M*A*S*H episode
“The Late Captain Pierce”
MASH episode-4x5 Hawkeye meets Digger
Documented as "deceased" by the Army, Hawkeye takes a shower, and meets Lt. Digger Detweiler (Richard Masur), who's supposed to pick up his dead body in the episode "The Late Captain Pierce".
Season 4, Episode # 5
Number (#77) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Jamie Farr
Kellye Nakahara
Richard Masur
Sherry Steffens
Eldon Quick
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: G-507
Writer(s) Glen Charles and Les Charles
Director Alan Alda
Original airdate October 3, 1975
IMDb logo IMDB The Late Captain Pierce
Episode chronology
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"It Happened One Night" (G‑502) "Hey, Doc" (G‑510)

(broadcast order)

(broadcast order)

"Welcome to Korea, Pt 2" (G‑506) "Smilin' Jack" (G‑508)

(production order)

(production order)

Season 4 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

"The Late Captain Pierce" was the 77th episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H television series, and, also the fifth episode of the fourth season of the series. Written by brothers Glen and Les Charles, who would later go on to produce the ABC-TV sitcom Taxi, and directed by Alan Alda, it first aired on October 3, 1975.


Hawkeye finds out that due to clerical error, he has been declared dead.

Full episode summaryEdit

Klinger wakes BJ because he has a midnight caller: Hawkeye’s father. Hawkeye is told and accompanies them to the phone, but all BJ can hear is “How?” and “Why?” before the line gets knocked out. Baffled, Hawkeye waits the rest of the night for a return call, but none comes.

As Hawkeye leaves to take a shower, he runs into Lieutenant "Digger" Detweiler from morgue detail, who just arrived to retrieve a corpse. Digger asks Klinger where he can find Captain Pierce and the corporal tells him he’s in the showers. Confused, Digger confronts Hawkeye in the showers and tells him he’s been listed as dead by the Army. Digger shows Hawkeye a copy of his death certificate and notifies him the original would be sent to his next of kin. Hawkeye now understands why his father asked for BJ instead of him – he’s already been alerted his son is deceased. Hawkeye informs Potter, who has Klinger notify HQ of the screw-up, but all lines of communication are still frozen due to General Eisenhower’s Korean visit. BJ is told of the gaffe and decides to throw his friend a wake. As Hawkeye wonders what his father could be going through, BJ cheerfully tells him to cheer up, “You’re going to a funeral!”

Digger trolls the camp looking for a dead body to replace Hawkeye and is mildly upset when BJ’s patient survives his operation. His trouble is compounded when he sets his butt on fire at Hawkeye’s wake. Hawkeye has a chorus of “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” sung to him, but adds a macabre final line himself: “I was much too young to die.”

Being dead isn’t all bad – it gets Hawkeye out of orientation classes, O.D. duty, inspections, and Frank’s exercise program. One thing it doesn’t get him out of is debt – if he’s dead, he gets no pay. Frank, the pay officer, takes great pleasure in cackling to Hawkeye he’s been “redlined,” meaning deceased and off the payroll. Frank refuses to give him a dime, causing Hawkeye to temporarily forget pacifism and attack the Major. In a truly bizarre scene (unfortunately cut for syndication on some networks), Hawkeye goes ballistic trying to pry money from Frank’s tight grip and ends up dumping carrots down Frank’s shirt and smearing potatoes on his face before being dragged out of the mess tent.

HQ sends Captain Pratt to explain the error and the incredibly complex way it will be fixed. Pratt’s cavalier attitude infuriates Hawkeye who says his father is mourning him and giving away his belongings. Hawkeye excuses himself, stating he is “late for an early grave” and goes to the Swamp to pack his belongings. Hawkeye boards Digger’s bus, passing himself off as cargo, just as Klinger tells BJ lots of wounded will arrive shortly.

BJ boards the bus and gently tells his friend he cannot go home. Hawkeye insists he does not care, but then hears the choppers arriving. He tells BJ the wounded have always poured in and always will, no matter who goes home (Trapper) or gets killed (Henry). Hawkeye orders Digger to drive on, but changes his mind, making the bus come to a quick halt. A sullen Hawkeye emerges from the back door, gives it a hard slam shut, and trudges back to duty his mind will not let him forsake. After surgery, the phone lines are finally open and Hawkeye is able to tell his dad his is just fine.

Guest stars/Recurring cast Edit

Trivia Edit

  • President Elect Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the troops in Korea in December 1952; if MASH had kept to the real Korean War Timeline, it would have only lasted for about 1 more season, as the Korean Conflict ended in July 1953, 7 months after Eisenhower visited.
  • A continuity error is Hawkeye's father is referred to as Mr. Pierce instead of Dr. Pierce.

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