Heading for the 4077th

Sherman thought a lot about the best way he could tell Mildred about the new circumstances. He was a little afraid of the moment when he would tell her. He hesitated two days but he eventually made the call. Mildred was happy to talk with him, but it didn't take long until she felt that this conversation was something more than one of his regular calls.

"Sherman, I think there is something you would like to tell me."

"How did you get that idea, Mildred?"

"I've been your wife for a long time now."

"I've never been able to fool you. Darling, sit down and please don't get upset. I've got a new assignment and this time it's in Korea. I am the new commander of a M.A.S.H. We've talked about these units at home, do you remember?"

After a few seconds Mildred replied, "I do, but I also remember that these units are only three miles away from the front." Her voice sounded tired. "What has happened to change things so dramatically? When did you get the order?"

"Two days ago General Mitchell asked me to take over command."

"Asked you? And you volunteered?" Now she was upset. She even forgot to complain about the fact he has waited such a long time before telling her.

He tried to explain. "If I hadn't accepted voluntarily, he would have given me an order. But please don't worry too much about me. I'll be in a medical unit, so we are not directly involved in battles." He knew that she needed some time to digest the news.

"I had a premonition that there was something about to happen. Well, there's nothing I can do but accept the facts." No doubt about it, she was angry.

Potter didn't know what to say. For a short period there was silence. "I know that you have a lot of worries, and you can blame them on me." A little desperately he added, " It's hard for me to live so far away from you too. The thought that someday I'll be home where someone is waiting for me is the only thing that I'm living for at the moment. I couldn't bear to know that you are angry at me."

Surprisingly, Mildred's response was very soft. "I'm sorry that I yelled at you; I know that you had no choice. But I hope that somehow you understand my point of view. Sure, I still have the children and the rest of the family around here, but like you I am also living for the moment when the man I love will be home again. I'm afraid to lose you!"

"Please stop crying, Darling. I promise to be careful. I've heard the peace talks made some progress. Maybe I'll be home soon. I love you, sweetheart." The time available for his connection was nearly over. "We have to stop our conversation now, another soldier also wants to call his folks. Good bye, Mildred."

"No matter what happens, I will always love you. Good bye, Sherm, may God take good care of you."

It was a great relief that Mildred understood him.

Now Colonel Potter was ready to leave Tokyo. If there were some things he would miss, it would be the small bars where you could drink and forget or simply have a good time. He took a plane to Kimpo, the airport near the current location of the 4077th. He got a jeep there and set off to the camp. His first impressions of the country were lots of green hills and dusty streets. The scenery was so peaceful that he had to remember why he and a lot of other strangers were in this land. During his journey he thought about what might happen when he arrives. It was always difficult to be the new kid on the block, even more so if you take over command. He didn't like to command too much. The people should know by themselves what they have to do, especially in a medical unit. But if there will be some unpopular decisions to make he sure won't hesitate. 'It's been a long time since I have done surgery, almost two years,' he thought. 'I hope I resist the pressure of this job.'

He turned left at the junction and after one mile he saw the camp - that was the 4077th M.A.S.H. Fortunately, it hasn't moved since he left Tokyo. Otherwise he might have had to look for his unit. He stopped for a minute and observed from the distance. There did not seem to be much action at the moment. 'Let's go,' he said to himself as he drove on. He reached the camp and drove right through it. A lot of people were hanging around, but nobody seemed to notice the arrival of their new commander.

In front of the commander's office he stopped his jeep. A young guy with the upper part of the body naked was sunning himself. He didn't notice either. Potter pushed the horn a few times. Then there was a response. "Stick that horn in your ear!"

Potter had already left the jeep. He took his place in front of the soldier who still didn't look to see who had arrived, and said his first words at the camp. "On your feet soldier, I'm Colonel Potter."

The guy was frightened, jumped on his feet, and saluted. "I'm sorry about that," he stuttered. One could see that he felt awful about what had happened. His name was Walter O'Reilly and he was the company clerk.

After Potter settled down in his office, he gave an order that he wanted to see his officers. There were no surprises except that Major Burns was not there. Potter's first impression was that some people would test how far they could go. But probably even Captain Pierce had realized that they couldn't play games with him.

It didn't take long until wounded arrived. The staff was still fooling around but it was only a disguise. If they felt unobserved, they were suddenly very serious. Potter entered the O.R. and tried to hide his nervousness. 'Two years are a long time,' he thought again. That Pierce was suspicious about Potter's surgical abilities was not really surprising. Sherman's smile was hidden behind his mask when he noticed that some people were observing him. He was sure that they were ready to intervene if he did something wrong. But all went very smoothly and after a while they seemed to realize that his work was okay.

His first session in the O.R. took 24 hours, and he was very pleased with the work of 'his' unit. Afterwards he told the doctors that it would be nice to have some drinks. He was invited into the surgeons' tent called 'The Swamp', which turned out to be a suitable name. They had a lot of drinks together, shared some stories, sang the 'Long Long Trail' and eventually they all got drunk.

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