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stony brook university school of communication and journalism

The combat boots and dog tags worn by Alan Alda in M*A*S*H will be auctioned off on on July 28. (LM Otero/AP)


The combat boots and dog tags Alan Alda wore while playing Hawkeye Pierce on the  television series “M-A-S-H” sold at auction on July 28 for $125,000.

Alda held onto the boots and dog tags for more than 40 years after the show ended but decided to sell them through Heritage Auctions in Dallas to raise money for the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

The buyer’s name wasn’t released.


When Alan Alda reported to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the summer of 1972, he received two items from wardrobe that became the only M*A*S*H mementos he kept when the show ended in 1983.

Costumers handed him a pair of scuffed-up combat boots, inside which someone had written in black marker the name of his character: “HAWKEYE.” He was also given a pair of dog tags which the names of strangers had been stamped: Hersie Davenport and Morriss D. Levine.

Alda was grateful the dog tags didn’t say Benjamin Franklin Pierce of Crabapple Cove, Maine. That would have made them mere props that couldn’t have carried the weight of war. Wearing those real dog tags, the genuine article, “seemed like a handshake,” Alda says. Until recently, he knew nothing about the two men whose names are on those dog tags — one, a Black soldier from the South; the other, a Jewish man from New York.

“Yet every day for 11 years, putting them on over my head and wearing them, I had a very close connection with them,” said Alda. “I always wondered what their lives were like. Were they alive, or were they dead? How had they served? They were real people to me, even though I didn’t know anything about them other than their names. But to this day, I remember the names very well, and that’s why it meant a lot to me.”

These pieces of wardrobe, the last remnants of his tour of duty, mean so much to Alda he now parts with the boots and dog tags only to help fund what has become one of his greatest passions. 

Heritage Auctions will auction off Alda’s M*A*S*H mementos in a single-lot auction on July 28. All the money raised will benefit the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University and the university’s School of Communication and Journalism. Heritage will also donate all of its proceeds to the center.

“Hawkeye’s boots and dog tags are not only entertainment memorabilia from a beloved series, but the cherished keepsakes of a national treasure,” says Heritage’s Chief Strategy Officer Joshua Benesh. “And before that, they were the personal artifacts of real soldiers. They now take on a new life as a source of fundraising for a noble cause in which a noble man has invested so much of his time and resources, and we are honored to be even a small part of such a grand gesture.”

Alda kept the boots and dog tags for years in a closet because he did not know where else to store them.

“Then I realized that they could come to life again to be used to help the Center for Communicating Science because, probably, somebody would be interested in having a memento of the show,” he says. “I can’t think of a better use for them.”

When asked if it will be difficult to say goodbye to these last keepsakes from M*A*S*H he responded, “Not at all. Because I knew they were going to a good cause. They were going to do more good than sitting in my closet. They were screaming, ‘Let me out!’ I thought, what a great chance to put these boots and dog tags to work again. For 11 years, they helped promote the idea that human connection could be a palliative for war. And now they can promote the idea that a human connection can get us to understand the things that affect our lives so deeply.”

SBU Journalism Newsroom

By Daniel Dunaief 

Stony Brook University recently announced that the School of Journalism will be renamed to the School of Communication and Journalism. The School is the first, and only, in the 64-campus SUNY system that is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

The new name aligns more closely with the School’s expanding undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and with the increased demand for professionals with backgrounds and experience in different communication-related disciplines.

“Communication goes beyond journalism, and Stony Brook’s School of Communication and Journalism will offer new opportunities for our students to explore important fields in science communication, health communication and mass communication, in addition to journalism,” Fotis Sotiropoulos, interim university provost and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences said.

In the past year, the School has begun to offer graduate programs in science communication, in collaboration with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and in public health, in collaboration with the Stony Brook Program in Public Health. Additional programs are in development.

“Faculty at the School and the Alda Center work closely on communication research, particularly in the field of science communication, and by renaming the School, we will be able to foster additional communication research,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the School, executive director of the Alda Center, and vice provost for academic strategy and planning at Stony Brook. “Effective communication builds trust among people, enhances mutual understanding, and creates opportunities for collaboration. Now more than ever, we need effective communicators, and Stony Brook is eager to help fill that need.”

The School of Journalism was founded in 2006 and enrolls approximately 250 students. Its faculty include Pulitzer Prize winners, award-winning international and foreign correspondents, and experts in digital innovation. Graduates have gone on to work as reporters and media professionals at organizations around the country, including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Moth Radio Hour, Council of Foreign Relations, Major League Baseball, and Nieman Lab.

The School is home to the Alda Center, the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting and the Center for News Literacy. It also offers the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists, a one-week intensive program designed to introduce students from across Long Island and New York City to the possibilities of journalism as a career.

Learn more about the School of Communication and Journalism at www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/journalism/