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Figure A

9/23/2012 10:39:15 PM

"Is Bismarck a herring?"

Trapper just said that in "The General Flipped at Dawn." Anybody know what it means?? I know who Bismarck was, and what a herring is, but I don't get the connection.

Georgia Girl

9/24/2012 12:02:22 AM

me either. Saw it last week. Funny. ???


9/24/2012 12:13:21 AM

I'll watch that episode later tonight...I don't know the context of that line. But I do know that the Bismarck was also a German battleship in WWII which would make more sense if you are comparing it to a fish.


9/24/2012 3:20:26 PM

Bismarck Herring was a very famous brand of pickled herring in Europe during the 1930s-50s.

Figure A

9/24/2012 3:37:19 PM

Oh! That's a pretty obscure reference.


9/26/2012 3:15:07 AM

That's what I liked about MASH and it's writing, it referenced stuff that would've been relative back then. I think the writers and producers said that they purposely put that kind of stuff in to amuse themselves and what not. I think it is part of the reason MASH is still fresh somewhat today. You can pick up on new things each time you watch an episode.


9/30/2012 9:25:50 AM

This is what i heard,

ofcourse everyone agrees a herring is a fish, and a red herring is a "fish story". it is my understanding the bismark reference was aimed at the illusive german battleship of WWII fame.
her short career was rampant with "what will she do" "what can she do?" being that Hitler ordered german navy not to fight at one time for fear of losing it. this would make some illude to the prowess of this certain ship being... well red herring like.
though history records a different final fate for the bismark, until that day, she was a ghost. in the M*A*S*H context it was stated as a question, albeit sarcastically. "was bismark a herring?" well, we found out in the end she wasnt, unfortunately starting with the HMS Hood.

Zelmo Zale

10/1/2012 2:08:48 AM

Bismarck Herring came about in the 1870's. A German shopkeeper had a recipe for pickled herring: salted herring, white wine, vinegar and spices. The shopkeeper sent a barrel of it to Otto Von Bismarck, who he greatly admired. Bismarck was asked (and he approved) the shopkeeper's request to use his name, so the Bismarck Herring was born.

The brand lasted until WWII and was resurrected in 1997.

Trapper's statement was a vague referral that I'm sure very few people understood. I had no idea what it meant till I researched it for my blog.


10/2/2012 2:21:32 AM

Zelmo Zale wrote:
No, you're not crazy. I tend to agree, but some of those nurses from the first couple seasons were quite outstanding. Sheila Lauritsen, the blonde "running nurse" from the opening credits, was in a bunch of season 2 episodes and was amazingly beautiful. Gwen Farrell was on the show a lot; Bobbie Mitchell (Gage) and Patrica Stevens started in season 2. Oh yeah.

There were others...Suzanne Zenor was Murphy in the "For Want of a Boot" episode. Joan Van Ark as Erica in "Radar's Report". Yeah, the 4077th was never at a loss for attractive women. has a good article on the nurses of the 4077th.

I've always thought that Leslie Miekeljohn (Lt. Scorch) was quite an attractive woman.


12/12/2019 5:28:03 AM

The Answer (better late than never)

"Is Bismarck a Herring" is almost certainly a reference to the popular Bismarck Herring product as others have mentioned. However, the episode in question aired in September of '74. In February of '74, Blazing Saddles, a Mel Brooks film, included this same joke. The character delivered the line with a thick german accent. It seems possible that the use of this phrase in MASH is actually a reference to Blazing Saddles more than anything.

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