The General bent forward and looked Potter straight in the eyes. "Sherm, you are disappointing me. Please add one and one: we need another surgeon and a replacement for an infamous commander."
Slowly Potter realized what was going on. "You mean..." he began, "that I shall..." He didn't finish the sentence.
"Sherm, I'd like to ask you to take over command of the 4077th so they get the right commander and another good surgeon."
Potter was speechless. He'd expected a lot, but that... After a few seconds he regained his composure. "A nice compliment, but that's a little bit too fast for me." He stood up, went to the window and looked outside. Without turning he asked, "Why me? I mean the real reason, no small talk."
Mitchell took a deep breath. "Look, Sherm, as we've seen it's not a good idea to give command to drafted men. The Army has enough commanders but they don't understand much about surgery. You know a lot of both things so you are the best person I know for this job. I've been thinking several days about it. I swear that I honestly mean everything I said about you."
The Colonel was now in a difficult situation. It was true, paper-pushing was not his business and he was also a little proud of the compliments from his superior. But how could he explain to Mildred that he voluntarily had to leave the safe city of Tokyo for a unit 3 miles away from the front?
"Mitch, tell me one more thing. It seems that you have some kind of a personal relationship to this unit, am I right?"
It took some time, then Mitchell thoughtfully replied, "About one year ago, my son Gary was wounded in a battle. It was the people in the 4077th who saved his life, namely Capt. Pierce, this crazy guy with whom you don't know what'll happen next. But it was thanks to his work that my son is still alive and in good health." He smiled. "Out of gratitude I made them a present - an officers' club. And the next thing they did was to permit enlisted men to come to this club. It was a wonderful atmosphere at the opening night." Again he became serious. "Burns will ruin this unit and we can't afford that. So again, please agree and take this job."
Sherman turned around and looked at Mildred's picture on his desk. "I have to tell my wife about that. She probably won't be happy, but she doesn't like me to make decisions because of her. I may regret what I'm saying now, but... I'm your man. You made me curious; this sounds to me more like a family than a medical unit."
General Mitchell nodded and smiled again. "This calls for a drink!"
Before they left Potter's office the Colonel stopped General Mitchell. "You did ask me to take over command which, by the way, was a very kind gesture. Wouldn't it have been easier for you to give me an order? What would you have done if I hadn't accepted?"
General Mitchell pretended to be surprised. "I was sure you would."
Potter frowned. "Is that so? Mitch, I'm not kidding."
"Well, if you had not accepted after my request,
I would have had to give you an order to take over command of M.A.S.H.
4077th. But I'm glad that I was able to persuade you."