China Beach

China Beach
China Beach
China beach cast photo.jpg
China Beach cast (Season 3)
left to right: Ned Vaughn (Jeff Hyers), Ricki Lake (Holly Pelegrino), Michael Boatman (Sam Beckett), Dana Delany (Nurse Colleen McMurphy), Brian Wimmer (Boonie Lanier), Marg Helgenberger (K.C.), Jeff Kober (Dodger), Nancy Giles (Frankie Bunsen), Concetta Tomei (Lila Garreau), Robert Picardo (Dr. Richard)
Format Drama
Created by William Broyles, Jr.
John Sacret Young
Starring Dana Delany
Nan Woods
Michael Boatman
Marg Helgenberger
Robert Picardo
Tim Ryan
Concetta Tomei
Brian Wimmer
Jeff Kober
Chloe Webb
Megan Gallagher
Nancy Giles
Ned Vaughn
Troy Evans
Ricki Lake
Theme music composer Holland-Dozier-Holland
Opening theme "Reflections"
Performed by Diana Ross & the Supremes
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 62 (List of episodes)
Running time 42 minutes
Original channel ABC
Original run April 27, 1988 – July 22, 1991

China Beach is an American dramatic television series set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War. The title refers to My Khe[1] beach in the city of Da Nang, Vietnam, which was nicknamed "China Beach" by unknown foreigners, most likely Americans. The ABC TV drama aired for three years, from 1988 to 1991, but in that time there were four seasons.


Overview of television series

Created by William Broyles, Jr. and John Sacret Young, the series looks at the Vietnam War from a unique perspective: that of the women, military personnel and civilians, who were present during the conflict. John Wells took over most of the series beginning with the second season—many of the show's cast members would appear later on the Wells-produced series, ER.

Set in Da Nang, Vietnam locale nicknamed "Bac My An Beach" of Da Nang City, Viet Nam, at the 510th Evacuation Hospital and R&R (the "Five-and-Dime" Rest & Recreation) facility, the cast of characters includes US Army doctors and nurses, officers, soldiers, Red Cross volunteers, and civilian personnel (American, French, and Vietnamese). Very often, however, the series features the experiences of the characters when returning to the U.S., either on leave or at the end of their tour of duty.

The show did not shy away from showing the gruesomeness of war, providing a very gritty view of the experience there.

The producers of the show sought out advice from former Army nurses stationed in Vietnam, notably Diane Carlson Evans.

Unusual story-telling methods were sometimes used: scenes presented in reverse chronology; insertion of animated cartoons to express a character's state of mind; alternating between interviews with former military nurses and scripted scenes; and a visit by the cast to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

China Beach was a critically lauded but poorly rated series. ABC stuck with the show for four seasons, but the final season was put on hiatus in fall 1990 and did not air its finale until July 22, 1991. As a result of the strange scheduling, Dana Delany was eligible for (and ultimately won) a Best Actress Emmy in the fall of 1992, a year after the series broadcast its final episode and over a year-and-a-half after many of the scenes were filmed.

The title sequence theme song was "Reflections" by Diana Ross & the Supremes (although several episodes instead used "We Gotta Get out of This Place" by Eric Burdon and Katrina & The Waves).


  • Lieutenant (later Captain) Colleen McMurphy, USA; Catholic girl from Kansas and nurse with the 510th Evac Hospital in Vietnam during the late 1960s. A composite of various real-life Vietnam War nurses, the character illustrates their courage, kindness, and sacrifices during the war, as well as the severe emotional scarring of non-combatant personnel during and following military service; several episodes feature the veterans in their own words, intercut with the storyline. Portrayed by Dana Delany.
  • Cherry White (Seasons 1–2); Incredibly naive Red Cross volunteer ("doughnut dolly") who comes to China Beach to search for her brother Rick who was reported MIA. Dies midway through the second season during the Tet Offensive. Portrayed by Nan Woods.
  • SP4 Samuel Beckett, USA; Works in the Graves Registration Unit at China Beach. His job makes him unpopular with most of the other servicemen. Portrayed by Michael Boatman.
  • Karen Charlene "K.C." Koloski; Cynical part-time prostitute and civilian volunteer who comes to China Beach seeking to make her own wealth and fortune. Portrayed by Marg Helgenberger.
  • Captain Dick Richard, USA; Head surgeon and womanizer dealing with being drafted into Army and away from his family. Portrayed by Robert Picardo.
  • Captain Bartholomew "Natch" Austen, USAF; (Seasons 1–2) Jet fighter pilot and McMurphy's love interest. Portrayed by Tim Ryan.
  • Major Lila Garreau, USA; World War II veteran and career-Army commanding officer of China Beach. Portrayed by Concetta Tomei.
  • Corporal Boonie Lanier, USMC; Friendly China Beach lifeguard and manager of the Jet Set Club. Portrayed by Brian Wimmer.
  • Staff Sergeant Evan "Dodger" Winslow, USMC; Moody Marine who serves and fights in the jungle mainly to keep other servicemen in his platoon alive. Nicknamed for his ability to dodge injury. Known as a "quiet sort"; generally keeps to himself. Friend of Boonie, McMurphy and Cherry. Portrayed by Jeff Kober.
  • Laurette Barber (Season 1); USO singer determined to make it big. Portrayed by Chloe Webb.
  • Airman Wayloo Marie Holmes, USAF (Season 2); Reporter for the Armed Services Network seeking a career as a world-famous reporter. Portrayed by Megan Gallagher.
  • Private Frankie Bunsen, USA (Seasons 2–4); Female private assigned to the China Beach motor pool. Portrayed by Nancy Giles.
  • Corporal Jeff Hyers, USA (Season 3); Good-natured combat medic. He is KIA midway through the third season during a routine patrol. Portrayed by Ned Vaughn.
  • Master Sergeant Bob Pepper, USA (Seasons 3–4); World War II veteran, driver, mechanic and NCO-in-charge of the motor pool. Becomes romantically-involved with Lila Garreau. Portrayed by Troy Evans.
  • Holly Pelegrino (Season 3); Sharp-witted Red Cross volunteer. Portrayed by Ricki Lake.

Nancy Sinatra made a guest appearance in the first season finale, recreating her concerts she performed for U.S. troops in 1966 and 1967.


  1. ^ Johnson, Kay. (2003, March 23) (March 23, 2003). "Detour: China Beach, Vietnam".,9171,436028,00.html. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 

External links

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