China Beach is an American dramatic television series set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War.
The title refers to My Khe beach in the city of Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, nicknamed “China Beach” in English by American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. The ABC TV drama aired for four seasons, from 1988 to 1991.
Told in reverse chronology, the men and women of China Beach grapple with Holly’s decision to have an abortion (The following is a linear description of the episode’s events).
During a visit to a nearly empty firebase, Holly attempts to cheer up a sullen soldier, Zimmer, who is struggling with guilt after killing US soldiers in a friendly fire artillery incident. Holly and Zimmer sleep together in a bunker. Weeks later, when several of the women are sequestered together during a night of bombing, Frankie tells a story about fearing she was pregnant as a teenager that resonates with Holly. The next day, she takes a pregnancy test and is informed by McMurphy she is pregnant. She seeks counsel from McMurphy, intimating about the possibility of getting an abortion, but McMurphy tells her that she wouldn’t consider an abortion because of her faith and her conviction as a nurse to save lives. After informing Boonie of the pregnancy, he offers to marry Holly, but she rejects his proposal and asks for a $200 loan she gives to K.C. to help her obtain an abortion. K.C. details a plan for her to travel to Japan for the procedure, but Holly lacks the leave time to travel and asks her to come up with a local option. McMurphy visits her and offers to contact her brother, who has struggled to have children with his wife and is seeking to adopt. Holly rejects her offer, set in her decision. Zimmer visits Holly at her garden, which has started to grow, but Holly withholds the news of her pregnancy. Still troubled by the friendly fire incident, he reveals to Holly he nearly wrote his girlfriend at home about Holly before deciding not to, similar to his choice to keep silent about the friendly fire. Rejected by a Vietnamese doctor and hesitant to try an office in a seedy Da Nang storefront, Holly and K.C. brew a “poison” to induce her to miscarry. Holly visits K.C. and expresses relief that the homebrew worked, but she visits again later that night and tells her she’s bleeding and suffering from a fever. K.C. rushes her to the hospital ward, where Dr. Richard treats Holly for haemorrhaging and an infection. Richard threatens to press charges against both women; K.C. refuses to leave Holly’s side, while an angered Holly orders McMurphy out of the room when she tries to assist Richard. Once Holly’s condition stabilises, K.C. and Richard argue about Holly and the lack of then-legal options available to her, and Richard admits that he performed an illegal abortion on his wife when she contracted German measles in 1963. Her garden fully mature, Holly has a terse conversation with McMurphy, who she feels judged by deciding to proceed with the abortion. Later, as she departs the firebase on a return trip, Holly approaches Zimmer’s friend, who silently informs her that Zimmer has committed suicide over his guilt at the friendly fire incident. Holly sobs as the helicopter departs.
China Beach Series
You can find a full index and overview of China Beach here.
Production & Filming Details
- Release Date: 31 January 1990.
- Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.