M*A*S*H episode
“Dear Dad”
Dear dad
Field surgery while dressed as Santa ... just one of the many anecdotes which Hawkeye narrates in his letter to his father.
Season 1, Episode # 12
Number (#12) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) William Katt
Buck Young
Bonnie Jones
Lizabeth Deen
Gary van Orman
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: J313
Writer(s) Larry Gelbart
Director Gene Reynolds
Original airdate December 17, 1972
IMDb logo IMDB Dear Dad
Episode chronology
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"Germ Warfare" (J‑304) "Edwina" (J‑312)

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"Edwina" (J‑312) "Love Story" (J‑314)

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Season 1 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

"Dear Dad" was the 12th episode of Season 1 of the TV series M*A*S*H. Written by Larry Gelbart and directed by Gene Reynolds, the episode originally aired on December 17, 1972 and was repeated on May 20, 1973. It was the 13th episode by production order.


Hawkeye writes his father about the Christmastide happenings at the 4077th, including Henry's mandatory sex talk and doing field surgery dressed as Santa Claus.

Full episode summaryEdit

Hawkeye writes home to his father during the Christmas season, relating a number of amusing and personal anecdotes, including Radar's effort to mail home a jeep piece-by-piece, the Commander's monthly morality lecture, Trapper's local medical philanthropy, and the ongoing non-secret relationship between Frank and Margaret. Along the way, Trapper helps to deliver a calf, and Klinger gets upset when Frank insists that he remove his bandanna because he wants it. Klinger knocks Frank out and then threatens to blow him up with a grenade. It takes Father Mulcahy's gentle persuasion to disarm him.

The 4077th prepares a party for the children at the orphanage and Hawkeye is chosen to be Santa Claus, but just as the party is about to begin, an emergency call comes about a critically wounded soldier at the front. So Hawkeye ends up being transported by helicopter and performing emergency surgery in costume.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

During the epilogue scene, Hawkeye is lying in his bunk, still partially dressed a Santa and finishing his letter to his father. As he bids him farewell from each the major characters, a scene of each one appears, with the actors' real names appearing on screen.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • This episode was one of the first M*A*S*H episodes to challenge the traditional sitcom format by combining dramatic elements (specifically, the "war is hell" message) with comedic situations.[6]
  • This is the first episode to use the epistolary narrative strategy otherwise known as "the letter home". This is a device "which hinges on an act of a letter-writing, which provides the doctor writer an opportunity to get things off his chest..." [7]
  • The "letter home" would prove to be an effective narrative format - eventually, every major cast character would have at least one "letter home" episode, except Margaret, Henry Blake, and Frank Burns.
  • This was also the first episode to have several different small plot lines woven in. This was something which writer Larry Gelbart's wife had suggested. She had told Gelbart that she would like to know more about what else was going on in the camp. The 4077th MASH was a busy place, and she felt they could tell more than one story per episode.[8]
  • Hawkeye briefly refers to Father Mulcahy as "Red" in the Mess Tent. This is a reference to the character's nickname "Dago Red," which was used in the original book and movie. It was also used once in the Pilot episode, and this nickname was phased out for the rest of the series.
  • Hawkeye implies his dad is in Vermont. It is only in later episodes that his hometown would be established as Crabapple Cove, Maine.
  • This episode is set in the winter, yet in the field surgery scene, the soldiers in the foxhole appear to be dressed as for summer. In fact, the real Christmas 1950 in Korea was quite different. In the south, the US Forces were holding their own in the Pusan Perimeter. In the north, the Marines and US Army were still in combat in harsh conditions and below-freezing weather.
  • William Katt is best known as klutzy superhero "The Greatest American Hero"; the son of actress Barbara Hale aka Della Street of the "Perry Mason TV Series"; Katt would guest star as Private Detective Paul Drake, Jr in the TV Movies "Perry Mason" Series.
  • At the start of the episode, the PA announcer says the Glee Club will meet in the Mess Tent at "O-800 hours." That's 8 o'clock in the morning, not a likely time for army personnel to practice singing.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit


  1. James H. Wittebols, Watching M*A*S*H, Watching America (Jefferson NC: McFarland & Co., 1998) p. 34-35, ISBN 0-7864-1701-3, URL Google Books
  2. The Classic Sitcoms Guide: M*A*S*H,, accessed 2009-05-15. URL
  3. M*A*S*H: Season One (Collector's Edition) (1972),, URL
  4. David S. Reiss, M*A*S*H: the exclusive, inside story of TV's most popular show(Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1983), p. 123, ISBN 978-0-672-52762-3, URL Google Books
  5. Suzy Kalter, Complete Book of Mash (New York: H.N. Abrams Publishing, 1988), ISBN 0-8109-8083-5, URL Google Books
  6. Wittebols, pp. 34–35
  7. David Scott Diffrient, M*A*S*H (TV Milestones), (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008), 34. See review here.
  8. Ed Solomonson and Mark O'Neill, TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book, (Albany GA: BearManor Media, 2009) 100.
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