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1970s / Henry Blake Killed On MASH
Thirty-nine years ago today (March 18, 1975) one of the most memorable--and shocking--moments in American television was broadcast: In the final episode of the third season of MASH, Lt. Colonel Henry Blake, the commanding officer of the 4077th MASH in Korea, was killed while on his way home. McLean Stevenson had wanted to leave MASH after three seasons, so the show's writers used Stevenson's departure to make a powerful statement: some people go off to war and don't come back. Never before had a sitcom's character's death been so dramatically part of the script. Colonel Blake's death had always been part of the episode's script, but the final page had been hidden from the cast members in order to keep their reactions throughout the rest of the show true to the happy storyline of Blake returning home to his family in Bloomington, IN. Only when all the other scenes had been filmed did director Larry Gelbart inform the cast about the missing scene. This clip shows company clerk Radar O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff) interrupting an OR session to deliver the tragic news. After the show aired, CBS was inundated with hundreds of letters from viewers who were outraged that a situation comedy had become a situation tragedy. Every person who wrote a letter got a hand-written reply explaining that MASH wanted to show the cruel realities of war.