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 1985, McMurphy, now married to Joe, has a vivid flashback to an explosion at China Beach and its aftermath while watching Joe play racquetball at a gym. She seeks antidepressants from a therapist, disclosing that she has been sober for five years and her mother passed away two years prior. While talking to the therapist about her dog’s recent death, she conflates details about the dog’s death with the events from the explosion. After the visit with the therapist, she heads to a bar, where she smells a shot of bourbon before pouring it into a pitcher, a regular agreement she has with the bartender. McMurphy visits the local VA office to join to a group for PTSD-afflicted veterans, where the counsellor mistakes her for a spouse. Insulted, she leaves, but the counsellor offers her a handshake apology. On a return visit to the therapist, she explains the flashback: In 1968, while moving injured soldiers with Hyers from the hospital ward to a bunker during a bombing, the bunker took a direct hit and was destroyed, killing everyone inside. However, some of the details remain murky to her. At home with Joe, she discusses her sessions with her therapist and her inability to get pregnant, concerned that due to her age and past her window to have children has closed. In a VA session where she is the only woman in attendance, she describes the anguish she carries from lying to dying soldiers that they would pull through. Later, when the therapist asks why she is no longer attending the VA sessions, McMurphy says she believes her time in therapy is over. She argues with the therapist about Joe, revealing that due to her father’s health problems she fears him suffering an early heart attack and storms out. From a note on the fridge, McMurphy discovers Joe – bruised and sore from a racquetball tournament – has talked with Dr. Richard. Furious that they talked, she lashes out at Joe, calling him a child and destroying his drum set. She heads to the bar, but with her usual bartender out, she relapses and begins drinking. The therapist collects her from the bar, telling her she is trying to handle too much at once but she and Joe are there to help her. At her VA physical the next day, she bonds with elderly vets who humorously preach patience for their ailments, giving her a new outlook. In a final session with her therapist, McMurphy finally remembers the rest of the flashback. She had left the bunker to find Hyers, who had run to the Jet Set to get beer for the injured; after witnessing the explosion, Hyers prevented her from returning to the bunker site until the shelling stopped, likely saving her life. After uncovering the corpse of one soldier, she blamed Hyers for their deaths, which strained their relationship to the point that she never spoke to him again before he died a few weeks later. Asked by the therapist what she would say to Hyers given the chance, she says she would have told him she was sorry, then asks the therapist if her grief and guilt will ever stop.
China Beach Series
You can find a full index and overview of China Beach here.
Production & Filming Details
- Release Date: 16 July 1991.
- Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.