Actor Alan Alda held onto a pair of boots and dog tags he wore on the hit TV series “M*A*S*H” for 40 years. These treasured items are now up for auction for a good cause.
The 89-year-old Alda played Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce for 11 seasons on the groundbreaking show that told the stories of a group of Korean War doctors and nurses. Every day, as part of his costume, he pulled on a pair of combat boots and slipped on the metal dog tags to transform into the sarcastic, talented Hawkeye.
“I put these boots on every day that we shot MASH for eleven years. And the dog tags, too,” Alda wrote in a signed letter of provenance included with the items. “And every time my foot found its way into one of the boots, or the necklace of tags went over my head, I remembered: Someone had worn these once in a real war.”
The boots have “Hawkeye” written inside, and the dog tags have the names of two real soldiers.
In an interview with Heritage Auctions, Alda talked about how wearing items that actual soldiers wore (instead of his character’s name) helped him connect with his character and the legacy of the people who wore the boots and tags before him.
“They were scuffed up when we started,” he said in the interview. “And the feel of the leather on my foot, the comfort of being in the shoe, did something. I don’t know. It’s a mysterious thing. But it makes you feel more at home in the character.”
Alda kept the items in a box in the closet for 40 years. After all that time, he realized these cherished items needed to rejoin the world and decided to auction them to support his charity.
“They could come to life again and be used to help the Center of Communicating Science,” he told Heritage Auctions. “Because probably somebody would be interested in having a memento of the show.”
You can watch the interview below:
The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York has become the actor’s passion project in recent years. The nonprofit center works with scientists and doctors worldwide to help improve their communication with the general public.
Heritage Auction will accept online bids for the boots and dog tags until July 28. As of this story’s publication, the current high bid is $14,500.