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New Memoir Tells Tale Of 1967 Beer Run To Vietnam

In 1967, John "Chick" Donohue set out to make a beer run for some friends in his neighborhood.

But this wasn’t any old beer run — 26-year-old Donohue traveled more than 8,000 miles from New York City to Qui Nhon on a boat, stashing cold beverages for his military friends fighting in the Vietnam War.

It all started one night when Donohue was on a stool at Doc Fiddler's, a favorite neighborhood bar in the Inwood section of Manhattan, a close Irish enclave. The bartender, called the Colonel, was outraged at anti-Vietnam War protesters in Central Park.

He and others saw the protesters as anti-soldier, and many troops were from their part of town. The Colonel's solution? Someone should bring the local heroes a beer, he proclaimed, and the bar erupted in cheers.

Donohue took the call to action seriously. The former Marine knew the country; he had been to Vietnam twice before as a merchant seaman. He soon found a cargo ship going to Vietnam and embarked on the “Greatest Beer Run Ever,” the title of the memoir he co-wrote with J.T. Molloy.

His daring feat has been chronicled in a YouTube documentary and a new book. Now, a feature film by Oscar-winning writer-director Peter Farrelly is in the works.

Donohue says he didn’t know what he was thinking but knew he had to do something. At the time, 28 of his buddies from the neighborhood had already died fighting in the war.

Once he set foot on shore, he miraculously tracked down his friends, most of whom were only in their early 20s. Soldiers assumed Donohue, outfitted in corduroy pants and a madras shirt, was some sort of American government agent, thus he was able to hitch helicopter rides to areas where his friends were engaged in battles.

“The longer I was there, I became aware that they're deferring to me and they didn't stop me. And I knew the lingo from being in the Marines,” he says. “So it just worked.”

Read entire article at WBUR