The REAL Last Episode of MASH

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A Brief History

On February 16, 2006, the United States Army decommissioned the last of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, or MASH as they were called.  Since the Army is staffed by educated and intelligent people (mostly), they obviously had a backup plan, and that is the Combat Support Hospital (CSH pronounced cash).

Digging Deeper

Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals had served the combat medical needs of the U.S. Army since their inception in 1945, continuing through the Korean and Viet Nam Wars and then in the conflicts in the Middle East until being replaced by Combat Support Hospitals.

Famously depicted in the 1968 book MASH and then in the 1970 movie and television show that ran from 1972-1983, both titled M*A*S*H, the facilities in the filmed versions were much smaller than the real-life medical service employed by the Army.  The real MASH units typically had 10 doctors, 12 nurses, nearly 100 enlisted men and a few more extraneous but necessary personnel to ensure the proper functioning of the unit.  One MASH unit once handled over 600 patients in one day during the Korean War!  Another film, Battle Circus from 1953 was also set in a MASH.

The operation of a MASH during the Korean War was not fun and games.  It was, however, incredibly successful as 97% of the live casualties brought to a MASH survived. 

Our hats are off to the great men and women who have served in MASH’s and all aspects of military medical care.  Thank you for your service!

An important side note to the MASH saga is that one of its developers was Dr. Michael DeBakey, a renowned cardiologist who invented a version of the roller pump initially used to transfuse blood directly from person to person before later becoming a component of the heart–lung machine.  Many a survivor of open-heart surgeries must give credit and honors to this life-saving man.

Question for students (and subscribers): Have you or anyone in your family ever served in a United States Army medical unit?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Apel JR. M.D., Otto F., Pat Apel, et al.  MASH: An Army Surgeon in Korea.  University Press Audiobooks, 2015.

The featured image in this article, a U.S. Navy photograph by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Eric S. Powell of Academy Award nominated actor Brad Pitt visiting a young girl who was a patient at the 212th MASH unit in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States.

You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.