Half-way across the world, John "Chick" Donahue stood at Qui Nhon harbor holding a duffel bag full of good, old American beer. It was 1968—the middle of the Vietnam war. However, that wasn't going to stop Donahue from delivering on a promise: to deliver beer to a few of the neighborhood guys serving in the unpopular war. Later deemed by one of those soldiers as the "Greatest Beer Run Ever," at the time Donahue, in his civilian jeans and plaid shirt, just wanted to find his friends and give them a little taste of home. As Donahue said to Food & Wine nearly fifty years later, "It was the right to do."
In May, The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War was released. Written by Donahue and former New York Daily News reporter Joanna Molloy, it tells the story of how Donahue spent months in war-torn Vietnam tracking down friends to give them an American brew, a laugh and a message: You are not forgotten and we miss you. Plus, as Donahue is quick to point out, the majority of beer available in Vietnam at the time was what the GIs called "33," a French-Vietnamese beer that wasn't particularly liked. In Donahue's opinion, "It was just a terrible beer."
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The story starts in a dark Inwood bar in Northern Manhattan that has since faded into history called Doc Fiddler's. As Donahue walks in, the local six o'clock news is on and showing an anti-war demonstration in Central Park. The bartender, George Lynch, remarks to Donahue and other patrons that these demonstrations must be having a real negative impact on the soldiers afar and they could probably use a cold one. Then, Donahue remarks offhandedly that next time he's in Vietnam, he would be happy to bring the local guys some beer. Lynch took him at his word and, within several days, had produced addresses and potential locations of neighborhood GIs. Lynch even got mother of one of soldiers to encourage Donahue to take the trip. At that point, Donahue couldn't say no.