In 1967, John “Chick” Donahue was a 26-year-old former Marine. He was sitting at a New York City bar with friends when one of them had a crazy idea. They should find a way to smuggle beer into Vietnam for their friends who were currently deployed.
Donahue immediately volunteered for the mission. A couple of days later, he boarded a Merchant Marine vessel with booze in his backpack and a couple of shorts and Hawaiian shirts.
Chick was able to get on that ship because he took on the job of being the ship’s oiler. The ship brought ammunition from New York to Vietnam.
Two months past and Donohue found himself in the middle of a war zone. He worked to figure out where his friends were. For some, he had last known coordinates. Others he had very little to go on.
He went from Qui Nhon to Khe Sahn, working his way onto convoys, military planes, and helicopters. He landed in Saigon in the midst of the Tet Offensive.
It was one of the worst battles of the entire Vietnam War, changing his outlook on the entire war.
“I had believed that we were winning because I’d believed what our leaders were saying.”“Chick” Donohue
He found four people on the list. The soldiers were thrilled to see a friendly face and drink some cold beer from home.
One of them, Sergeant Rick Duggan, could not believe he voluntarily came over there. They had known each other as children and played in their Inwood neighborhood.
How bizarre it was that they were reunited 8,000 miles away in the middle of a horrific war. In fact, Donohue pretended he was Duggan’s stepbrother so that he could reach him.
Donohue said the reunions were emotional and cathartic all at the same time. He says they “popped cans open and… took their first sip of beer in a while.”
On the Big Screen
Chick documents all of his crazy adventures and the entirety of his journey in his memoir, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War.”
The book has since been adapted into a movie script. The film will star Zac Efron as Donohue. It is said that Russel Crowe and Bill Murry will be a part of the project too. Peter Farrelly will direct the film.