When Radar O'Reilly, just out of high school, left Ottumwa, Iowa, and enlisted in the United States Army it was with the express purpose of making a career of the Signal Corps. Radar O'Reilly was only five feet three inches tall, but he had a long, thin neck and large ears that left his head at perfect right angles. Furthermore, under certain atmospheric, as well as metabolic, conditions, and by enforcing complete concentration and invoking unique extrasensory powers, he was able to receive messages and monitor conversations far beyond the usual range of human hearing.
With this to his advantage it seemed to Radar O'Reilly that he was a natural for the communications branch of the service, and so, following graduation, he turned down various highly attractive business opportunities, some of them legitimate, and decided to serve his country. Before his enlistment, in fact, he used to fall asleep at night watching a whole succession of, first, sleeve stripes, and then shoulder insignia, floating by until he would see himself, with four stars on his shoulders, conducting high-level Pentagon briefings, attending White House dinner parties and striding imperiously to ringside tables in New York night clubs.
In the middle of November of the year 1951 A.D., Radar O'Reilly, a corporal in the United States Army Medical Corps, was sitting in the Painless Polish Poker and Dental Clinic of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital astride the 38th Parallel in South Korea, ostensibly trying to fill a straight flush. Having received the message that the odds against such a fortuitous occurrence open at 72,192 to 1, what he was actually doing was monitoring a telephone conversation. The conversation was being conducted, over a precarious connection, between Brigadier General Hamilton Hartington Hammond, the Big Medical General forty- five miles to the south in Seoul, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Braymore Blake, in the office of the commanding officer of the 4077th MASH, just forty-five yards to Radar O'Reilly's east.
"Listen," Radar O'Reilly said, his head turning slowly back and forth in the familiar scanning action.
"Listen to what?" Captain Walter Koskiusko Waldowski, the Dental Officer and Painless Pole, asked.
"Henry," Radar O'Reilly said, "is trying for two new cutters."
"I gotta have two more men," Colonel Blake was shouting into the phone, and Radar could hear it.
"What do you think you're running up there?" General Hammond was shouting back, and Radar could hear that, too. "Walter Reed Hospital?"
"Now you listen to me . . ." Colonel Blake was saying.
"Just take it easy, Henry," General Hammond was saying.
"I won't take it easy," Colonel Blake shouted. "If I don't get two . . ."
"All right! All right!" General Hammond shouted. "So I'll send you the two best men I have."