Happy Birthday to Hawkeye Pierce

Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo was born at New York City on this day in 1936. (The family uses Alda, a contraction of ALphonso and D'Abruzzo, as their surname for most things, but the birth certificates all use the original name.) He suffered from polio starting at age seven, was bedridden for two years, and at one point could only move his left arm. After graduating from Fordham University in 1956 he started acting with the Compass Players of Chicago.

He also joined the Army Reserve and served six months in Korea, as an Artillery Officer, and regularly was AWOL on weekends to date Arlene Weiss, who he married in 1957. He is best known for the role of Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in the television show M*A*S*H; he was the only actor to play in every episode, he wrote five of them and directed 32.

Growing up M*A*S*H was a staple in my daily diet.  My step-father served in Korea during the war, and he and I would sit in front of the television and he would point out all the discrepancies in the show; but he would laugh right along with me.  I honestly believe for him, M*A*S*H was some how strangely cathartic.  For me, it was all about spending time with him.  He passed away some years ago, but every time I watch an episode of M*A*S*H it’s like I am 12 again, and he is right there with me.

After I joined the Army, I looked hi-and-lo for a place like the 4077th; unfortunately, never found one.  As a matter of fact, I never found a MASH period.  Not even sure if they exist.  I did spend my fair share of time in Battalion Aid Stations (BAS); however, the nurses there were no where near as good looking as the 4077th’s.

Here are a few quotes from Mr. Alda:

”Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once and a while, or the light won't come in.”

“When people are laughing, they're generally not killing one another.”

“It's really clear to me that you can't hang onto something longer than its time. Ideas lose certain freshness, ideas have a shelf life, and sometimes they have to be replaced by other ideas.”

“Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.”

“No man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle and good, without the world being better for it, without somebody being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness.”

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.”

– All from Alan Alda

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James A. Restucci is the author of this blog. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Internal License.

2 Responses to Happy Birthday to Hawkeye Pierce

  1. AvatarLibby says:

    My favorite comment is “listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” That’s one I really need to take to heart. It definitely requires one to tamp down their ego and I have a very hard time doing that!

    I guess all of us who read your blog loved M*A*S*H and other sitcoms from that era. My favorite was “All in the Family”. Maybe we liked those sitcoms because the humor was geared to our (well my) generation? I know I certainly can’t understand current-day sitcoms and can’t see the humor in them. Getting old is hell! LOL

  2. AvatarEagleWatch says:

    Interesting stuff about Mr Alda, a lot of which I didn’t know. I liked him very much in M*A*S*H.