"Missing In Action"

by David Long

"Radar, will you get that?" Even before Colonel Potter is able to finish his sentence, his company clerk, Radar O'Reilly, is already on the phone.

"Sir, it's Tokyo. It's about your request for a replacement surgeon."

"I'll be right there," the weak reply comes from Potter's office. He still had a hard time dealing with the loss of Hawkeye Pierce. Hawkeye was reported as MIA three weeks ago, but Potter remained in a state of denial. "They'll find him any day now," he keeps thinking. He waited as long as he could before he put in a request for a new surgeon. Luckily the fighting had decreased in the area, so they were able to get by without Hawkeye. Drying his eyes, Colonel Potter picked up the phone. Headquarters informed him that the replacement surgeon, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, should be at the 4077th within the next 48 hours.

"Radar! Our new surgeon, a Major..," Potter began.

"..Charles Emerson Winchester III..," Radar continues.

"...should be here within 48 hours. Make sure..."

"...that there's room in the Swamp..."

"...for him. I'll be in my tent."

"Yes, sir."

As Potter walked out the door, Radar continued his typing. Since Hawkeye's disappearance Radar immersed himself in his work. Monthly reports. Supply requisitions. Anything to keep his mind off his missing friend. Although he knew that he couldn't have done anything to prevent what happened, he had a strong feeling of regret. His head was full of "if only"s.

BJ wanders into Radar's office hearing the incessant typing. "I just saw Colonel Potter leave for his tent. What's the word from Tokyo?"

"Nothing on Hawkeye. But we're getting a replacement surgeon, a Major Charles Emerson Winchester." No matter how much he tried to hide it, Radar was visibly upset. "They'll find him," BJ said, half trying to cheer up Radar and half trying to convince himself that there was still hope. BJ could tell that Radar was deeply affected by Hawkeye's disappearance. The whole camp was; however, somehow it seemed Radar was affected the most. BJ didn't realize how guilty Radar felt. After all, Radar was in that foxhole with Hawkeye the last time he was seen. "If only I had waited," Radar thought over and over again.

"I know," Radar replied to BJ unconvincingly. Radar submerged himself in paperwork again.

The next morning Radar was at work on his typewriter again. Only the ringing of the telephone interrupted the almost constant tapping of the keys. "MASH 4077th," Radar answered. It was I-Corps. Major Winchester's plane was scheduled to land at Kimpo Airbase at twelve hundred hours. Radar hurried into Colonel Potter's office.

"Major Winchester's plane is scheduled to land at Kimpo at 12 o'clock. Request permission to leave and pick him up, sir."

"Permission granted, Radar."

Even before he left camp, Radar had decided on a plan. He was going to take the road which went past the foxhole where the incident had occurred about three weeks ago. Maybe the MPs had missed something.

Radar slowed the jeep as he came up to a clearing. Memories of that day flooded his mind. Hawkeye, Margaret, and he had traveled to a first aid station at the front which was in great need of help. On the way home, they were forced to take a different route home on account of some heavy shelling on the main road.

"Ah, yes, let's take the scenic route home," Hawkeye joked.

Aside from the potholes, the ride went smoothly until they got a mile or two from the camp. Then gunshots pierced the air around the trio. "Pull over!" Margaret screamed upon spotting a nearby foxhole. Radar quickly brought the jeep to a stop and they each scrambled out of the jeep and leaped into the foxhole.

"Well don't just sit there! Get out your gun and return fire!" Margaret yelled at Hawkeye.

"What makes you think I brought a gun?"

"You mean you drove to the front without your sidearm?!"

"We're not on speaking terms."

"Wait! I hear something," Radar said just over the noise of the gunfire. A helicopter returning to Kimpo after dropping off supplies at the 4077th spotted the trio under fire. As they waved their hands the pilot lowered a rope ladder to them.

"What are you waiting for? Go!" Margaret commanded. Radar didn't have to be told twice to leave; he quickly scurried up the ladder. Margaret then turned to Hawkeye. "No, you go first," Hawkeye replied to Margaret's unspoken command. As Margaret got halfway up the ladder, the enemy soldiers advanced after getting no resistence.

Margaret just managed to get into the helicopter when it began to gain altitude.

"What are you doing? There's still someone down there!" Margaret asked the pilot in dismay. She then turned to see that the enemy soldiers had reached the spot where the ladder had just been and began to fire at the helicopter. Margaret and Radar both looked back in dismay, searching in vain for Hawkeye.

The pilot radioed for assistance, but Hawkeye and the soldiers had disappeared by the time the American soldiers reached the area. For days MPs searched the area but came up with nothing. There was no sign of Hawkeye or the enemy soldiers.

"Screech!" The sound of the jeep's breaks interrupted Radar's thoughts as he stopped on the road near the same foxhole. He sat silently and listened intently to the surrounding woods. Nothing.

Getting out of the jeep, Radar moved toward the foxhole and examined it. Nothing. Determined, Radar moved over to the woods on the other side of the road. Fighting back his fear, he advanced into the woods. His ears made out some voices in the distance so he continued forward.

"What kind of an outfit is this?! I've been standing in this wretched airbase for three hours!" Major Winchester was not at all pleased about being sent to Korea much less being transferred to a MASH unit. The only thing that kept him from losing his cool completely was the fact the transfer was temporary.

On the other end of what seemed like a one-sided conversation, Colonel Potter sat puzzled in his office. "It's not like Radar to be late," Potter thought aloud. "He left almost five hours ago!" His expression of puzzlement turned to horror when the thought came to him. What if he had gone looking for Pierce? Radar never said anything, but Potter could tell by his behavior that Radar had something on his mind. Or worse yet, what if he was caught and captured too? "Damn!"

"Okay, Major, take it easy. I'll have another jeep there to meet you in an hour."

"Good! And only four hours late. Good day, Colonel."

Colonel Potter barely noticed the arrogance in the Major's voice. His mind was on Radar. He was determined not to lose another good friend if he could prevent it. "Klinger! Radio the MPs. Radar never showed up at Kimpo."

"Yes, sir," Klinger replied, a look of horror on his face upon hearing the news.

Korean words filled the air of the woods near the road. Radar moved as close as he dare to a group of North Korean soldiers. He followed them at a distance through the woods until they reached a clearing. An impromptu camp had apparently been set up deep in the woods. "Wow!" After this exclamation accidentally slipped from Radar's lips, the soldiers turned around to search for the source of the noise. Radar hid behind a tree and stood stock still, frozen by fear as he listened to the rustle of the soldiers' search.

Radar was far enough behind them that the soldiers did not discover him. Hearing no further noise and finding nothing, the soldiers abandoned their search and continued on to the camp. After waiting a few minutes, Radar moved forward to get a look at the camp. There was one old bombed-out hut which the soldiers had set up camp around. Radar knew a little Korean and one word which the soldiers had said instilled both hope and fright in him: "prisoner."

Emerging from the hut were two North Korean soldiers followed by Hawkeye and another North Korean soldier who was holding a gun at Hawkeye's back. The soldiers ushered a bruised Hawkeye into a tent; one of the soldiers stood guard in front. Staying under the cover of the foliage, Radar circled around the camp closer to the tent. Night was beginning to fall.

"Any word from the MPs?" B.J. inquired. Colonel Potter stood by Klinger who was on the phone in Radar's office. "None," Potter replied with a heavy heart.

"Damn." You could hear the exasperation in B.J.'s voice. Klinger got off the phone with I-Corps just to report the same. None of the search parties had turned up anything besides Radar's jeep; road blocks had even been set up. The Army couldn't send up any choppers because of all the heavy fighting and sniper activity in the area. Colonel Potter had already put an end to anyone's ideas about taking up a search chopper...even though he himself had the same idea. But his determination not to lose another member of the camp was more compelling.

"You might as well get some shut-eye, B.J. There's nothing we can do," Potter said trying to convince himself at the same time.

"Can you get any sleep, Colonel?"

"No," Potter replied, well aware of how B.J. felt. Frank rushed into the office with a disgusted look on his face. "Colonel, I can't get to sleep with that Major playing his music in MY tent! Can't you find somewhere else for him to stay? I mean, Pierce was bad, but at least he was quiet."

"Colonel.." Winchester began as he slammed open the door. "There you are, you half- wit!" He exclaimed, looking at Frank. "Colonel, I cannot live with cretin who has no taste in music and no concept of privacy!"

"I have no concept of privacy?! I'm not the one playing music while other people are trying to sleep!" Frank replied, outraged. "Hold it!" Potter yelled. The activities of the day had already drained him of every bit of patience. "You two Majors are to go back to your tent and settle this matter between yourselves!" Potter pointed toward the door. "Now, OUT!" The two majors looked at one another in contempt and silently headed out of the office. They exchange insults on the way to the Swamp. "It's good to see those two getting along so well," B.J. said sarcastically.

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