M*A*S*H Actors We've Sadly Lost

Some television shows just stand the test of time. Think "General Hospital," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Law & Order: SVU" — but that list wouldn't be complete without "M*A*S*H." The long-running comedy series about a medical unit operating in Korea aired from 1972 until 1983, and with its 11-year run, brought humor, depth, and war-time reflection to the screen.

While a number of characters came and went from the show, "M*A*S*H" primarily followed the experience of Dr. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, who was drafted as a surgeon and stationed at the 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. His general distaste for authority, Army regulations, and the damage associated with war served in direct opposition to the environment in which he found himself — he was, without a doubt, the world's worst soldier and the Army's finest doctor.

Hawkeye was brought to life by famed actor Alan Alda, who, as of this publication, is still living. But, unfortunately, a number of Alda's "M*A*S*H" co-stars have died, including the actors behind beloved characters such as Colonel Sherman Potter and Father Francis Mulcahy. Here are the "M*A*S*H" actors we've sadly lost.

David Ogden Stiers, who brought class and style to M*A*S*H as Major Winchester, died in 2018

Everyone cheered when Major Frank Burns was replaced by Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, played by the extraordinarily talented actor David Ogden Stiers. Winchester was aptly known for his lavish lifestyle, his love of music, and — when he was willing to show it — his humanity and understanding. Sadly, Stiers died in 2018 from cancer, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter.

Loretta Swit, who played Major Margaret Houlihan on the show, described Stiers as "his own person, but he loved and adored us as we did him." One of Stiers' closest on-set friends was Mike Farrell, who played Captain B. J. Hunnicutt. Farrell recalled that Stiers was similar to his character, Winchester, in that he loved classical music — Stiers would often suggest musical pieces for Farrell to listen to in hopes of sharing his passion. "One time he had me listen to a piece and walked away. When he came back, he saw there were tears in my eyes and he said, 'A-ha! You're not so dead. You just have to be reawakened,'" Farrell said. 

Stiers is sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

Edward Winter, who played the ridiculous Colonel Flagg on M*A*S*H, died in 2001

Throughout its time on the air, "M*A*S*H" brought in a number of regular guest stars, and no one was as ridiculous and entertaining as Colonel Flagg, brought to life by the actor Edward Winter. Flagg's unorthodox means of getting information out of people almost always backfired — just think of the time when he thought Hawkeye and Colonel Potter were in charge of a Communist ring because they played cards with South Korean leaders. Sadly, Winter, who had Parkinson's disease, died at the age of 63, as noted by The New York Times.

Before his time on "M*A*S*H," Winter was a stage actor who worked primarily in San Francisco and New York. He starred in shows including ”Galileo" and "The Country Wide" and made his Broadway debut in the musical "Cabaret" in 1966, a performance which earned him a Tony Award nomination. As Flagg, Winter brought a certain amount of hilarity, confidence, and misplaced know how, but every time he "exited like the wind" or showed up in a disguise, viewers knew they were in for a treat.

Fans of Trapper John mourned the death of M*A*S*H actor Wayne Rogers in 2015

Trapper John McIntyre might have only starred on "M*A*S*H" for three seasons, but his impact on the show was enormous, so much so that he was mentioned by fellow characters seasons later. McIntyre was brought to the screen by actor Wayne Rogers, who embodied the silly surgeon with humor and grace. Sadly, Rogers died in 2015 at the age of 82, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter

Rogers left "M*A*S*H" after his three-season run due to "a contract dispute." As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Rogers felt as though the writers of "M*A*S*H" were poorly developing his character, making him the "straight man to Alan Alda's endearingly wry Hawkeye character." Despite his rocky exit from the show, Rogers maintained a good relationship with his on-screen pal Alda. At the time of Rogers' death, Alda took to Twitter to express his sadness. "He was smart, funny, curious and dedicated. We made a pact to give 'MASH' all we had and it bonded us," Alda tweeted. "I loved Wayne. I'll miss him very much."

Allan Arbus, the actor who played the wonderful Sidney Freedman on M*A*S*H, died in 2013

Think back to the episodes of "M*A*S*H" that include the following: "Shout air raid." "Burn the camp to the ground." "Cockroach races." All of these had one thing in common: Major Sidney Freedman, an Army psychiatrist, who was a recurring guest character on "M*A*S*H" who made an enormous impact. Freedman was embodied by the lovely Allan Arbus, who sadly died at the age of 95.

As noted by The New York Times in 2013, Arbus' death was confirmed by his daughter, Amy, one of his three children spanning from two marriages. Arbus' impact on "M*A*S*H" was not just on-screen — Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce, recalled that Arbus was so good at playing a psychiatrist that he would find himself going to Arbus for life advice in between takes. "I was so convinced that he was a psychiatrist I used to sit and talk with him between scenes," Alda said. "After a couple months of that I noticed he was giving me these strange looks, like 'How would I know the answer to that?'" Quite amusing, we have to say.

The actor behind the beloved Colonel Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H, Harry Morgan, died in 2011

Corporal Radar O'Reilly was sunning himself with shiny cardboard when Colonel Sherman Potter arrived at the 4077th, telling the company clerk that the sun would "rip the hide" right off of him — and from that line on, Potter, portrayed by actor Harry Morgan, stole the hearts of M*A*S*H viewers. Morgan sadly died in 2011 at the age of 96 at his home in Los Angeles shortly after being diagnosed with pneumonia. Morgan's son, Charles, confirmed his death to The New York Times.

Morgan was known for his starring roles in Western films, but it was "M*A*S*H" where he really shined. As the series went on, his lovable persona and caring nature showed more than anything. Speaking of Potter, Morgan said, "I think it's the best part I ever had," and the actor even brought personal touches to the role: Potter's horse, Sophie, belonged to Morgan in real life. On the day the final episode was shot, Morgan said that he was feeling "sadness and an aching heart," both feelings that are quite apt regarding this loss.

Kellye Nakahara, who played series regular Nurse Kellye Yamato on M*A*S*H, died in 2020

Whenever you turn on an episode of "M*A*S*H," you're pretty much guaranteed to see Nurse Kellye Yamato. The lovable character was originally designed to be an extra, but the determination of actress Kellye Nakahara made the character one of the most beloved during the show's run. Sadly, Nakahara died from cancer at the age of 73, as noted by The New York Times.

Nakahara appeared in 167 episodes of "M*A*S*H," despite having been originally cast as a background actress (via The New York Times). "I think I was in every scene," she told NPR in 2016. "I put myself in every scene and nobody told me to get out." 

As time went on, the show's main star and creative mind Alan Alda (who both wrote and directed episodes throughout the series) recognized Nakahara's dedication, and by Season 11, he wrote an episode solely for her character. "She began as a background performer and worked her way up to playing the lead in an episode I wrote for her," Alda said. "She was adorable and brilliant in the part. But you couldn't beat what she was as a person, funnier and warmer and kinder than most people I've known."

McLean Stevenson, who brought Henry Blake to life on M*A*S*H, died in 1996

While many of us loved Colonel Sherman Potter as the 4077th's leader on M*A*S*H, the helm was originally occupied by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, whose bumbling personality and lack of leadership capabilities made him hilarious to watch on screen. Actor McLean Stevenson played Blake, and for the first three seasons of "M*A*S*H," Stevenson's Blake drank, fished, and cheated on his wife. Sadly, Stevenson died at just 66 years old after a heart attack, according to The New York Times

While Stevenson starred in other comedy series, it was "M*A*S*H" that he was known for. Sadly, after the show's first three seasons, Stevenson asked to be let go of his contract so he could pursue other work. As such, his character was killed, thus not allowing Stevenson to return to the show. "I represent on 'M*A*S*H' the authority figure who can't cope and who caves in under pressure," he once said about his character. "Alan Alda is the hero, the guy people want to be but know they aren't. I'm the guy they really are." But everyone knows and loves their Henry Blake — there's no doubt about it.

George Wood, who appeared as General Hammond on M*A*S*H, died in 2000

If you're a fan of the "M*A*S*H" television series, chances are you're also a fan of the "M*A*S*H" feature film — while hardly any actors overlap from both the movie and the show, George Wood is one who did. Professionally, Wood went by G. Wood and portrayed Brigadier General Charlie Hammond, the steely-eyed leader once romantically attached to Major Margaret Houlihan. As noted by Playbill, Wood died in 2000 at the age of 80 after suffering from heart failure, and he is remembered for far more than just his portrayal of the general on "M*A*S*H."

Wood was very involved with the live theater scene in New York City, and throughout his career, "wrote specialty material for revues and acted in New York City and regional [theaters]." He was responsible for writing a number of musicals himself, including "F. Jasmine Adams," and even wrote music for Broadway stars like Elizabeth Welch and Hermione Gingold. Wood's work as a composer and musician reached international venues as well — he worked in the London theater scene in addition to the United States. He was a man of many talents, who left a rich history behind.

As Colonel Penobscot, Mike Henry ruled the screen on M*A*S*H before his death in 2011

When Major Margaret Houlihan announced on M*A*S*H that she was getting married to the dashing Colonel Donald Penobscot, played by the former NFL linebacker Mike Henry, most were thrilled for her. Although Colonel Potter tried to warn her that perhaps she was rushing into this union, she didn't heed his words of wisdom, and the rest was (divorce-ridden) history. Henry, who was well-known for playing Tarzan in the three 1960s adventure films, sadly died in 2021 at the age of 84.

As noted by Variety, Henry suffered tremendously from injuries he sustained while playing professional football. He dealt with both chronic traumatic encephalopathy and Parkinson's disease, before succumbing to his health struggles. In addition to appearing on "M*A*S*H," Henry graced different television programs including "General Hospital" and "The Six Million Dollar Man." He retired from acting in 1988 due to his health. "You could not find anyone who ever spoke ill of Mike. He was one of the loveliest men ever to grace this earth," Cheryl Henry, his wife, said of her late husband.

Larry Linville, the actor who embodied Frank Burns on M*A*S*H, died in 2000

While "M*A*S*H" didn't exactly have an antagonist, the closest thing to one was Major Frank Burns, or "Ferret Face," played by actor Larry Linville, who sadly died at the age of 60 after diagnoses of cancer and pneumonia. Burns was your classic jerk — a complainer with a 6 million-mile-long ego without the skill set to match. His character was so believable that you just wanted to reach into the screen and slap him, and this exceptional portrayal was thanks to Linville's talent. 

As noted by Playbill, Linville was also known for his wealth of stage acting, but it was as Burns where he really shined. "Frank is the type of character I personally despise," Linville once said of his well-known character (via MeTV). "It's a matter of ego, but I think I'm doing a service by delineating this type of person. You know, so you'll be able to recognize him." Linville told The Philadelphia Inquirer (via MeTV) that he "pulled out every box in my head marked nerd, moron and slime" in order to bring Burns to life. While sharing the screen with the likes of Alan Alda's Hawkeye, Burns was infuriating — a true testament to Linville's phenomenal acting talent.

Johnny Haymer, who played Staff Sergeant Zale on M*A*S*H, died in 1989

Perhaps one of Sergeant Zale's most iconic moments is when he tells Major Frank Burns on M*A*S*H that $200 of his was "stolen," when, actually, he had lost it to Radar while gambling, an exchange that serves as a perfect example of Zale's character — funny, elusive, and comfortable lying to authority. Johnny Haymer, who was also known for his role as Pinkerton in "Madame's Place," played Zale — he sadly died at age 69 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 1989, as noted by the Los Angeles Times.

As reported by The Times, Haymer began his acting career in the nightclub scene after graduating from the University of Missouri — before turning to the screen, he worked as a stage actor and was well-known for his work in commercial acting. In addition to "M*A*S*H," Haymer starred in on-screen works including "And Justice for All," "Logan's Run," and "Real Life," but it was his performance as Zale that really solidified his acting legacy. At the time of his death, Haymer left behind his wife, his two sons, his brother, and two grandchildren.

William Christopher, who portrayed the lovable Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H, died in 2016

Perhaps one of the most loving, compassionate, and enduring characters to ever grace the "M*A*S*H" screen was Father Francis Mulcahy, a character who did everything he could to make the world around him a better place — think running a 12-mile race to raise money for the local orphanage. Mulcahy was played by the enduring William Christopher, who sadly died at the age of 84 from lung cancer in 2016, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter. In a statement given to The Reporter, it was noted that Christopher's condition had rapidly declined within a two-week period. He peacefully died at home with his wife by his side.

Loretta Swit, who played Major Margaret Houlihan, told The Reporter after his death that "everyone adored" Christopher. "Our Dear Bill and his goodness are a great argument for there being a heaven," her statement read, before asserting that Christopher's portrayal of the Father most likely inspired viewers to go back to church themselves. "He became TV's quintessential padre as Father Mulcahy on M.A.S.H. ... If God is nigh, then surely he or she will welcome Bill with open arms," she said.

The lovely Nurse Margie on M*A*S*H was played by Marcia Strassman, who died in 2014

Marcia Strassman played the beloved Nurse Margie on M*A*S*H," a late-career move for the actress who also played the mom in one of our favorite classic childhood films, "Honey I Shrunk the Kids." Sadly, she died at home in Sherman Oaks, California from breast cancer in 2014 at age 66, as noted by Deadline, seven years after first being diagnosed with the disease.

"M*A*S*H" served as a redefining aspect of Strassman's career as an actress — after taking some time away from her career, her first role back on the screen was as Margie, who was often seen alongside Alan Alda's Hawkeye. She was, without question, a wonderful addition to the show, and it's heartwarming to know that "M*A*S*H" served as such a boost to her acting career. "She had more friends than anyone in the world," Julie Strassman, the actress's sister, said after her death.

Leslie Nielsen, a beloved character actor and M*A*S*H guest star, died in 2010

While "M*A*S*H" included a number of guest stars throughout its 11 years on the air, few made as much of a lasting impact as Leslie Nielsen, who brought Colonel "Buzz" Brighton to the screen in Season 1. Nielsen, who was known for starring roles in films such as "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" series, died in 2010 at the age of 84. "We are sadden[ed] by the passing of beloved actor Leslie Nielsen ... who enjoyed a more than 60-year career in motion pictures and television," a statement from Nielsen's family read, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter.

After proving to Alan Alda's Hawkeye that he had an itchy trigger finger, Brighton's character, one of the many guest characters that represented Hawkeye's disdain for war violence, was thrown for a loop when Hawkeye tried to deem him medically unfit to serve — a move that would have forced him out of active duty and back to the United States. Both the character of Brighton and Nielsen will surely be remembered.