Denver Diaries: ‘Radar’ jumps the Obama ship


Last night I decided the line to get into Pepsi Center was too long for my taste, so I strolled around downtown Denver, just to see what interesting people might be around.

I stopped into a McDonald’s for a bite to eat and ran across this distinguished gentleman and his wife. I saw he had a delegate tag on.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. “All the action is down at Pepsi Center and you’re a delegate.”

“I was down there but needed to come back for some medicine,” he said.

I asked him where he’s from. He’s from Iowa. We then talked about a few more things, including the fact I’m from neighboring Minnesota and eventually I asked him where in Iowa he lives.

“Ottumwa,” he said.

“You know what I’m going to ask you now, right?” I said.

He stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Radar.”

He is, in fact, Don Shaffer (and his wife is Pat). And he is the person on whom the character of Radar O’Reilly was based in the book that later became the movie and TV series M*A*S*H. Richard Hornberger (who took the name Richard Hooker) thinly disguised the characters in the book as soldiers who served with him in an Army field hospital in Pyongyang, Korea. Shaffer was company clerk and a chaplain assistant. When the unit had to “bug out” to escape the advancing Chinese, Shaffer had to drive two USO members. One was Joe DiMaggio.

He told me the real “Hot Lips” Hoolihan was “much more beautiful than Ms. Swit,” and that the soldier on whom Klinger was based was gay (and was named Springer), but it was the Army that was trying to throw him out , while he wanted to stay in the service.

radar.jpgHe served in both Korea and Vietnam and — after concluding his service in intelligence work — became a professor of history and political science.

Shaffer said he was always interested in politics. He hitch hiked to Des Moines in the ’40s to see Thomas Dewey and Harry Truman open their campaign offices.

And now here he was, sitting in a McDonald’s in Denver, another Hillary Clinton delegate who won’t vote for Barack Obama. He says he didn’t like what he said the Obama forces did in Iowa’s caucuses, taking advantage of the state’s same-day voter registration rule to pack the caucuses. “Many of them were Republicans and you’ll never see them again,” he said.

As precinct captain, he tried to get the other Clinton supporters in Ottumwa to support Obama. None would. “I won’t vote for John McCain,” he told me.

  • Solid reporting, Bob!

  • Very fun story to read.

  • Ottumwa newspaper article vetting Radar claim:

    It’s not a buzzkill, but an augmentation.

  • David Brauer

    Somehow, the link got busted, Bob. It goes to MPR, not the source.

    (BC: i’ll fix it up)

  • Wendy Susan

    very interesting! but how did you know to ask him if he was Radar?

  • Bob Collins

    The key word was “Ottumwa.” I didn’t know he WAS “Radar,” I was going to ask him ABOUT Radar.

    i’m pretty sure Ottumwa isn’t known for anything else.