This week I got my DVD of the first season of China Beach. When I came home from Desert Storm, the show had just been canceled and went into reruns. I couldn’t get enough of it at the time; it was like it was something about me, even if it was a different war from a different time. But it had women in it, and more unusual, it had a huge cast of women.
There’s a scene early on in the pilot that’s of Colleen McMurphy and Cherry White in the military showers. These are a bank of outdoor showers built out of wood.
The ones above are pretty private, at least compared to what we had. We arrived in Saudi Arabia at 10:00 at night and drove around for a long time before we finally stopped at a soldier staging area where we crashed out. When my ranger buddy and I woke up in the morning, we migrated to latrines and showers. We stopped and looked at the showers and exclaimed, “China Beach” at the same time.
It was kind of our introduction not only to Saudi Arabia but to war, and even how the women were going to be treated during this war. This is a picture of what the showers looked like. Not sure if this is that first place where we stayed or not, but the rows of showers is the same.
The water came from a tank that sat on top of the shower and was filled up daily by a water truck. A lever came down from the tank, and we had to pull it to dispense the water. But it wasn’t really made for short people. The lever was so high up that women couldn’t reach it without embarrassing moments. I ended up taking off my shower shoe and balancing on one foot while I used the strap of the shoe to hook over the lever and pull it down.
Sometimes we had to make do for even basic things like this!