The 1972 sitcom “M*A*S*H” introduced many beloved characters, including Corporal Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly, played by Gary Burghoff. Known for his nervous nature and dedication, Radar was a fan favorite despite being overlooked by his military counterparts.
Burghoff portrayed Radar from the show’s start until the seventh season in 1979, leaving to focus on personal relationships and fight burnout. Despite enjoying the role, Burghoff found it difficult to separate himself from Radar, saying, “I hate cute.” He disliked being perceived as an adorable, short, timid character, commenting, “I was always the smallest kid on the block.”
Born with a congenital disability called Brachydactyly, Burghoff tried to hide his left hand on camera. He often positioned himself to conceal his smaller fingers, using his right hand for gestures. Despite his insecurities, he didn’t let his disability hinder his acting career. “I knew my disability would set me apart and make me special,” he reflected.
His fellow cast members adored him, and director Charles Dubin remembered him as caring and pleasant. Burghoff’s portrayal of Radar included moments that revealed his disability, such as when he held a football or performed a salute. In one scene, Radar’s hands were visible as he opened a box with both hands, and in another, he lifted his left hand for a double salute.

Memorable scenes included Radar hearing approaching helicopters before everyone else, performing his usual morning salute, and cuddling his pet guinea pig, Babette. These moments showcased his unique character and the gentle humor of the show.

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