Return to Vietnam: R & R on China Beach

DA NANG, Vietnam (WBAY) - The 52 local veterans on their historic Honor Flight to Vietnam are on the move.

China Beach (WBAY photo)

After spending the first part of their two-week journey in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, the vets caught a flight to Da Nang, in the central part of the country.

In our Return to Vietnam coverage, Jeff Alexander spent time with the vets on Vietnam's most famous beach.

After a couple of emotional days in southern Vietnam, the veterans arrived in the beautiful coastal city of Da Nang.

And at least to those who served in the Vietnam War, the city is home to the country's most famous beach.

Paul Cismoski of Berlin remembers serving in the war. "Right on this beach here for almost a year."

Just before arriving in Vietnam, Cismoski was in a car accident in Wisconsin.

Because of his injuries, China Beach is where he was assigned.

"When I got here, I went and saw an officer at Support Command in Da Nang, and because I had those papers that said I had had an injury, he said, 'You know how to swim?' I said, 'Yes, I do.' My main job when the beach was open was, I was a lifeguard."

With its white sand and tropical waters, China Beach became the destination for troops on R & R -- rest and recuperation.

"It feels so good to be back here in a way, you know, because this is the good part that you remember," Ron Lingle of Appleton said. "My family doesn't even know a lot of this stuff that I kind of kept to myself, and you come down and you just kind of just feel more relaxed now, just like you're letting it go."

The vets make sure to capture this moment with all kinds of pictures.

"Looks way different than it used to. A lot more fun," Harold Wolfgram of New London said, laughing, "trying to mingle with the locals."

A lot has changed in 50 years, but the return sure feels good.

"This was just a beach, a compound, no roads and now I see resorts, high rise hotels, but it feels great to be back here," Cimoski said.

Before heading to check in at a resort about 15 miles south of here, the veterans made one other stop in Da Nang at Marble Mountain. Down below is where a U.S. airfield used to be -- to transport the thousands of Marines that came ashore to the battle areas around the country.

China Beach (WBAY photo)