Did M.A.S.H. Really Never Show Radar O’Reilly’s Left Hand on the Show?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Radar O’Reilly’s left hand was never shown on M.A.S.H.

One of the few actors to star in both the film M.A.S.H. and the TV series M.A.S.H….

Gary Burghoff, otherwise known as Radar O’Reilly, the innocent supply clerk for the M.A.S.H. unit (not like the surgeons, who would do all sorts of crazy stuff, like have a casino in their tent), is one of the actors most associated with M.A.S.H. (perhaps only Jamie Farr and Alan Alda are more associated with the series than Burghoff).

Look again at the picture above. Notice anything? In the photo, Burghoff is hiding his left hand. This is because Burghoff was born with a misshapen left hand. Reader Eric P. wrote in to ask if it was true that Burghoff’s left hand was never seen on the series.

The answer is no. While Burghoff hid the hand quite often, there are more than a few instances where it is visible, including interestingly enough, in his first scene in the first episode of the series!

Check it out…

So no, Eric, while they did hide it, they did not hide it entirely.

The legend is…


Thanks to Eric for the question!

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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19 Responses to “Did M.A.S.H. Really Never Show Radar O’Reilly’s Left Hand on the Show?”

  1. ParanoidObsessive on August 19th, 2016 at 9:37 am

    This actually leaves me kind of curious – was it explicitly a case of the show deliberately having him hide it as much as possible, or was it more a case of him personally being somewhat self-conscious about it, and thus going out of his way to hide it of his own initiative?

  2. I presume it was a mix of the both. He likely preferred to hide it as much as he could, while the show likely did not want to invite questions about the hand by showing it a lot.

  3. From interviews with Gary B. Apparently he has always been ashamed of his crippled hand and has always tried to hide it – see fx. Match Game.

  4. Oh, I believe that, MP, but I bet that the show also didn’t feel like having to explain his hand, either, so his interests matched their own.

  5. And yet, Gary was a drummer. Or maybe he took up the drums to help keep his hand in “condition.”

  6. This is sort of like how Jimmy Doohan, Scotty, would often hide his right hand on STAR TREK. Due to a WWII injury, Doohan was missing his middle finger (I believe it was) on his right hand. More often than not, the actor would hide the hand. The most noticeable shot I’ve ever seen showing the missing finger is a pic from “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode where Scotty is bringing an arm load of tribbles to Captain Kirk in the rec room. Because Scotty carries the bundle of tribbles in both arms, he could distinctly see the missing finger on the right hand. There are one or two other times where it’s visible, too.

  7. Also, for the *character*, Radar’s left hand might have prevented him from being drafted into the Army. Or even if it wouldn’t have, it would be a natural question for the audience to ask if they noticed, given that a running theme of the show is that pretty much none of the characters *wanted* to be in the Army.

  8. Good point, David.

  9. First of all his left hand is not crippled. It’s a birth defect called syndactyly. Webbing of the fingers. He had a great surgeon and is very lucky to be able to use all of his fingers. The reason I know this is because I too have syndactyly. I also had a great surgeon and have the use full use of all of them. It is something that you do hide because of people and their reaction. You get use to it and live a happy and healthy life. I hope this helps everyone understand the situation.

  10. Paul E Hughes on March 26th, 2017 at 8:27 am

    I have a right hand that is also like Gary’s left hand but I don’t hide it my right side of my chest has no muscle but I get along I don’t like people to see my chest I think they will just say whats wrong with him so I always wear a shirt .
    I was born with a webbed hand and had them cut apart when I was born it took 5 years and I don’t remember any of it

  11. Thank you for the information about Gary Burghoff. I was interested in the truth about his left hand. I have a finger on my right hand that was damaged many years ago. And I tried for years to hide it. Then one day I just stopped. If people noticed, I didn’t care anymore. The only ones that ever ask about it is, children. And I don’t mind telling them, explaining why I was like that. Just maybe I was able to let them know that not all people are the same.

  12. You are wrong he has someone of fingers but they are deformed

  13. Therese Tuckness on June 14th, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    If you look closely.. the uncut version when bj came.. Hawkeye talked about.the disease…Nero-pratcia sp? Where radar is biting his nails. I was told that his left hand was showing. I wa wanted to see on my dvds to see if it’s true. Fourth season.

  14. Honestly, I was so busy enjoying the show I didn’t even notice his hand was different until it was stated in a fact blog that “the person playing Radar wouldn’t have been in the military because of his left hand”. I’d say he did a one on getting people more interested in him than his uniquities

  15. This site is AWESOME !
    Now I know Gary Burghoff does not have a webbed hand.
    Just a silly question that sticks to the back of your brain forever.
    That know one knows the real answer. Thank you . Now that I know your there, I will definitely follow

  16. My six year old son has the same condition it is not a disease it is not cancer before babies are born babies with play with the strings in the mother’s cervix and the strings get wrapped around the fingers it cuts off growth and can leave fingers fully fused bone wise.

  17. I heard radar was a nice guy but Burghoff was a complete asshole to everyone!!

  18. He is a very good drummer, well trained too, there is a video on the web and he even does a great solo of in one episode of the show.

  19. Gary Burghoff and Jimmy Doohan aren’t the only one to have hidden a left hand deformity from the camera. Walter Emanuel Jones of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is missing a finger on his left hand.

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