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.
Five days before the Fall of Saigon, K.C. – now living in Bangkok and operating a nightclub with the same name – is contacted by Trieu Au, seeking help getting Karen out of the country. K.C. returns to Vietnam, finding Trieu Au and Karen living in a decrepit apartment in a Saigon alley. Trieu Au, critical over K.C.’s avoidance of her and Karen for the past six years, asks for help getting Karen out of the country, worried that the city’s citizen committees will round them both up when Saigon is taken. Intending to take them back to Bangkok, K.C. brings the two to the American embassy, where she is forced by the clerk to pay a hefty bribe for Trieu Au’s passage out of the country. However, Trieu Au is violently questioned by a citizen patrol and kidnapped. At the embassy the next day, K.C. is told her hospital records from Karen’s birth are not enough to prove US citizenship, requiring her to seek out a forger in Saigon to purchase them. Upon returning to the apartment, they find locals have cleaned the entire place out in their absence and K.C. tells a devastated Karen that she is her birth mother. The two return to the American embassy, where they wait hours to reach the helicopters ferrying civilians from the roof. Hoping to soothe Karen, K.C. promises to buy Karen a canopy bed while they wait. Finally reaching the roof, the two are refused entry to a helicopter, but K.C. begs a Marine to take Karen. She writes Boonie’s name on her dress in lipstick, then watches as the helicopter departs.
Elsewhere in Vietnam, Dodger – still working as a government contractor – finds himself in the abandoned China Beach facility, on the run from approaching North Vietnamese troops. Entering the old hospital ward, he finds the Kansas flag once hanging in the ward, triggering memories of his time in China Beach. He discovers an apparent Vietnamese soldier living in the ward and begins digging his own grave, convinced he will die at China Beach once the North Vietnamese soldiers arrive. He discovers the apparent soldier living in the ward is a woman when two soldiers try to rape her; he kills both. Dodger tells the woman to leave the base when the North Vietnamese regulars arrive, intending to make a final stand, but she convinces him to escape with him.
Back in the US, McMurphy – now living in a trailer park on the outskirts of a Native American reservation in New Mexico – discovers alcoholic local Hector (guest star Jesse Borrego), has hit his son, giving him a black eye. Angered by the incident, McMurphy returns to the shop owner Joaquin (guest star Randolph Mantooth) and informs him that he reported Hector to the local authorities, who have no jurisdiction to investigate Hector. Joaquin admonishes McMurphy, telling her that Hector drinks to forget – much like McMurphy herself does. She confronts Hector on the side of the road, learning he too is a Vietnam veteran when he compares the effects of phosphorus to a mountain range in the distance. After an argument in Joaquin’s bar, McMurphy challenges Hector to a race: If he wins, he will get her car; if she wins, he must go to Santa Fe and seek help at the VA hospital for his alcoholism. McMurphy quits midway through the race, but Hector still agrees to get help and suggests to McMurphy she does the same. Joaquin visits a drunk McMurphy that night, where she finally expresses a desire to remember, not forget, her time in Vietnam.
China Beach Series
You can find a full index and overview of China Beach here.
Production & Filming Details
- Release Date: 11 June 1991.
- Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.