I had always thought that China Beach, well-known from the Vietnam War era, had been named for the South China Sea, which laps the sand. The first time I saw that beach was after a monsoon had wrecked havoc. the second time was on a recent trip. Anyways, I learned that the name had an unusual and unexpected origin.
To the Vietnamese, that piece of water is known as the Eastern Sea. Perhaps, this arises from their age-old dislike of the Chinese, who occupied their country for 1000 years. It would make no sense to allow those bastards to believe in ownership of the sea (which is not contested for oil drilling rights). When US soldiers arrived and began to dig in, as soldiers are wont to do wherever they arrive, they discovered old porcelain pots buried in the sand. Not being archeologists, educated, or interested in history, they discarded the evidence but named the beach “China”. This arose from the American habit of calling dinner plates china, which surely comes from the English “bone china”. If one follows the trail further back, it’s interesting to note that the English discovered the art of making porcelain in--where else?--China, thus the name bone china.
The only evidence of US military presence in this region, which I spotted, was the revetments at the former airfield. Much explosives will be required to remove this blight from the landscape, not unlike German bunkers still dotting the beaches of France. Tourists will ignore these remnants of history, just as all ignore any lessons, which should have been learned from the foolish mistakes of leaders.
Massive development is underway to turn Da Nang into a hotel, condominium, strip mall hell. Gated communities with golf courses have already sprung up, with high walls to shield foreign investors from real life outside (which I found to be more interesting). Although the beach was virtually empty, manned life guard stands dotted the kilometers-long stretch of white sand. This contrasts with the long stretches of Florida sands I saw with no one watching for trouble. Cost could be the reason or independent spirit and another case of different strokes for different folks, once in the water.
Fortunately, Vietnam has an entire coastline of fine beaches, which will take speculators and developers decades to spoil. I recall flying over one sandy cove and dreaming of owning it one day. Because it lies far from any city or town, this piece of beach might still be untouched by greedy hands. The only thing missing, for me, is modern conveniences, because I do not plan to camp on the beach and do enjoy a good meal. Perhaps, such spots are better suited for one’s imagination.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.