It’s not uncommon for an actor to hold onto a keepsake when he wraps up production on either a show or a movie. In case Alan Aldawho charmed the world as Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce on the show mashHis keepsakes were a pair of shoes and dog tags. Earlier this week, Heritage Auctions announced that the actor will be putting his props up for sale to benefit the Alan Alda Center for Science Outreach. Alda leaves a special message about the shoes and tags, which can be read below.
I’ve been wearing these shoes every single day we shoot M*A*S*H, for eleven years. And dog tags too. And every time my foot finds its way into a shoe, or the tag necklace is on top of my head, I’m reminded: Someone once wore it in a real war.
Both dog tags had a different name, religion, and ID number, and I always wondered what happened to the soldiers who wore them. What war were they a part of? Did they survive it? Thinking of these guys wasn’t some kind of acting exercise. They were on my mind because I was literally in their shoes and wearing metal tags stamped with minimal words and numbers that served as their identification.
When I put on the shoes, I thought of the man who had put them on before me, and what he had to go through, compared to the present occupant. When the show ended, the shoes and tags were the only things I kept. I never wore it again – just kept it on the shelf. As the years went by—more than fifty years since I first wore them—I realized they could have a life again.
I’ve begun to devote most of my time to helping improve how science and medicine are communicated. In the past few years, the Alan Alda Center for Science Communication has worked with 20,000 scientists and physicians around the world to help them explain their work to the rest of us. Shoes and tags can be part of that. Putting it up for auction, with all proceeds going to the nonprofit center, is a way for them to march on again. This time to help improve contact – something a little different from the struggle in which it was first worn.
The dog tags in particular bear the names of two veterans, Hersey Davenport and Maurice de Levine. The boots are described as “standard problem combat boots,” and each boot has the name “Hawk” written inside. The above special letter comes included with the shoes and tags and is signed by Alda.
M * A * S * H effect
There are layers to create files mash. What began as a novel in 1968, Mash: A Novel About Three Army Doctors Written by Richard Hooker, it became a 1970 black comedy war film, simply titled mash. The 1972 series was a feature film that followed the doctors and staff of the “4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in South Korea. The show ran for eleven seasons, commenting on the horrors of war for audiences who were still facing the ongoing Vietnam War. Much of the commentary balanced the show’s comedic angles, but it was able to shift to darker tones and storylines in later seasons.
Despite my rocky first two seasons, mash It has become one of the most beloved shows of all time. The final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”, was the most watched and highest rated single television episode in American television history at the time. The finale brought in 125 million viewers. Throughout 256 episodes, mash He has won numerous TV awards, including fourteen Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Peabody Award, and more.
Despite the show’s closing celebration of its 40th anniversary earlier this year, it continues to be admired and find new fans. Various channels and networks continue to air episodes of M*A*S*H in reruns to this day, much to Alda’s amusement.
Profits from the auction will benefit the Alan Alda Center for Science Communication, which aims to “promote effective science communication through research, education, and training.” Heritage Auctions sat down with Alda for an interview about the Center for Communication Science, along with shoes and labels. The heritage auction will be accepting bids through July 28. As of publication of this story, the auction has breached more than $20,000.