When Dr. Dale and Cathy Drake visited Richard Hornberger 15 years after the end of the Korean War, Hornberger “was just beside himself,” Dale remembers. The three were old friends who served in a M*A*S*H unit (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital), and the night was spent with drinks and memories. They swapped stories of the down time at war. While Hornberger was thrilled to see his old friends, the visit also served to finish his book, M*A*S*H: A Novel about Three Army Doctors, a piece that showed what happened when there was nothing to do. In 1968, the Drakes, unaware of their friend’s intentions, received the book with a note, “This book was born the night you blew in.”
From that moment, their story became a sensation, launching a successful movie and television series with a finale that is the second highest rated broadcast in history (106 million viewers). Cathy, a nurse, never read the book written under Hornberger’s pseudonym, Richard Hooker, but it captivated Dale, an anesthesiologist, though he was surprised the story so personal to his life entranced a nation.
The curiosity continued this year when a team of Canadian filmmakers from Storyline Entertainment interviewed the Drakes for a television documentary, The Real M*A*S*H. They’ll finish the film in July, and the Drakes hear Storyline plans to show the premiere in Evansville in September. The film includes M*A*S*H units other than where the Drakes, who met in the Korean War in unit 8055, served.
Hooker’s book showcased a cast of characters with memorable nicknames: Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce and “Ugly” John Black. (“Hawkeye” was based on Hornberger, whose real nickname was “Horny,” and “Ugly” John was based on Dale, though the book’s nickname was a contrast to Dale’s reputation of having movie star good looks.) Yet, Storyline Entertainment producers tout the documentary as a means to show more than the down times of war and depict how M*A*S*H units “crossed racial and gender barriers and introduced practices that would make medical history.”
For more information on The Real M*A*S*H, visit www.storylineentertainment.com.