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M*A*S*H episode
“5 O'Clock Charlie”
PT22-5 O clock charlie
5 O'clock Charlie on his bombing run. Note the pilot in the forward cockpit with the bomb in his hand. There is also a lump in the aft cockpit which is the pilot who is flying the aircraft.
Season 2, Episode # 2
Number (#26) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) William Christopher
Herb Voland
Corey Fischer
Sarah Fankboner
Deb Newman
Odessa Cleveland
Bobbie Mitchell
Gail Bowman
Lloyd Kino
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: K-403
Writer(s) Larry Gelbart & Laurence Marks (teleplay)
Keith Walker (story)
Director Norman Tokar
Original airdate September 22, 1973
IMDb logo IMDB 5 O'Clock Charlie
Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"Divided We Stand" (K‑401)
(Season 2 premiere)
"Radar's Report" (K‑402)

(broadcast order)

(broadcast order)

"Radar's Report" (K‑402) "For The Good of the Outfit" (K‑404)

(production order)

(production order)

Season 2 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

5 O'Clock Charlie was the second episode of the Season 2 of the TV series M*A*S*H, also the 26th overall episode of the series. Written by Larry Gelbart and directed by Jackie Cooper, it originally aired on CBS-TV on September 15, 1973.

SynopsisEdit

An inept North Korean pilot in an obsolete plane attempts (and fails) to bomb the ammunition dump placed near the 4077th every day, at exactly 5 o’clock, by dropping a grenade from his plane. Major Burns decides a serious reaction is in order, so he requisitions an anti-aircraft gun and attempts to shoot the plane out of the sky, with predictably disastrous results.

Full episode summaryEdit

The 4077th is giddy with anticipation, as the arrival of "Five O'Clock Charlie" is imminent.

Five O'Clock Charlie is North Korea's most indefatigable and most inaccurate bomber pilot, who flies over the camp the same time every day--hence the name--and drops one bomb, in a pathetic attempt to destroy the camp and a nearby ammunition dump. His aim is terrible, and he always misses, so no one at the 4077th is particularly worried. But they do turn his visits into a social occasion, gathering to watch his attempt and betting on on where his bombs will land.

All do, that is, let alone Majors Frank Burns and Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, who are both apoplectic over everyone else's lack of seriousness. Ineffective though they may be, these are a series of enemy attacks!

Radar, who takes bets on where Charlie's bomb for the day will land, comes into Henry's office with the winnings. This time it is Henry who wins the bet. He is busy counting his pot of cash when Frank demands he place a call to General Clayton.

Before he knows it, Frank makes Henry requisition a 40mm anti-aircraft gun for the 4077th to fight off the enemy, but Hawkeye and Trapper are completely against this because they realize, and Hawkeye complains, that fire draws fire.

Clayton decides to visit the camp and check it out for himself. Initially, he does not believe that the 4077th needs the gun--he has even placed a bet himself. Hawkeye and Trapper are relieved, until Five O'Clock Charlie gets lucky and drops a bomb right on Clayton's jeep. The 4077th is getting its gun.

Frank, of course, loves it, and he even forms his own platoon (consisting of all of three soldiers) to provide defense against Five O'Clock Charlie's attacks, hoping that the Army will start outfitting all the field hospitals with artillery. Hawkeye, Trapper (dressed as MacArthur), and Radar come by and goof on Frank, just to irritate him.

That night, Hawkeye and Trapper drown their sorrows with Captain Phil Cardozo (Corey Fischer), the camp's dentist. Cardozo offers the idea that they should try and get rid of the ammo dump, which would get rid of Charlie, which would get rid of the gun.

The next day, Hawkeye and Trapper leave a series of giant arrows (made up of sheets stolen from supply) pointing to the ammo dump, so Charlie cannot miss it. To give him time to try and hit it, they mess with the clocks in Post Op so Frank believes it to be 4:30, not 5:00.

Once Frank catches on, and hurries outside to fire at Charlie, Hawkeye and Trapper make a shambles of the attempt, yelling out different numbers randomly, confusing the soldiers whom Frank has aiming the gun.

Frank, frustrated and impatient, finally demands they fire, and they do--missing Charlie entirely and instead hitting--and totally destroying--the ammo dump!

With the ammo dump gone, so is the need for the gun. And so is Five O'Clock Charlie, who Hawkeye and Trapper admit to sort of missing.

5 O'clock Charlie and the original Bed-check CharlieEdit

The exploits of 5 O'clock Charlie is loosely based on flights of "Bed-check Charlies," obsolete North Korean biplanes which made night time raids on UN targets. In World War II, US Marines experienced a similar operation mounted by the Japanese which they also called "Bed-check Charlie," and also "Washing Machine Charlie."

The original Bed-check Charlies were Russian made Polikarpov PO-2 biplanes--probably one of the most produced aircraft in the world--with more than 40,000 having been manufactured. Although obsolete by the time of the Korean War, they proved useful. Flying mainly at night and made of fabric and wood, they were difficult to pick up on radar and flew too slow for fast jet fighters to intercept them--one F-94 jet night fighter even crashed trying to slow down to attack one. Most of the time, the Bed-check Charlie raids did little damage, but they were a form of psychological warfare as they served to keep UN troops on alert and deprived them of sleep.[1]

The plane used in this episode is a Ryan PT-22 painted with North Korean markings. According to Wikipedia, this aircraft was owned by by Don Burkett, who described his experience in the October 1972 edition of Private Pilot magazine. Don Burkett flew the aircraft himself during the filming--looking closely at the aft seat of the aircraft, a grey "lump" can be seen which is probably him flying the aircraft while crouched out of the view of the camera.[2]

Polikarpov PO-2

A Polikarpov PO-2. The original Bed-check Charlies would have been an aircraft like this. The markings in this photo are not for the North Korean Air Force.

Other Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • Plenty of nurse extras here. At this early stage in the series, they apparently had no difficulty finding names for the many nurse characters. Later in the series, some extras with many more lines would go uncredited.
  • Corey Fischer, who played the dentist Phil Cardozo, also played the part of Captain Bandini in the 1970 MASH film where he provided the guitar accompaniment while Ken Prymus sang Suicide is Painless in the fake suicide scene.
  • One wonders what the purpose of Phil Cardozo was, as his part could easily have been filled by one of the regulars. Perhaps it was an attempt to introduce him as a recurring character to the series, one who could bring a little music. If so, then the idea apparently failed to work out. In Season 3 there would be another try with a musical character, this time Captain Calvin Spalding, who would appear in three episodes.
  • 5 O'clock Charlie would return in the Season 3 episode "There Is Nothing Like a Nurse."
  • Frank's gun is actually a 3"/23 caliber naval gun.
  • This episode was produced after, but shown before, "Radar's Report." See discussion here.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Wikipedia article on the Polikarpov PO-2, URL.
  2. Wikipedia article on the MASH episode 5 O'clock Charlie, URL.

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