Radar O'Reilly was hiding a secret on M*A*S*H

Cheryl E Preston

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Radar O'ReillyHubpages screenshot

Hidden in plain sight

Gary Burgoff portrayed Cpl. Walter Eugene "Radar" O'Reilly in the 1970 hit film MASH. He reprised the role two years later in the television series M*A*S*H that ran on CBS from 1972-1983. Although the sitcom ran for 11 seasons Burgough left after season seven because he said he was dealing with burnout. His character Radar was beloved by the fans and was the straight man to the Surgeons who provided most of the humor on the show.

Burgoff has said that in the movie his character was dark and sarcastic and that as the television series progressed he noticed that the other characters from the film were evolving. He decided to make Radar more of an innocent and this can be seen as time goes by on the award-winning sitcom.

Burgoff had a secret that was well hidden during those seven years when O'Reilly was on screen and some viewers may not have been aware of it. There were those who suspected something was amiss but may not have known the facts. if you had a keen eye you may have noticed that Radar kept his left fingers hidden at all times in unique ways. Radar often put his hand in his pocket or carried a clipboard with only his knuckles showing. He held his teddy bear so that his left fingers were never seen and many viewers probably thought the character was just being portrayed as nervous and childlike.

A medical diagnosis

Sometimes when Radar was with the doctors they would be shown making hand gestures but his hands would remain by his side, behind him, or in his lap if he was seated. This was not scripted but an elaborate and successful attempt by Burgoff to not have his medical issue on display. Burgoff was born with an affliction called brachydactyly, also known as short digits which causes fingers and toes to be short.

This disorder is formed through bone dysostosis which manifests as abnormalities of individual bones or is centralized in a group of bones but does not spread to other areas. In Burgoff's case, his bone dysmorphia was due to Poland syndrome and, resulted in the three fingers on his left hand being significantly shorter than those on his right hand. If you were not aware of this you will probably be paying more attention when you watch episodes of M*a*s*h from now on when Radar O'Reilly is on screen.

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I write, about breaking news, and current events. I wrote a newspaper column from 1997 to 2007 and have written for various online platforms since 2012 including Yahoo Contributor Network, Hubpages, and Vocal Media.

Roanoke, VA
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