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.
In October 1969, Frankie attends the funeral of a Black revolutionary, contrasted with McMurphy’s experience witnessing the funeral of a Marine Corps veteran after her father’s burial in Season 2’s “The World” Now living in Chicago after her discharge from the Army, Frankie tries her hand at stand-up comedy with little to show for it. She draws the attention of two Black revolutionaries and Vietnam veterans, Eddie (guest star Scott Lawrence) and Rashid (guest star Basil Wallace), who invite her to a party. She grows close to Eddie, who advocates for a nonviolent approach for change; however, she is disgusted by Rashid’s cache of weapons and his support for the Viet Cong and violent revolt in the US Eddie asks her to attend the trial of Bobby Seale and support the protests for the Chicago Seven. She is horrified by the treatment of Seale in the courtroom but refuses to support Eddie and Rashid in protesting it. Later, Rashid informs Frankie that Eddie was killed in his bed during a police raid. She attends Eddie’s funeral, witnessing as Rashid is dragged away by police when he lights an American flag on fire. At her stand-up set, Frankie struggles through her normal routine before giving an impassioned monologue on her status as an African-American Vietnam veteran.
In the same time period at China Beach, McMurphy is now a captain and tracking casualty numbers in a notebook because she believes the military is downplaying the number of deaths. She receives a message from Dodger asking him to bring medical supplies for a remote Montagnard village. Arriving at the village, she finds Dodger working there as a government contractor, helping the villagers grow a resilient strain of rice while CIA and Army Ranger advisors train them to be insurgents. McMurphy is introduced to the elderly woman leading the village, Ilsa (guest star Viveca Lindfors), who warns her that the US military presence in Vietnam is part of the village’s problem. Dodger asks McMurphy to stay with him in Vietnam and help build a hospital when her tour ends in a matter of weeks, bringing her to the site on a hilltop. Dodger reveals to her that he suffered nightmares about his war experiences until he returned to Vietnam as a contractor. Ilsa requests Dodger bring a nearby village rice and supplies that had been attacked, but he refuses when he finds out it is a Viet Cong village. Later that night, the village is bombed by the VC and McMurphy is whisked away by helicopter without Dodger and Ilsa. She returns to the ruins of the village the next morning, finding Dodger at the hospital site. Feeling guilty about the attack, he snaps at McMurphy and urges her to yell the names of casualties in her notebook. He admits to her he is not ready for a life in the US yet, even with his son. He asks her to stay with him, but she declines. Back at China Beach, she begins spray-painting the names of dead soldiers from her notebook on the outside of the hospital ward.
China Beach Series
You can find a full index and overview of China Beach here.
Production & Filming Details
- Release Date: 08 December 1990.
- Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.