This article was originally published in 2016.
In the late 1960s, John "Chickie" Donohue made the greatest beer run ever. Chickie was a former merchant Marine from New York City who became disheartened after seeing a blatant bashing of soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. He even wrote a book about it called "The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War" with co-author Joanna Molloy.
While working as a merchant seaman aboard the Drake Victory, Donohue was talking to a bartender one day who said he wanted to buy all of their friends currently serving oversees a beer. Chickie made a promise that next time he went to Vietnam, he'd take the guys a beer. Much to Chickie's surprise, the bartender gave him the names and addresses of three soldiers he wanted Chickie to take beers to. He embarked on a daring beer run indeed.
As Chickie explains simply in the video, "A lot of my friends were serving in Vietnam. I just wanted to go over there and buy them all a beer, and that's what I did."
With just a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a few addresses, Chickie snuck back into the war zone pretending to be looking for his step-brother. He hadn't seen any action during his previous tours in Vietnam with the Marine Corps, so he didn't quite know what to expect.
When the ship pulled into Qui Nhon Harbor, he saw his friend Tom Collins who was deployed with the 127th Military Police Company. After Collins got over the initial shock of seeing Chick Donohue there (dressed like he was going on a golf outing according to Collins), the men shared a beer and went out drinking.
"I said, 'Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?'" Collins told the New York Times. "He said, 'I came to bring you a beer.'"
Next, Chickie headed north to Quang Tri to find named number two, Ricky Duggan. He found him, and they shared a few beers. Chickie had a scary night there, hearing gunfire in the near distance. He returned to Qui Nhon a couple of days later and found that his ship had sunk.
The last person on the list was Bobby Pappas who had heard from Chickie's wife and knew he was over in Vietnam. When Chickie showed up north of Saigon where Pappas was stationed, the guys spent a few days partying. After he returned to Saigon, Chickie saw massive explosions at the base where Pappas was. Thankfully, he traveled back north and found Pappas alive and well.
All four of the men met up for the first time again on June 30, 2015, and recalled their surprise in seeing Chickie in Vietnam that year. They expressed gratitude for him risking his life and showing the troops overseas that someone still cared about them, their service and their sacrifice.
We strongly advise that no one try to top (or replicate) Mr. Donohue's ambitious beer run.