Gary Burghoff, a.k.a Corporal Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly from “MAS*H,” is a caring father who always puts his family first

Tons of fans around the world loved Corporal Walter Eugene O’Reilly, better known as “Radar,” on the film and subsequent sitcom “M*A*S*H.

The showrunners begged Gary Burghoff to return after he left in 1979 with an offer of $4 million, but he rejected it.

Most people don’t know much about his family, but his son is active on social media.

The actor became a grandfather in 2023.

It’s time for fans to learn how Burghoff looks now and what he’s doing.

Gary Burghoff is best known for playing the role of Cpl. Water “Radar” O’Reilly on CBS’s “M*A*S*H” for seven years. The sitcom aired between 1972 and 1983, but the actor left way before that for several reasons.

Executive producer Larry Gelbart said that Radar was “the one who gets things done” on the Korean way sitcom. Most people felt like he kept things running, which is why the character was so popular and why his departure was felt by audiences everywhere.

Pictured from left is Gary Burghoff (as Cpl. Walter 'Radar' O'Reilly), Jamie Farr (as Cpl. Maxwell Q. Klinger) in the CBS television sitcom, ASH. | Source: Getty Images

However, Burghoff is nothing like his character in real life. He never cared much for the limelight or money, deciding to dedicate his life to family and work in theater. Unfortunately, that mentality almost made him bankrupt in the early ’90s.

The actor came up with the original personality of Radar for the film version of the story. O’Reilly was a “lone, darker, and somewhat sardonic character,” according to Burghoff. However, he quickly realized that all the people on the show were developing in different ways.

Therefore, he had to adapt Radar. Using Gelbart’s assistance, the actor came up with a Radar who was much more innocent than the rest. The other characters were doctors or intellectuals who hated what was happening in the war.

But Radar was clueless, so he would have to react differently to whatever happened. Additionally, he was more active and free to do what he felt like doing. That made the show so famous, as they managed to turn a horrific situation into dark humor that people could appreciate.

Gelbart said in many interviews that he loved writing for Radar. Burghoff said:

“I think he liked the fact that the character lacked guile and he could write from his own honest “child’s-self” as opposed to having to create ‘clever’ intellectual hyperbole.”

The producer also gave Burghoff full permission to react however he wanted to the delight of viewers. That’s why the actor loved playing the character for so long. He loved the writers, the producers, and the rest of the crew for giving him such freedom. Meanwhile, Gelbart said it was a “true honor” to write the goodbye Radar episodes back then.

Gary Burghoff was known for a few other works before finding his home in the character of Radar. He was seen at the Off-Broadway musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” He didn’t wear the yellow shirt back then, preferring the black zig-zag attire.

However, he did a fantastic job as Charlie. Interestingly, he was only the character from “M*A*S*H” who transitioned from the film to the show. It has been said that he was the only, indeed, “irreplaceable character.”

Burghoff got to work with Donald Sutherland and Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye, and both did a fantastic job. Meanwhile, executive producer Gene Reynolds called the actor marvelous and gifted. For many people, he was the child, and younger viewers could identify with him. Gelbart added:

“Gary was phenomenal. He’s a phenomenal actor. He does that thing that actors are supposed to do – and not all of them do – he listens when other actors are speaking to him or speaking to someone in the scene, and yet he’ll do something on his own that doesn’t take away from the focus.”

Actor Gary Burghoff (Corporal Walter Eugene "Radar" O''Reilly) of the mid-1970's television series "Mash" attends the "Hollywood Collectors and Celebrities Show" April 7, 2001. | Source: Getty Images

Meanwhile, director Charles S. Dublin, who was behind the camera for most episodes, quickly praised Burghoff, calling him wonderful. No one else could’ve played Radar in such a way.

His co-star Jamie Farr said Burghoff had a certain charm, coupled with the teddy bear, the innocence, and his “cuddliness.” Therefore, it was impossible for people not to love him. “He brought a little something special to the show that none of the other characters had.”

In 1979, the actor finally said goodbye to “M*A*S*H,” shocking everyone. At the time, when people left shows, the producers often decided to replace the actor and keep the character. However, they couldn’t do that with Radar. Instead, they wrote the two-part episode called “Good-Bye, Radar.”

The sitcom explained the character’s exit by calling it a “hardship discharge,” but Burghoff wanted to move on from Radar. He wanted to play something else and do more with his life. People were sad to say farewell, mainly because the show inspired many people through dark times.

The entire cast received fan mail, where people told them how much they were inspired. Loretta Swit, who played Margaret Houlihan, revealed that a fan became a nurse because of her. Every character had growth and deepness that many sitcoms didn’t have before.

American actors Harry Morgan, as Colonel Sherman Potter, and Gary Burghoff, as Corporal Walter 'Radar' O'Reilly, appear on the set of an episode of the television series 'MASH,' titled 'Change of Command,' originally broadcast September 19, 1975. | Source: Getty Images

Back then, the United States still had forces in Vietnam, and although the series never went into politics, it still showed some unavoidable realities. The producers were not afraid to touch heavy subjects or downplay what happened during the war. Burghoff commented:

“We provided entertainment first, but our underlying theme was always pro-humanity.”

The actor also talked about how popular the show was for audiences worldwide. It was translated into more than 29 languages and adored by many people who could all relate to the characters in some way or another.

Many fans would agree that one of the best episodes for Radar was titled “Private Charles Lamb,” where Burghoff’s character saved a lamb meant for slaughter. He eventually sent the lamb home, calling him Private Charles Lamb.

One of the main themes on the show was who would go back home, and it was due to its wartime setting. At some point, Burghoff took the sentiment so hard that he decided it was time for Radar to leave as well. The actor revealed he was dealing with burnout and “couldn’t function.” He explained:

“I’d given all I had to give to the part and to the show. I care too much to give less than my best. I’d lost my vitality.”

Therefore, he left in 1979, leaving the producers to scramble because they couldn’t replace him. They tried to get him to come back after filming without him for just two days. According to the Tribune, they were ready to pay him $4 million.

Back then, that would’ve turned Burghoff into one of the best-paid actors on television. He wouldn’t be close to Alan’s salary, but it was a significant increase. Ultimately, the actor rejected the offer and moved on.

Burghoff rejected several well-paid jobs afterward to focus on his family. Unfortunately, that led to some hard financial times, but money was never that important to him. The actor commented:

“I didn’t leave M*A*S*H a wealthy man. I could have renegotiated my contract, but money wasn’t the most important thing in my life.”

He was even offered a role in “Newhart,” but he decided that theater was best for him because he wanted to work for several weeks and spend the rest of his time with his family. He wanted to be a better husband and a good father to his kids. Eventually, he even found a new calling too: art.


The actor was married to Janet Gayle, a surgical technician with a few acting credits. However, they got divorced in 1979, and it was high due to his 16-hour days recording the series. Therefore, it’s easy to understand why it was time for Burghoff to leave.

Additionally, he revealed that he missed several years of his daughter Gena’s life. After moving to Los Angeles, Gena became an actress with a few minor roles. Meanwhile, Burghoff believes you can’t be “rich and famous” if you still want to be a good father.

Eventually, Burghoff married Elisabeth Bostrom, a dental assistant, in 1985. Unfortunately, he was unemployed by 1991. The actor became a born-again Christian and prayed for some help. Somehow, he decided that painting was his path and turned it into a career with a solid income for his family.

Even Charles S. Dubin knew that Gary left “M*A*S*H” because he felt terrible about his domestic problems. On air, Radar fell in love with someone and had to say goodbye to her, which made Gary tear up, reflecting his troubles at home. Therefore, it was best to leave and focus on his loved ones and finding true love again.

Gary and Elisabeth were together until their divorce in 2005; sadly, she passed in 2019. One of their sons, Miles, posted a beautiful tribute for her on his Instagram account. The post was captioned:

“Today is a bitter-sweet day. A year ago today I lost my wonderful Mother, who was always my biggest fan.”

Burghoff had three children from his two marriages. First, he and Janet welcomed Gena Gale Burghoff in 1975, and she tried to follow her father’s footsteps into show business. However, her career didn’t take off, and Gena decided to avoid the limelight from then on.

The actor later had two sons with Elisabeth: Miles and Jordan. You can often see Gary on Miles’s social media. Their family loves fishing and has several pets because he has always loved them. Burghoff even said:

“I want the world to be innocent, kind, and gentle. Animals have never let me down in those qualities. When you allow yourself to connect with animals, [their] simplicity and joy are contagious.”

Miles actually entered professional fishing. He was even in the Bassmaster Weekend Series in 2007. He was new to the scene back then and had several sponsors like Alaska’s Baranof Wilderness Lodge and the Jetworks Air Center.

Back then, he brought his father along for the competition, much to the delight of fans at the event. They share a mutual love for fishing, and Miles explained that Gary made him fall in love with it. The actor was asked if he was going to participate too.

However, he was only there to support his son because that is what parents do to show love for their kids. Aside from being an avid angler, the actor invented and licensed better rod butt handles and a chumming device.

Interestingly, Burghoff didn’t go to the Emmy Awards in 1977 after being nominated and losing for several years. However, he was given the prize but missed it because he was fishing. Therefore, his co-star Alan Alda, the presenter that year, praised Burghoff to the audience.

Although he was not competing, Gary helped Miles strategize for the competition, full of expert pros in the industry. On his Instagram, his son also attributes his love of fishing to the fact that they lived in the Florida Keys for a while.

The avid fisher likes to post throwback photos and more of his family, especially Gary, and you can check their adventures and how the family truly is. Moreover, their dynamics prove that Burghoff made the right choice by leaving the business to focus on family.

Miles revealed in 2023 that he and his wife, Katie, were expecting their first child, who is Gary’s first grandkid. His son took to Instagram with the announcement and wrote:

“With the future looking so bright for the Burghoff household, I am looking forward to the changes that 2023 is bringing! Happy New Year, everybody! It’s time to get to work and make 2023 an epic year! #letsgettowork #happynewyear2023″

It’s safe to say that Burghoff’s life is as peaceful as it can be. He’s 80 and continues to focus on family. A few years ago, his clan decided to raise funds to help people suffering from the California fires, and his son, Jordan, posted a video on Youtube.

Instead of returning to acting when he needed money, Gary turned to painting during his financial struggles. Fortunately, he was quick a master with a brush and sold portraits of North American wildlife for up to $25,000 in several galleries across the country.

One of his series includes animals reintroduced into their habitats because their numbers had lowered significantly over time, such as eagles, mountain lions, turkeys, and more. The former actor commented:

”I’m hoping to make the viewer see the beauty and soul of the animal.”

He also collected some art while still on “M*A*S*H,” but it wasn’t until 1993 that he became a full-blown painter. Burghoff also took a role as the host of a public television series about pets and went on a national tour with Neil Simon. He is retired now, but his love for painting and animals will never fade.