Charles Emerson Winchester III
David Ogden Stiers as Charles Winchester III on the M*A*S*H TV series.
M*A*S*H character
Vital information
Rank: Major (O-4), U.S. Army Reserve
Job/Role in Unit: New ranking "Swamp" surgeon at the 4077th M*A*S*H
Home: Same as birthplace
Hair Color: Sandy Red
Eye Color: Hazel
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 235 lbs.
Family/Personal Information
Born: 1922 (?)
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Relatives/Children: Honoria Winchester (sister)
Unnamed father
Unnamed mother
Timmy Winchester (brother) †
First appeared in: "Fade Out, Fade In (Part 1)" (Season 6)
Last appeared in: "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" (Series finale, film)
Number appeared in:
131 episodes from Seasons 6-11
Appeared on/or in: M*A*S*H TV series
Played by: David Ogden Stiers

Charles Emerson Winchester is a surgeon who replaced the departed Frank Burns as the third surgeon in "The Swamp" at the 4077th MASH unit in Season 6 of the M*A*S*H TV series. The part of Charles was played by David Ogden Stiers.

About CharlesEdit

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a very wealthy family of Republican anti-FDR Boston "bluebloods," the somewhat snobbish Winchester graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard Medical School in Boston after completing his secondary studies at Choate and came to work at Boston General Hospital. Before he was drafted to join the US Army at the start of the Korean War, he was on track to become Chief of Thoracic Surgery.

Charles has a sister named Honoria (pronounced ah-NOR-ee-uh) with a speech impediment (stuttering) and a brother Timmy who had died when Charles was very young. He also had a nephew who was leaving the service just after he came to MASH 4077 - although his sister is shown in a later episode to be unmarried and has no children. (In a continuity error in an early episode, "Major Topper", Winchester claims to have attended his sister's wedding)

In his will, Charles asks that his butterfly collection not be left to cousin Alfred; likewise Alfred is not to receive his shares of voting stock. Despite his disdain for the military and his wish to be at Boston General hospital he is not averse to Colonel Flagg's attempted bribe for Winchester to work at Fort Devan's Military Hospital at Boston if Winchester will spy for Flagg.

Although before coming to MASH 4077 he was stationed at Tokyo General Hospital, one goof shows him wearing an arrowhead device on his military ribbons (only for combat duty service). Although he constantly moans about leaving Boston, he also cares very much for Tokyo, octopus and kabuki theater although he can't speak Japanese.

As presented in the series, he is tall, stocky, and losing his hair. Similar to Major Burns - who he replaced - he also has a bad back and is a Presbyterian.

Joining the 4077th MASHEdit

While Major Frank Burns is AWOL following a trip to Seoul after the marriage of Major Margaret Houlihan to Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscot, the staff at the 4077th desperately need a replacement surgeon to fill in. Colonel Potter places a call to Tokyo General Hospital in search of a surgeon. An old friend of Potter, Lt. Colonel Horace Baldwin, is the commanding officer, and in debt to a Major Charles Emerson Winchester from cribbage, volunteers Charles for the position. Colonel Baldwin reassures Charles that the duty will only be 48 hours.

Once Winchester arrives, he finds the conditions repugnant compared to the comfortable Tokyo General. Although his arrogance makes a poor first impression, Winchester proves he is an excellent surgeon when he performs a delicate heart operation on a ventricular aneurysm he is experienced in but that the other doctors are unfamiliar with. However, as he learns that his methodical surgery is unsuited to the gross amount of patients he has to operate on and the length of his shifts into the early morning, he is forced to learn "meatball surgery." He made an effective transition, though, even criticizing other surgeons if they operated slowly.

Soon after Winchester's arrival, the camp learns that Major Burns has been arrested after mistaking another woman for his former lover, Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan. The camp, but not Winchester, further learns that Burns has been transferred back to the United States following a psychiatric evaluation. The doctors and Radar toast to Frank, "Good-bye, Ferret face!" Colonel Potter catches Winchester just as he is about to leave to return to Tokyo and informs him that he will be assigned to the 4077th indefinitely. Winchester is shocked and at first refuses but Col. Potter threatens disciplinary action. Winchester, very reluctantly, agrees to cooperate and moves into Major Burns' former quarters with Pierce and Hunnicutt.

When the first major rush of wounded arrive, Winchester finds himself in over his head once he begins operating, taking three or four times as long to finish his operations as his fellow surgeons: Captain Hawkeye Pierce, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt and Col. Potter in a medical situation where life saving operations must be performed as rapidly as possible. Winchester, his ego fully inflated, feels humiliated at any assistance to improve his efficiency and alienates himself from the rest of the camp with his arrogant, self-centered and at times cold persona. He does, however, prove to have a sense of humour and a clever wit which is not above pranks. Just as B.J. Hunnicut was supposed to be a substitute for Trapper John, Winchester was supposed to be a substitute for Major Burns - as a drunken Hawkeye remarks there is only a hair's breadth difference between them (i.e exchanging an amoral slob of a fair but barely competent surgeon for a moral snob of a brilliant but uncaring surgeon). Although Winchester appears arrogant and uncaring around Hawkeye and B.J., in his heart he does care about his patients. He seems to be too embarrassed to show his more caring side to Hawkeye and B.J., instead wanting them to believe that he is unfeeling and "above it all" to protect himself from the difficulty that may arise emotionally from getting too close to his tent mates. Winchester's caring attitude is concealed from Hawkeye and B.J., for example, they know nothing of the agony Winchester goes through, when he discovers that one of his patients, whose leg he surgically corrected magnificently but whose hand he could not fix, was a concert pianist who could therefore no longer play because of his permanently damaged right hand. Winchester does all he can to convince the young man that his gift for piano playing can be manifested not just in playing piano pieces for the left hand alone but also by teaching in the classroom or by writing. This gives the young soldier hope for the future. Winchester is, in his heart, a deeply sensitive person who perhaps does not want this exposed because he fears to appear weak or vulnerable. For example, when Hawkeye's schoolteacher friend from home has her schoolchildren send them letters, Winchester uses his tape recorder to send a message to a boy asking how he can be more "grown up." Winchester, mischievously, tells him to take his father's best suit, and have the tailor fit him with it. This is heard by B.J. Also, B.J reads a letter from a rather uninformed boy who says that he's jealous of the doctors, since they "get to eat real army food and camp out." Winchester grabs the letter from B.J, and writes a letter to him and out loud, for B.J. to hear, writes to the boy that his "misinformation is exceeded only by his atrocious grammar!" But later when Winchester receives a letter that touches his heart, from a girl who sends him a leaf from a birch tree, Winchester decides to write her, rather than use his tape recorder, so that B.J. won't hear him. In the letter, he genuinely thanks the girl for her gift. B.J., Hawkeye and Col. Potter, never get to see Winchester's softer side because he conceals it to protect himself emotionally.

Through the rest of the seriesEdit

Charles at first continually fights his position with the 4077th, especially when he realizes that he lost his candidacy for Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Boston General but as time passes he more-or-less accepts the situation and settles in with the 4077th. Although initially thought of as tremendously selfish and uncaring, Charles softens somewhat as he acclimates to his new life. This comes in part from a Christmas present arranged by Radar and Fr. Mulcahy – his old tobogganing cap, sent by his mother, which he wears frequently. However, with his ego remaining fully inflated, he still distances himself from the rest of the camp to some degree and regularly retreats to his classical music as a refuge. As time goes on, he seems to maintain his arrogant attitude as a kind of caricature of itself; he is not really quite like that any more but uses it as a kind of character armour to hide his genuine feelings. When a young girl sends him a New England Leaf he reveals his homesickness. The leaf is actually a maple leaf, not a birch leaf as portrayed in the episode. A running gag is Winchester attempts to maintain an upper class lifestyle - such as playing classical records on a portable phonograph (which Potter hates), eating pheasant under glass (which results in food poisoning), smoking cigars and drinking wine or going duck hunting with a shotgun which results in his prey exploding a land mine. Three times Winchester - like Burns - has temper tantrums. Once when a visiting young surgeon taught him a new surgical method and two other times when a visiting female surgeon upstaged the arrogant Winchester in the operating room and a visiting female surgeon saved an allergic patient when Winchester tried to argue with her. Although his cold persona is a front for his fear of becoming a casualty, Winchester does go to the front, once to a Battalion Aid station after he is nearly killed by a sniper and once when he attends to wounded at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill which actually occurred from March to July 1953 (which would explain the Arrowhead award). In one episode Hawkeye compares Winchester to Burns, whining that there is only a hair difference, a snob in place of a slob. In Change Day (TV series episode) was even written to make Major Winchester as greedy as Major Burns (Winchester buys old military script from locals in order to mark a big profit for himself; of course Hawkeye and BJ spoil his plans). Another attempt to make Winchester to Frank Burns is The Merchant of Korea (TV series episode) is after loaning BJ money, Winchester takes advantage of it.

Comparison with BurnsEdit

Unlike Burns, Charles was actually a superb doctor for the most part, albeit not quite able to handle the pace of a front-line unit at first. In addition, Charles engages in acts of generosity and compassion that his predecessor Major Burns would never have thought of, much less done. This includes:

  • Convincing a drafted concert pianist, who has given up on the future after losing dexterity in his right hand, that his musical gift does not lie in the stilled hand but rather emanates from within. He finds the wounded man sheet music for pieces to be performed with only the left hand (specifically Piano Concerto for the Left Hand written by Maurice Ravel for Paul Wittgenstein) and restores the wounded man's pride and hope, telling him, "I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music." (In fact Stiers is a musician and also conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra-although this didn't prevent MASH comic plot episode The Smell of Music when Winchester's french horn playing drives Hawkeye and B.J. to go on a bath strike!)
  • Sitting with Hawkeye and having a heart-to-heart with him about his own family when Hawkeye was going insane with worry about his father, who was undergoing surgery back home. He eventually goes so far as to admit that he envies the closeness Hawkeye has with his father, having never had that with his own. He sums the difference between them with "Where I have a father, you have a dad." (It was the only time in the series that he referred to Pierce as "Hawkeye".)
  • Following his family's tradition by giving the local orphanage a large supply of candy for Christmas, insisting that the orphanage director not tell anyone who donated it. Upon learning that the director sold the candy instead of distributing it among the kids, Charles is at first angry—but the director explains that while the candy would have been enjoyed for a day, the proceeds could keep them in rice and cabbage for a month, at which point Charles acknowledges that it was "sadly inappropriate" to give children dessert when they had not had any meal. Klinger, overhearing the exchange, saves for Charles the last of the camp's holiday fare—and tells Charles that the source must remain anonymous.
  • Befriending a wounded soldier who stutters. When Charles sees him ridiculed by his CO and platoon mates, he takes the CO to one side and thoroughly chastises him. Although the soldier's IQ is above normal, he has always considered himself stupid ("I can't even t-t-talk"), and reads only comic books. Charles encourages him to pursue his natural intelligence, and gives him a treasured, leather-bound copy of Moby Dick, which the soldier has read in its Classics Illustrated comic book adaptation. At the end of this episode, Charles listens to a taped letter sent by his sister Honoria—revealing that she, too, is a habitual stutterer.
  • Another example of Charles Winchester's integrity and humanity appears when Colonel Baldwin visits the 4077th on business. In the episode entitled "No Laughing Matter," Baldwin mistakes Houlihan for a prostitute he requested from Winchester, and when she gets away and goes to Col. Potter, he tells Winchester of his plan to get Margaret in trouble by telling the Colonel that she was making sexual advances towards him (which was a lie). Winchester refuses to go along with it, but Baldwin promises that if he played along, he would be transferred back to Tokyo General. When the time comes, Baldwin tells Colonel Potter the lie, and when Winchester is called on to corroborate, he reveals the truth, and his bottled-up anger at Baldwin for the transfer comes out. As much as Winchester wanted to go back to Tokyo, he would not smear the name of one of his co-workers by bearing false witness against her, especially not for Colonel Baldwin. In typical MASH fantasy reality Baldwin is allowed to drive away- when in a earlier episode Major Burns was accused of rape (Houlihan caught him in a embrace of a visiting female colonel/nurse) Burns was put under house arrest.

Relationship with fellow surgeonsEdit

While Winchester's faults still cause irritation, Charles eventually makes partial peace with his comrades and they count him as one of their friends. Charles also lent B.J. the money he and wife Peg needed for a land down-payment, when the deadline came abruptly. Winchester took his nominal second-in-command position far less seriously than Frank Burns ever had; on the rare occasions when Col. Potter was away and he had to take charge, Charles usually let the camp go through its paces, and everyone have what they wanted—as long as Charles in turn got what he wanted (usually a personal favour, or simply time alone), though the first time he was camp CO, he went overboard on ordering creature comforts. In addition, on occasions when Hawkeye was left in charge for varying reasons (once including Winchester's own insistence that he was not up to the task), he did not take offense, and indeed very seldom wielded his rank as a tool. When Hawkeye was writing his last will and testament while trapped at a Battalion Aid Station, he wrote:

"To Charles Emerson Winchester, though we may have wounded your pride, you never lost your dignity. I therefore bequeath to you the most dignified thing I own: my bathrobe. Purple is the color of royalty."

Sense of humourEdit

In contrast to his normally posh tastes, Charles enjoyed occasional Tom and Jerry cartoons, Ritz Brothers films (which he regarded as surrealistic), "Captain Marvel" comics, pralines and canned sardines. Furthermore, he has engaged in a few pranks, including one episode where Colonel Flagg visited the camp and Charles planted 'evidence' to lead him on a wild goose chase, wherein Flagg became convinced that conspirators were meeting in the guise of a poker game. The 'conspirators' included Hawkeye, Colonel Potter, the Mayor of Uijeongbu, and the Chief of Police, who were not amused at Flagg's accusations. When Hawkeye questioned Charles, Charles demurely stated that he wasn't the type to pull pranks, unless it was good for a laugh. One joke of Charles resulted in Houlihan throwing a cream pie at Hawkeye and BJ—which hit Father Mulcahy! He also once used a dummy hand grenade to clear out the officer's club so he, Hawkeye, B.J., Klinger and Soon Lee could get a table (but we only see him tossing the hand grenade into the air). Several times Charles and B.J. actually teamed up together-once to get even on Sgt Rizzo who tricked B.J. into running out of a shower; once by tricking a over-talkative annuity salesman into being quiet-until he leaves MASH 4077; and once to get rid of a visiting MASH 8063rd surgeon who is more obnoxious than Hawkeye (he refers to B.J. by the wrong initials and thinks Winchester graduated from Yale!). Once Winchester tried to give both Pierce and B.J. a warning that Boston would ban Pinocchio when both Pierce and B.J. think they going to see a sexy movie "The Moon is Blue" after the film is banned in Boston. {The nearest reference in the movie to sex is the word "virgin"!}

He was seen as a comic foil example when he took the Dodgers not blowing the 13 1/2 game lead during the 1951 season just to fall on his face during the three-game playoff, when Bobby Thomson's home run won the final game. (At the time, the Dodgers were a Brooklyn New York City baseball team much beloved of working-class people; a Boston blue-blood at that time would probably have preferred to support the Boston Braves.) This is quite a goof-Winchester didn't arrive at MASH 4077 until the middle of 1953! Frank Burns would have made a better comic foil due to the running gag of his greed.


In the series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", Winchester encounters a group of five Chinese P.O.W.s who are decent musicians and share his love of music. They are being held at the 4077th and, as they are playing traditional music, Winchester furiously confronts them, explaining that he is trying to listen to Mozart on his phonograph. They then begin to play a crude rendition of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet In A , K 581 - 1st Mvt. Allegro. Winchester, delighted at the idea of being able to spend time with anyone who loves classics, begins spending considerable time trying to improve upon their performance. However, Charles learns that the musicians have to be transferred in a prisoner of war exchange with the Chinese Red Army along with the rest of the captives at the 4077th. Charles pleads for them to stay, but the military officer coordinating the effort refuses to allow it. The musicians play the piece of Mozart that Charles had taught them as they are driven away.

Charles, coming out after surgery several hours later, triages one final patient from a prisoner truck accident in grave condition. He begins examining the wounds, but then recoils in horror when he sees that the patient is one of the Chinese musicians that had been swapped in the P.O.W. exchange. Charles asks the corpsman if any other prisoners had survived, but the corpsman informs Charles that the dying musician is "the only one that made it this far." Charles sadly and bitterly remarks that the dying man was not a soldier, but a musician.

Retreating to his tent Charles attempts to find solace in a record of "Clarinet Quintet in A" but after only a few moments of listening to the song he wordlessly yanks the record off the phonograph and smashes it. The armistice to end the Korean War is signed soon after and at the 4077's last supper, Charles announces: "I will be head of Thoracic Surgery at Boston Mercy Hospital, so my life will go on pretty much as I expected—with one exception. For me, music has always been a refuge from this miserable experience... now it will always be a reminder."

With the 4077th packing up and the personnel moving out to return home, Charles leaves the camp with Sgt. Rizzo in the last remaining vehicle: a garbage truck. When Rizzo pulls up in the truck, he says "I hope you don't mind riding in a garbage truck, 'cause it's the last vehicle I got.", to which Winchester replies "Not at all. What better way to leave a garbage dump!" It is fitting that Charles leaves his friends with the trademark phrase "Gentlemen," that still shows his class and upbringing.


  • "Know this. You can cut me off from the civilized world. You can incarcerate me with two moronic cellmates. You can torture me with your thrice daily swill, but you cannot break the spirit of a Winchester. My voice shall be heard from this wilderness and I shall be delivered from this fetid and festering sewer!"
  • "I've groveled! I have endured your insufferable cribbage playing! I have kissed your brass! But I WILL NOT, even for a return to that pearl of the orient Tokyo, lie to protect you while destroying a friend's career!"
  • "I do one thing at a time. I do it very well. And then I move on." [Season 6, Episode 1, "Fade in, Fade out"]
  • To Klinger's court martial board: "If you, in your wisdom, do not agree [that Klinger is innocent]... think of me!... Five generations of Winchesters haven't lost an argument, much less, a trial. If you send this man to the stockade, it will be an injustice, albeit a minor one. But the damage to my reputation will be a tragedy of EPIC proportions!"
  • To Colonel Flagg: "One you cannot afford my price, and Two..WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?"
  • To Colonel Flagg: "For a man with no sense of humor you are awfully funny.".
  • To Colonel Flagg: "The notion Pierce is a spy and a sympathizer is absurd. Pierce has a big mouth and sticks his nose into other peoples business. But that makes him obnoxious, not a spy."
  • To Congressional aide Williamson: "THERE IS NO LIFE AFTER BOSTON"
  • "Each man must dance to his own tune." [Season 8, Episode 19]
  • "Don’t you see? Your hand may be stilled, but your gift cannot be silenced if you refuse to let it be... The gift does not lie in your hands. I have hands, David. Hands that can make a scalpel sing. More than anything in my life I wanted to play, but I do not have the gift. I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music. You have performed Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin. Even if you never do so again, you've already known a joy that I will never know as long as I live. Because the true gift is in your head and in your heart and in your soul. Now you can shut it off forever, or you can find new ways to share your gift with the world--through the baton, the classroom, or the pen. As to these works, they’re for you, because you and the piano will always be as one." ["Morale Victory", Season 8, Episode 19]
  • To Captain Sweeney, CO of the stuttering Private Palmer in "Run For The Money" (Season 11 Episode 9): "Captain Sweeney, if you say one more unkind word to Private Palmer, I will personally write up a report detailing your inhumanity, and I will have it placed in your 201 file, where it will follow you for the rest of your career. (Brushes aside Sweeney's interjection) IS THAT CLEAR? (Sweeney answers "Yes, sir.)

Personnel of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital
Commissioned Officers
Henry Blake | Major Frank Burns | Augustus Bedford "Duke" Forrest | Major Sidney Freedman | B.J. Hunnicutt | Oliver "Spearchucker" Jones | Captain "Trapper John" McIntyre | Father Francis Mulcahy | Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce | Colonel Sherman T. Potter | Walter "Painless Pole" Waldowski | Charles Emerson Winchester III | Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan | Nurse Margie Cutler | Nurse Ginger Bayliss | Nurse Kellye Yamato | Nurse Peggy Bigelow | Lieutenant Maria "Dish" Schneider
Sgt. Maxwell Q. Klinger | Corporal "Radar" O’Reilly | Sergeant Zelmo Zale | Pvt. Igor Straminsky | Sergeant Luther Rizzo | Sergeant Major Vollmer | SSGT Gorman | Corporal Judson | Private Lorenzo Boone

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