M*A*S*H: Season 1, Episode 17

Sometimes You Hear the Bullet (28 Jan. 1973)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Comedy, Drama, War
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Ratings: 8.6/10 from 260 users  
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Hawkeye's childhood buddy drops by, and reveals that he is writing a book about his experiences in the infantry - experiences that may hit a little too close to home.



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Episode cast overview:
Private Walter / Wendell Peterson (as Ronny Howard)
Cpl. Tommy Gillis (as James Callahan)
Lynette Mettey ...
Lt. Nancy Griffin (as Lynnette Mettey)


Margaret's in the mood for love...just until Frank gets near her, dips her and blows out his back. Margaret and Frank nag at Henry, until Henry recommends Frank for the Purple Heart for his "frontline" injury. A genuine hero and old friend of Hawkeye, Tommy Gillis, visits the 4077; he used to be a correspondent, reporting the war; but now, he is a foot soldier, living the war. Tommy tells Hawkeye and Trapper about his novel "You Never Hear The Bullet," of which he is very proud. A young Marine, Wendell (Ronny Howard) visits the 4077 with a burst appendix. At first, Hawkeye promises to keep it secret when he learns Wendell is actually Walter, the 15-year-old younger brother, trying to impress the girl back home. But after Tommy dies on the table, Hawkeye cries; Henry tells Hawkeye two immutable truths about war. Rule #1 is apparent: Tommy is dead; but, Hawkeye realizes he CAN do something to change Rule #2. lt would involve breaking a promise... and invoking the Order of the Purple ... Written by LA-Lawyer

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | War





Release Date:

28 January 1973 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The title is based on the title of the book that Corproal Gillis plans to write about his experience in Korea. See more »


When preparing to award Frank the Purple Heart, Colonel Blake refers to Frank as "Franklin D. Burns." Frank's middle name is Marion. See more »


Henry Blake: Pierce, is there anything I can do to help?
Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce: It's the first time I cried since I came to this crummy place. I don't understand that.
Henry Blake: Well, Gillis was your friend. I mean, it's only natural that you'd, uh, you know.
Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce: Henry, I know why I'm crying now. Tommy was my friend, and I watched him die, and I'm crying. I've watched guys die almost every day. Why didn't I ever cry for them?
Henry Blake: Because you're a doctor.
Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce: The hell does that mean?
Henry Blake: I don't know. If I had the answer, I'd be at the Mayo Clinic. Does ...
See more »


I'm in the Mood for Love
Music by Jimmy McHugh
Played on Margaret's phonograph
See more »

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User Reviews

A Really Poignant Episode
23 February 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Hawkey meets up with an old friend who is a writer, working near the front. They joke around about their shenanigans as young men. He is writing a book about what it is like to be in combat with the detail that a young soldier who had been shot said he never heard the bullet. There is a subplot that Frank Burns has applied for a purple heart because while on a tryst with Hot Lips, his back went out and he is thrown on the ground in front of her tent to avoid embarrassment. He sees this as "injured in a war zone." There is also a fight between two injured guys in post-op over a stolen salami. Back to the real story, a young guy named Wendel (played by Ronnie Howard) who has lied to get into the Marines (he is only 16). He confesses that his only reason for being there is to get a medal and show up a girlfriend that jilted him. Things heat up when Hawkeye's friend is brought in in critical condition. This is one of those memorable episodes with a quote that is always brings the horrors of war into focus.

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