Chick Donohue’s “greatest beer run” story has been met with disbelief for years, so he finally wrote a book to prove that the tale is true.
Working with Joanna Molloy, a former reporter for The New York Daily News, Donohue recounted his daring 1967 trip to Vietnam as a civilian to deliver beer to his friends in the military. His book — “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War” — includes pictures of Donohue with the soldiers he visited, as well as his interviews with them.
“For half a century, I’ve been told I was full of it, to the point where I stopped even telling this story,” said 75-year-old Donohue.
As the Vietnam War intensified, Donohue attended dozens of funerals for young soldiers from his town, and wearied of antiwar demonstrators whose actions he thought were disrespectful to the servicemen fighting abroad.
A bartender echoed his frustrations in November 1967, grumbling that someone should go to Vietnam to give the soldiers a pat on the back and some beer.
Mr. Donohue took these words seriously and got a job as an oiler on the Drake Victory, a merchant ship taking ammunition from New York to Vietnam. He shipped out with beer and any information he could find regarding his friends stationed overseas.
He arrived in Qui Nhon harbor, where his friend Tom Collins was stationed. “Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?” Collins said when he saw Donohue get off the boat. Donohue replied, “I came to bring you a beer.”
“[Donohue] came through at a time when society didn’t want us and the protesters were on us … but that’s Chickie,” Collins said. “He’s one of the nicest but craziest guys you ever want to meet.”
Once Donohue left the harbor, he talked his way onto a military mail plane to find Rick Duggan, then a specialist with the Army First Air Cavalry Division fighting in Khe Sanh.
“When he showed up, I felt like I was in ‘The Twilight Zone,'” Duggan said. “All my guys were flabbergasted, asking, ‘You mean he’s here voluntarily?'”
73 year-old Bob Pappas, a communications sergeant at an ammunition depot in Long Binh, said that “seeing Chick gave me a lot of encouragement that I was going to make it back.” He added that being interviewed for the book helped persuade him to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The beer run lasted from December 1967 until “after St. Patrick’s Day” in 1968.
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