The Greenwich Retired Men’s Association’s speaker for Wednesday, July 5 will be John “Chickie” Donohue, who will discuss his journey to Vietnam in 1968 to deliver beer to several of his friends who were serving in the armed services.
Donohue’s adventure is chronicled in a book and movie, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever.“
The event is in person at First Presbyterian Church at 37 Lafayette Place, but also available to view via Zoom: https://bit.ly/30IBj21
One night in 1967 a group of young men in a bar in New York, seeing anti-Vietnam War protesters attack not only the war but also the American soldiers fighting in it, concocted a hairbrained scheme. Why not smuggle some liquid refreshment into the war zone and surprise and share a beer with some of their buddies fighting overseas, just to show their support? One of their number, 26 year-old “Chick” Donohue, a civilian merchant seaman, took up the challenge and the next day set sail on a cargo ship headed for Vietnam with a hidden stash of good old American brew.
What followed was “the greatest beer run ever,” as he navigated past military authorities and wound up on American bases, sometimes under fire, just as the violent Tet Offensive began.
Chick’s rollicking, patriotic story was eventually told in the New York Times best-seller. The Greatest Beer Run Ever (William Morrow, 2020), which in 2022 was made into a major motion picture starring Zac Efron, Russell Crowe and Bill Murray.
Prior to this remarkable escapade Donohue had served in the U.S. Marine Corps, then become a merchant seaman, traveling the world. He eventually settled down in New York where he became “sandhog” – or tunnel builder. He rose to Legislative and Political Director of Sandhogs, Local 147, Laborers International Union of North America, a post in which he served for over three decades.
After years of regaling friends with tales of his Vietnam adventure (which they often did not believe) he privately published his reminiscences in 2017, which was picked up by a major publisher.
A brief video of his story can be found here:
He will be interviewed by RMA member Tim Brooks, himself a Vietnam veteran.