Over the course of 11 season and more than 200 episodes, M*A*S*H never failed to make its loyal fans laugh, cry, or both. Even if it was a sitcom, M*A*S*H was also known for having its fair share of heartbreaking moments. Since the series is set in the middle of an active warzone, the tragedies that interrupt the base’s hilarious shenanigans and witty banters are sadly a part of the characters’ everyday lives.
These moments defined the show as one of the best dramedies ever aired on television, and even today the impact and influence of these scenes can be felt. Whether it’s a death in the battlefield or someone’s emotions getting wrecked, here are the 10 saddest moments in M*A*S*H.
10 Every Mail Call, Ever
M*A*S*H may be a comedy about war but it never shied away from showing the heavy human toll of armed conflict. This was occasionally seen whenever the medical personnel of the 4077th got a reminder of home, whether it was a care package or a phone call they did or didn’t get.
There are simply too many mail moments to count, but any time someone talks to a relative back home is a harsh reminder that funny guys like Hawkeye or BJ are really a world away from those they care about the most.
9 Frank’s Broken Heart
Major Frank Burns is the resident jerk of the 4077th but his one moment of humanity is also one of M*A*S*H’s saddest. Simply put, he didn’t take Margaret’s engagement to Lt. Col. Donald Penobscott well.
For the longest time, Frank and Margaret were in an illicit relationship. He genuinely developed feelings for her, and the break-up and marriage broke him. The last times he’s seen, Frank is a drunken mess who’s sent back to America via a Section 8. He may have been an obnoxious buffoon, but it’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for the once cocky idiot.
8 Col. Potter Is The Last Of His Unit
Back in World War I, a young Col. Potter and his four friends hid in an old French chateau that fortunately had a cache of brandy. They drank until morning came and decided to save the last bottle for whoever would be the group’s last survivor, cementing their friendship for the rest of time.
By the time of the eighth season of M*A*S*H, Potter is the last man standing and he gets the bottle of brandy. In a heartfelt moment, he honors his old friends and the new he values and loves with a toast.
7 Margaret’s Dog Dies
While she’s not a heartless authority figure, Margaret rarely shows emotions while working so that she can maintain order by putting on a brave face. Her façade all but crumbles when she finds out that a stray dog she befriended died when a jeep hit it.
Much to her own confusion, Margaret breaks down upon hearing of the dog’s death despite her own experience of operating on dying soldiers. At the very least, this allows Margaret to understand and sympathize with what the uninitiated Nurse Cooper was going through earlier in the same episode.
6 Margaret’s Divorce
Margaret never had the best of luck when it came to romance, and this was sadly proven true again with the man she thought would be the love of her life. Her dream marriage with Lt. Col. Donald Penobscott doesn’t go the way she hoped it would when it sadly ends with divorce.
Making matters worse, she finds out that Donald got himself transferred back to America instead of spending more time in Korea to fix their marriage. She gets better afterward, but her road to recovery is a long one.
5 Radar Leaves As A Man
For long-time fans, there’s a clear divide between the funny M*A*S*H and its more dramatic second half. This was made evident when Radar – long-considered to be the base’s baby – leaves, taking with him some of the 4077th’s wide-eyed youth and innocence.
The two-part episode Good-Bye Radar doesn’t just bid farewell to the beloved company clerk, but also shows him growing up and in a sense, outgrowing service in Korea. Even sadder is that his farewell party was interrupted by the war, as the ceremonies had to be stopped so that the medics could attend to the wounded.
4 Winchester Gets Survivor’s Guilt
After surviving a sniper attack, Winchester refuses to chalk it up to luck and tries to find a way to make sense of his near-death experience. While his search for meaning only opens more questions instead of answers, his futile attempts to rationalize life and death are sadly relatable to pretty much anyone watching the show.
The most heartbreaking thing about Winchester’s desperate search for meaning is that he doesn’t even get a clear answer by the end, leaving him to be haunted by the question for the rest of his life.
3 Lt. Col. Henry Blake Dies In An Ambush
Just when he gets the confirmation that he could finally go home and be reunited with his family, the 4077th’s first commanding officer dies when the helicopter he’s riding is gets shot down. All of this right after he gives genuine farewells to the unit.
Even ignoring the production drama that led to his death, Blake’s demise is a grim reminder of the unforgiving and random realities of war. What makes his death sadder is the cast’s reaction, with their stunned silence hammering in how heavy Blake’s loss was. From then on, Blake’s presence is never forgotten.
2 Trapper Leaves Without A Word
Right after Henry’s death, Hawkeye comes back to the 4077th from some much needed R&R only to find out that his best friend Trapper left without saying anything or even leaving a message.
As luck would have it, Trapper received his discharge orders early and had no choice but to leave hours before Hawkeye’s return. At best, Hawkeye gets the news from Radar. Trapper’s sudden departure greatly affects Hawkeye, even fearing that history repeated itself during the series finale when it looks as if BJ left him alone in a hauntingly similar manner.
1 Everything About Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen
The last episode of M*A*S*H isn’t considered to be one of the best series finales ever made without good reason. Not only is it the long-running series’ swan song but the episode overflows with bittersweet conclusions for every character’s arc.
With moments such as Hawkeye’s treatment for trauma, Klinger’s decision to stay in Korea, Fr. Mulcahy losing his hearing, the death of Winchester’s new friends, the demolition of the 4077th and finally BJ’s farewell to both Hawkeye and audiences, there’s not a moment in Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen where viewers can avoid tearing up.
NEXT: M*A*S*H: The 5 Best Episodes (And 5 Worst)
Angelo Delos Trinos