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Lieutenant Smilin' Jack Mitchell

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Lieutenant "Smilin'" Jack Mitchell
Smilin Jack
Lt. Smilin' Jack Mitchell with his characteristic yellow cap. His silver First Lieutenant's bar is clearly seen.
M*A*S*H character
Vital information
Rank: First Lieutenant (0-2)
Job/Role in Unit: Chopper pilot who ferries casualties to the 4077th M*A*S*H
Home: Not Mentioned
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Blue
Height: 6 ft.
Weight: ????
Family/Personal Information
Born: ????
Birthplace: ????
Nationality/Race: American/Caucasian
Spouse(s): ????
Relatives/Children: Not mentioned
Appearances
First appeared in: ""Smilin' Jack" (Season 4)
Last appeared in: N.A. Single appearance
Appeared on/or in: M*A*S*H
Played by: Robert Hogan

Lieutenant Smilin' Jack Mitchell was a US Army helicopter pilot who made a single appearance in the Season 4 episode of M*A*S*H titled "Smilin' Jack". The part of Smilin' Jack was played by actor Robert Hogan.

About Smilin' JackEdit

Lieutenant Smilin' Jack Mitchell is a hot shot chopper pilot who also has a reputation as a scrounger who can get almost anything, a cheerful disposition matched by his leather jacket and bright yellow cap. As the episode opens, he picks up Corporal Howard Owens from a battalion aid station and flies him to the 4077th MASH. Jack is excited about this latest mission as it brings his total to 839 casualties collected, with only 3 more to tie with the frontrunner Dangerous Dan, 4 more would make him chopper pilot of the year.

Jack shows up in the O.R. with a camera and photographs Owens, telling Hawkeye that he takes pictures of all the casualties he ferries, and that when he photographs them, they live. Hawkeye introduces him to the new nurse, Lieutenant Cathy King and he flirts with her briefly--much to Frank's annoyance.

After the operation, he pays a call on Colonel Potter, who welcomes him warmly, saying he hasn't seen Jack since the last time they met at the 121st evac hospital. Potter obviously knows about Jack's reputation as a scrounger and asks if he can help get some streptomycin. The resourceful Jack thinks he can get some from the 8055th MASH which is short of specimen bottles. Potter agrees to a trade and asks Radar to set it up, even though the 4077th is also short of specimen bottles.

However, when Jack offers a cigar, Potter notices a wound on his forearm--an old wound from where he was scratched by an "Australian nurse". Potter is suspicious as he had patched that wound for Jack months ago and it has not healed.

Jack next goes to the Officers Club where he entertains Hawkeye and B.J. with tricks involving a syringe. B.J. tries one of the tricks and nearly spears Potter who enters to announce that, pending a full physical to be done by Hawkeye and B.J., Jack is grounded.

The physical goes well at first, until Hawkeye passes him a champagne bottle (they are out of specimen bottles!) and asks for a urine sample. Jack refuses, making the doctors even more suspicious. Under pressure, Jack finally confesses that he has diabetes--but it is not a problem. He has been getting along with 1 to 3 insulin injections a day, and because of his connections, he can get insulin unofficially anywhere. But the doctors don't agree and reluctantly ground him.

Jack is particularly upset to be grounded when he is so close to getting the chopper pilot of the year so he sneaks off in his chopper once again to a battalion aid station and loads his chopper with 4 casualties--just the number he needs to break record and seize the title. He skilfully lifts the chopper off in its dangerously overloaded state and brings it back to the 4077th.

On the ground, Hawkeye and B.J. take Jack aside and tell him that his flying days are over. But Jack doesn't mind, because he has won the title and has become chopper pilot of the year. B.J. holds his hand out and Jack surrenders his aviator's wings and his insulin syringes.

A few days later, Jack completes his deal and delivers the streptomycin to Potter. Potter says he is sorry he has to blow the whistle on Jack but Jack is still cheerful, saying he will soon learn to fly a desk and promises to send Potter some cigars.

Outside, Jack meets Corporal Howard Owens as they both board the ambulance bus to be taken to Seoul. Owens is afraid of being sent back to the war. Jack, who is being taken out of the line, would like nothing better. "Not a very fair war," B.J. remarks. Just as Jack boards the bus, a chopper arrives. It's Dangerous Dan carrying more wounded and taking back the chopper pilot of the year title. Not a very fair war indeed.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • B.J. asks Jack to surrender his aviator's wings (which are never clearly seen on screen). Supposedly there's something symbolic in this. Then Jack next surrenders his First Lieutenant's bar--but why should he? He may be grounded but he is still an officer.
  • The branch of service insignia on Jack's left lapel is a puzzle (see photo below). Some chopper pilots in M*A*S*H wear a Warrant Officer Corps insignia on the left lapel, and going by the shape, Jack's insignia does look like one. But that would be wrong because Jack is clearly a First Lieutenant and not a Warrant Officer.
  • Another possibility is that his branch of service insignia is the spoked wheel of the Transportation Corps. The Transportation Corps had many Transportation Companies operating helicopters during the Korean War.
  • In some other episodes, such as in "The Gun", a pilot with a yellow cap dressed like Smilin' Jack can sometimes be seen in the background. But these uncredited appearances are more likely to have been made by an extra rather than a relatively more expensive actor like Robert Hogan.
Smilin Jack 2

Another view of Smilin' Jack. At this point he has surrendered his aviator's wings and First Lieutenant's bar (on his right lapel) to B.J., leaving just the puzzling branch of service insignia on his left lapel.

Transportation corps insignia

US Army Transportatiion Corps insignia for comparison with the insignia on Jack's lapel.

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