregated hospital but he died shortly after because his wounds were too severe. The widely held urban legend that he was refused treatment persists to this day, but has been debunked, especially by the eyewitness account of Dr. John Ford, himself a fellow passenger in the car with Drew. Ford says that "no efforts were spared" in treating Drew, and his race did not limit the care given to him. Ford also said that Drew was not given a transfusion because blood flow from his brain to the heart had been blocked and a transfusion would have killed him sooner.
M*A*S*H is often referenced and criticized as a source which serves to perpetuate the myth, but it should be noted that the positive debunking of this myth from Dr. John Ford only surfaced in the 1980s. The script writers, writing in 1973, had no way to know, nor would they have cared, as the truth would not have helped the underlying point they were trying to make in the episode.
Other Research notes/Fun facts
- Hawkeye recites lines from Rudyard Kipling's "Gunga Din" while operating on Sgt. Condon. The choice of poem may not have been coincidental - "Gunga Din" also deals with the theme of racial prejudice. It is narrated by a British soldier serving in India who despises Gunga Din, his Indian water-bearer and servant, but who later comes to respect him for his bravery and devotion when Gunga Din sacrifices his life to save him.
- The volleyball match at the beginning of the episode and the Happy Hours are good sources for identifying extras. Kellye Nakahara can be seen at the volleyball match, Sheila Lauritsen at the Happy Hour.
- During the staff meeting roll call, Father Mulcahy is referenced as "John Patrick Mulcahy". This matches his identification as "John P. Mulcahy" in the pilot. Later, the character would go by the first name "Francis".
- Frank Burns, meanwhile, had previously been referenced as "Franklin D. Burns", but is here identified at roll call as having the middle name "Marion".
- Judging by the roll call, Henry and Margaret apparently don't have middle names.
- The grenade extracted from the injured soldier is of the type used for the M7 Rifle Grenade Launcher.
- Hawkeye mentions in the letter that surgeons in the Army make $413.50 per month.
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Jamie Farr as Klinger
- William Christopher as Father Mulcahy
- Odessa Cleveland as Lieutenant Ginger Bayliss
- Mills Watson as Sergeant Condon
- Bobbie Mitchell as Nurse Gilbert
- Kathleen Hughes as Lorraine Blake
- Arthur Abelson as Milt Jaffe
- Louise Vienna as Sylvia Jaffe
- Sivi Aberg as Anna Lindstrom
- Uncredited appearances:
- "Profiles in Science, the Charles R. Drew Papers," National Library of Medicine, accessed Apr 04, 2015 
- "Southern History Slightly Half Baked," Wilmington Morning Star, July 16, 1980, accessed through Google News Apr 04, 2015 
- "Question of the Month: The Truth About the Death of Charles Drew," Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State Univ., accessed November 19, 2013