The plot of this memoir MIGHT sound like a shaggy dog story told in a bar. Part Gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, the hit-the-dirt reporting of a Ken Burns documentary and the twinkle of an eye from Frank McCourt of Angela’s Ashes fame. Donohue’s story is wild, nearly unbelievable, and full of heart. We were riveted. From NYC to Vietnam — our pulse increased as he raced from location to location. This book will show you how to make friends all over the world as you celebrate your very own friends back home and abroad — no matter the extenuating circumstances.
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY PETER FARRELLY, STARRING ZAC EFRON AND RUSSELL CROWE!
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“Chickie takes us thousands of miles on a hilarious quest laced with sorrow, but never dull. You will laugh and cry, but you will not be sorry that you read this rollicking story.”—Malachy McCourt
A wildly entertaining, feel-good memoir of an Irish-American New Yorker and former U.S. marine who embarked on a courageous, hare-brained scheme to deliver beer to his pals serving Vietnam in the late 1960s.
One night in 1967, twenty-six-year-old John Donohue—known as Chick—was out with friends, drinking in a New York City bar. The friends gathered there had lost loved ones in Vietnam. Now, they watched as anti-war protesters turned on the troops themselves.
One neighborhood patriot came up with an inspired—some would call it insane—idea. Someone should sneak into Vietnam, track down their buddies there, give them messages of support from back home, and share a few laughs over a can of beer.
It would be the Greatest Beer Run Ever.
But who’d be crazy enough to do it?
One man was up for the challenge—a U. S. Marine Corps veteran turned merchant mariner who wasn’t about to desert his buddies on the front lines when they needed him.
A day later, he was on a cargo ship headed to Vietnam, armed with Irish luck and a backpack full of alcohol. Landing in Qui Nho’n, Chick set off on an adventure that would change his life forever—an odyssey that took him through a series of hilarious escapades and harrowing close calls, including the Tet Offensive. But none of that mattered if he could bring some cheer to his pals and show them how much the folks back home appreciated them.
This is the story of that epic beer run, told in Chick’s own words and those of the men he visited in Vietnam.
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About the Author
John “Chick” Donohue joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen, then became a Merchant Mariner after his discharge. After the war, he became a Sandhog, or tunnel builder, and eventually became the Legislative and Political Director of Sandhogs, Local 147, Laborers International Union of North America., and graduated from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government He is married to Theresa “Terri” O’Neil.
J.T. Molloy was a staff reporter and columnist at the NY Daily News, the NY Post, and New York magazine. She has written for Politico, Esquire, and Interview. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 One Night in a New York City Bar-The Colonel's Challenge 1
Chapter 2 Gathering the Names 11
Chapter 3 Setting Sail 15
Chapter 4 Voyage to Vietnam 21
Chapter 5 Anchored off Qui Nhon 27
Chapter 6 Looking for Chuckles's Brother 31
Chapter 7 The Texan Couldn't Care Less About Orders 39
Chapter 8 The Good Samaritan in An Khe Looked Familiar 43
Chapter 9 LZ Tombstone 49
Chapter 10 "Who's This Guy?!" 57
Chapter 11 "Wait a Minute-You Don't Have to Be Here, and You're Here?!" 61
Chapter 12 Firefight at the Ambush Post 65
Chapter 13 Screams on the Night Road 73
Chapter 14 An Air Force Pilot Does Me a Favor 79
Chapter 15 Stuck in Saigon 85
Chapter 16 American Money Is Good for Bribes 89
Chapter 17 The Caravelle Rooftop Bar 93
Chapter 18 Finding a Seafaring Friend 97
Chapter 19 Happy New Year, Baby 101
Chapter 20 Beaucoup VC 109
Chapter 21 Broken Truce 115
Chapter 22 The American Embassy Under Siege 119
Chapter 23 Battle at the President's Palace 129
Chapter 24 Am I Dead and in Purgatory? 135
Chapter 25 Befriending a South Vietnamese Cop 141
Chapter 26 A Giant Floating Freezer Full of Food in the Midst of Famine 145
Chapter 27 Coast Guard Brass: A Big Job on a Big Ship 153
Chapter 28 Australian Marines Lock the Caravelle Up Tight 159
Chapter 29 Finding Bobby 163
Chapter 30 Explosion at Long Binh 171
Chapter 31 Helping a Descendant of the Mayans 181
Chapter 32 C.D., Phone Home 185
Chapter 33 Please Do Feed the Animals 189
Chapter 34 "We Cannot Win" 197
Chapter 35 "We're Outta Here!" 201
Chapter 36 I Kiss the Ground 205
Afterword: Reflections on the Journey 209
Where Are They Now? 215
Addendum: The Neighborhood-Inwood, Manhattan, New York City 225
Bonus Chapter: BBQ and a Beer-Can Shoot with a Powerful Stranger 231
Photo Credits 249