The Vietnam War was still fresh in the minds of Americans when China Beach premiered on ABC on this day in 1988. Created by Vietnam veteran William Broyles and John Sacret Young, and inspired by former army nurse Lynda Van Devanter’s 1983 memoir, it gave to audiences an insight into the horrors of the non-combatant side of warfare in the late 1960s.
It is estimated that of the thousands of American women who served in the Vietnam War, 90% were nurses. Though by 1988 films such as Platoon and Apocalypse Now had addressed the war itself, China Beach was groundbreaking in that it was not only a mainstream television series shedding light on the stories of those on the frontlines, but one telling them from the perspective of the women. It was not a series softened to meet the expectations of so-called ‘women’s television’, but one unafraid to delve into the gritty realities of wartime nursing, both emotional and psychological.