Clayton started laughing when he heard that Potter was the new commander of M.A.S.H. 4077. "I've had a lot of troubles with them. Once I tried to make a film there and they screwed it up. They allegedly had a mysterious surgeon who had been killed in action. It took months to investigate the case of Captain Tuttle and it finally led to nothing. They placed bets on how far a North Korean pilot would miss his target. I think they called him 'Five O'Clock Charlie' because every day at 5 p.m. he tried again to destroy it."
Gen. Mitchell interrupted him. "Crandell, I've heard the rumor that you also placed a bet at least once. Another rumor said that this pilot placed one bomb exactly on your jeep."
They were all laughing and Clayton ordered some more drinks. He continued, "I could tell you a lot of stories. But Maynard, I know that you had some problems with an incubator. Wouldn't you like to share that story with us?"
A sour look appeared on Mitchell's face. "Don't remind me of that. It was really embarrassing. The press conference turned out to be a disaster. The reporters thought about biological weapons and the two crazy surgeons, Pierce and McIntyre, yelled at me 'gimme incubator or gimme death'. Nevertheless, they got no incubator, at least not from official side. I've heard that their company clerk organized such a thing - in exchange for a grill."
The generals told a lot of stories and Potter thought to himself what a madhouse this might be. But he wasn't too afraid. Not all of the stories might be exactly true, and most of these pranks were actually funny. That people under this pressure act insane sometimes was only natural.
Clayton continued, "It was strange that Majors Burns and Houlihan tried to hide their affair. They thought that nobody would notice what was going on. I believe that even the chaplain, Father Mulcahy, was suspicious. This couple made a lot of noise. Blake wasn't a perfect commander, but he didn't deserve this kind of treatment. It went so far that he nearly got court martialed. Anyway, he got his discharge recently and he is now back in the United States. Lucky guy!"
Mitchell and Potter looked concerned. Clayton was puzzled. "Something wrong, fellows?"
Potter replied slowly "Blake didn't make it home. His plane was shot down over the sea."
Clayton was paralyzed. After a while he said, "Blake was really a decent man. He was no soldier but he did an excellent job. May he rest in peace." They drank a toast to the memory of Lt. Col. Blake, a man whom Potter hardly knew. "Abyssinia, Henry," Clayton added.
He turned to Sherman. "Potter, we've told you
a lot of odd things about the 4077th, but don't worry, it's a good unit.
You will see." After this the atmosphere was not as relaxed as before.
'You cannot escape the reality of war,' Potter thought.