|Sergeant First Class Vollmer|
David Arkin as Sergeant Major Vollmer
|Rank:||Sergeant First Class (E-7), U.S. Army|
|Job/Role in Unit:||Ranking Sergeant assigned to the 4077th|
|Eye Color:||Greyish Blue|
|First appeared in:||MASH novel, MASH film|
|Last appeared in:||N/A|
|Appeared on/or in:||MASH (film)|
|Played by:||David Arkin|
Sergeant First Class Vollmer was a character which appeared in both the MASH novel and the 1970 Robert Altman directed M*A*S*H* film. The character did not make it onto the cast for the CBS-TV series in 1972. In the film, Vollmer was played by actor David Arkin, who is also credited as the voice of the P.A. announcements.
Vollmer in the novel
Vollmer has a minor role in the novel. He is only ever mentioned in the context of the football team which the 4077th. He is described as "a big guy" and a "sergeant from Supply ... who had played center for Nebraska." In chapter 13, Vollmer played center during the football game 325th Evac and had a crucial role towards the end of the game during a center-eligible play which Spearchucker had devised. Vollmer received the ball and walked towards the sideline faking an injury and then ran (although Spearchucker told him to walk) to the end zone where he scored the game-winning touchdown for the 4077th.
Later, in chapter 15, Vollmer also dressed up as Santa Claus for the 4077th Christmas Party.
Vollmer in the 1970 MASH film
Vollmer had a slightly larger role in the film where instead of being in supply, he is now the hapless sergeant-major who tries to keep things running in an orderly manner while being ignored by everyone else. One of the running gags in the show is having him always asking the C.O. Henry Blake for orders, only to be told that Radar already knows what they are.
Later, in the extended football segment of the film, Vollmer's role is exactly as depicted in novel as the center who scores the winning touchdown. However his background as a former center for Nebraska is not mentioned.
Vollmer's actor, David Arkin, is also credited with making the P.A. announcements in the unit. Most of these announcements, such as summoning officers to report to the C.O. or announcing Trapper as the Chief Surgeon are the sort that a sergeant-major might have made, so Arkin could have been making them in the character of Vollmer, although the screenplay does not say so explicitly.
Although Vollmer is a sergeant first class in the screenplay, this is more likely to be the position he holds in the unit rather than his actual pay-grade or rank. There is inconsistency about Vollmer's actual rank. In the film dialogue, Vollmer rank is explicitly given as Staff Sergeant and many internet resources continue to list this as his rank. However, the US Army had eliminated the ranks of Staff Sergeant and First Sergeant between 1948 and 1956, the period of the Korean War. A closer look at the stripes on Vollmer's fatigues also shows that he has three chevrons with two arcs ("rockers") - the insignia of a Sergeant First Class (at that time paygrade E-6, now E-7).
Wade Douglas Vollmer?
Vollmer's first name is never mentioned in the MASH novel, nor in the movie screenplay or dialogue. However some internet resources list his first names as "Wade Douglas". This first name is also given in some books, including scholarly studies, which mention MASH and its characters. The origin/source for this first name is unknown.
- Wikipedia contributors, "United States Army enlisted rank insignia," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (accessed July 22, 2015) URL
- Beverly Merrill Kelley, Reelpolitik Ideologies in American Political Film, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012), 222. URL at Google Books
- James W. Roman, Bigger Than Blockbusters: Movies that Defined America, (ABC-CLIO, 2009), 179. URL at Google Books