5 O'Clock Charlie

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"5 O’Clock Charlie"
M*A*S*H episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 2 (26th Overall)
Directed by Norman Tokar
Written by

Larry Gelbart Keith Walker

Laurence Marks
Production code K403
Original air date September 22, 1973
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Divided We Stand"
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"Radar's Report"
M*A*S*H (season 2)
List of M*A*S*H episodes

"5 O'Clock Charlie" was the 26th episode of the M*A*S*H television series, and second of season two. The episode aired on September 22, 1973.


For six weeks, an ammunition depot near the camp has been the target of a punctual but inept North Korean bomber pilot. Every day at 5:00 he flies overhead and attempts to hit the depot with a single hand-thrown bomb. The pilot, nicknamed "5 O'Clock Charlie," has been so reliably unsuccessful that the denizens of the 4077th have begun a betting pool based on how far away from the target his bomb will land. Only Frank and Margaret regard "Charlie" as a serious threat. Frank requests an anti-aircraft gun (which Lt Col. Blake misidentifies as an "04ww nug" until he realizes he is holding Frank's requisition upside down), and Brigadier General Crandall Clayton (Herb Voland) comes to the camp to assess the situation. Clayton, who has placed the ammo dump near the hospital so that the enemy will leave it alone (a tactic he says he learned from the Germans which draws derision from Hawkeye about adopting tactics from the side that lost), is initially skeptical of the need for a gun. On the next raid Charlie's misaimed bomb destroys Gen. Clayton's jeep. He agrees to send the gun and Frank takes charge of it.

Hawkeye and Trapper argue that the presence of the anti-aircraft gun will attract more competent bombers, noting that "fire draws fire," but Frank is more interested in drilling his "platoon" of three South Korean soldiers. ("You will be the platoon leader, you will be the squad leader, and you... will be the squad.") Eventually, Hawkeye, Trapper and Cardozo (Corey Fischer) conclude that the problem is not the gun, but the ammo dump. They dye sheets and place them on the ammo dump to help Charlie find his target. When Charlie makes his next pass, Hawkeye and Trapper confuse Frank's men into aiming the gun directly at the ammo dump. Charlie misses his target yet again, but when Frank orders his troops to fire the gun, they hit the ammo dump, destroying it.[1][2][3][4][5]


A Ryan PT-22 painted with North Korean markings was used for Charlie's plane. The plane used was owned by Don Burkett, who kept the plane in a hangar at Long Beach Airport. The production team painted over the plane's orange and white starburst pattern with special paint to resemble the North Korean markings. Burkett himself actually flew the plane from the rear seat, as the pilot who was assigned to do the flying had never flown a plane of this type before (Burkett can be seen hunched over in the back seat during some shots). Enough film was taken during the one day of flying they were able to piece together two episodes featuring the plane and its inept pilot. An article in the October 1972 edition of Private Pilot magazine featured Burkett's experience doing the show. The magazine's cover has a picture of what the plane looked like when it wasn't "in costume".

The character of 5 O'Clock Charlie returns in the Season 3 episode "There Is Nothing Like a Nurse", in which the nursing staff is evacuated based on intelligence that points to an upcoming air raid on the 4077. In the end, the "air raid" turns out to be 5 O'Clock Charlie, this time armed with propaganda leaflets.


During the U.S. Pacific campaign of World War II—specifically, during the Guadalcanal campaign (1942–1943)—Japanese bombers would harass various U.S. Army Air Force bases at night to deprive personnel of sleep. American troops nicknamed these bombers with various related nicknames, such as "5 O'Clock Charlie", "Bed-Check Charlie" or "Washing-Machine Charlie". Various methods of harassment included overflights at full throttle with propellers at near-flat pitch, or deliberately unsynchronized engines.

One Washing-Machine Charlie appeared in the U.S. television comedy series McHale's Navy.[6] Washing Machine Charlie was also discussed in Gregory Boyington's autobiography and made appearances in Black Sheep Squadron, the television show loosely based on Boyington's World War II exploits.


  1. ^ Wittebols, James H. (2003). Watching M*A*S*H, Watching America: A Social History of the 1972–1983 Television Series. McFarland. pp. 161–166. ISBN 0-7864-1701-3. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  2. ^ "Episode Guide". TV Guide. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  3. ^ "The Classic Sitcoms Guide: M*A*S*H". classicsitcoms.com. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  4. ^ "M*A*S*H: Season Two (Collector's Edition) (1973)". digitallyobsessed.com. 
  5. ^ Reiss, David S. (1983). M*A*S*H: the exclusive, inside story of TV's most popular show. 
  6. ^ "McHale's Navy" (1963), season 1, episode 22. See: Internet Movie Database or TV.com.

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