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Pics: Alan Alda’s ‘M-A-S-H’ boots, dog tags up for auction

Publicity photo from the M*A*S*H season premiere, 1974. Pictured are: Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff, Alan Alda (driver of jeep), and McLean Stevenson. (CBS Television/Released)
July 12, 2023

Alan Alda’s iconic combat boots and dog tags from “M-A-S-H” are being auctioned to support the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York.

According to The Associated Press, after keeping the boots and dog tags of his character “Hawkeye” at the conclusion of the popular television show “M-A-S-H” 40 years ago, Alda, age 87, is finally selling the props in order to support his center that is dedicated to helping doctors and scientists communicate more effectively. On July 28, Heritage Auctions will be auctioning the boots and military identification tags in Dallas, Texas.

Alda wore the iconic boots and dog tags for each of the 11 seasons of “M-A-S-H,” which portrayed a Korean Ware medical unit. Alda’s character, Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, was a surgeon in the show who provided comical relief on the series.

In 1983, at the conclusion of the show, an episode directed and written by Alda reportedly drew the largest audience for a television show in recorded history, according to The Associated Press.

Alda said the combat boots and dog tags, which were given to him by the show’s costume department, “made an impression on me every day that we shot the show.”

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“There’s an old belief among actors that when you put the shoes of the character on, it’s easier to believe you’re the character and I think the boots had that effect on me,” Alda said.

After receiving the props, Alda quickly realized that the dog tags did not have his character’s name on them but had the names of two men he believed had been former soldiers in the U.S. military.

The auction house recently discovered that the dog tags had the names Hersie Davenport and Morriss D. Levine and that both men previously served in the military prior to being discharged from the Army in 1945.

“I saw those names every day,” Alda said. “It was an interesting experience to put them on. I wasn’t dealing with props. I was dealing with something that put me in touch with real people.”

Joshua Benesh, Heritage’s chief strategy officer, noted that the combat boots and dog tags are special since both props have remained with Alda since the conclusion of the television show.

“It was pretty thrilling that what he chose to keep was something that endured with him episode after episode, season after season, throughout the entire run of ‘M-A-S-H,’” Benesh said.

According to Military Times, both the dog tags and combat boots were displayed on a shelf in Alda’s office before being stored in a closet. After 40 years, Alda views the upcoming auction as “a chance to put them to work again.”

The Heritage Auctions website states that all proceeds from the sale of Alda’s props will go towards the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York.

Alda’s non-profit center is designed to help both doctors and scientists communicate more effectively by utilizing communication strategies and improvisational exercises.

The current bid on Alda’s combat boots and dog tags is $24,000.