IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME.
As a result of a rowdy night in his local New York bar, ex-Marine and merchant seaman “Chick” Donohue volunteers for a legendary mission. He will sneak into Vietnam to track down his buddies in combat to bring them a cold beer and supportive messages from home. It’ll be the greatest beer run ever!
Now, decades on from 1968, this is the remarkable true story of how he actually did it.
Armed with Irish luck and a backpack full of alcohol, Chick works his passage to Vietnam, lands in Qui Nhon and begins to carry out his quest, tracking down the disbelieving soldiers one by one.
But things quickly go awry, and as he talks his way through checkpoints and unwittingly into dangerous situations, Chick sees a lot more of the war than he ever planned – spending a terrifying time in the Demilitarized Zone, and getting caught up in Saigon during the Tet Offensive.
With indomitable spirit, Chick survives on his wits, but what he finds in Vietnam comes as a shock. By the end of his epic adventure, battered and exhausted, Chick finds himself questioning why his friends were ever led into the war in the first place.
When I read the description of this book, I admit I wasn’t sure what I was going to discover when I started to read it! Adventure story, social commentary on the pointless of war or biography. By the end, I realised I’d read a quite remarkable combination of all three!
As bizarre as the story seems, it is all true and frankly, it all feels the more amazing and moving, because however outlandish “Chick” Donohue’s story sounds, it is basically about friendship and one man coming to terms with the pointlessness of the Vietnam War.
From the moment “Chick” Donohue sneaks into Vietnam at the behest of his drinking buddies in New York, charged with taking childhood friends a beer and moral support from home, this books takes us on an unlikely odyssey around a land torn apart by war. We are treated to tales of seemingly unlikely reunions, that just go to show that sometimes life is far more random than fiction. At it’s very best, its about a simple act of kindness, from a man who wants his childhood friends to know that despite all the protests taking place against the war, their sacrifice has not been forgotten. That they are missed and that families at home are waiting for them!
“Chick” Donohue adventures might come across as a macho boys own story, but this is not what the book is about within. Look past the cover with the American MP, helicopters, forests and a ‘hero’ riding a motorbike and you have a quite eye opening look at the reality of the Vietnam War. The author admits himself that he hated the protesters in America before he went, felt they were unpatriotic, traitors to all the young soldiers stood for. Yet his experiences as the cover explains, led him to also question why so many young American men had been sacrificed in the first place. It is as much about one man’s journey from unquestioning patriot, to a more enlightened American, as it is about a mad adventure through a war zone.
But why not consider ordering it from your local independent bookshop?
About the author
John “Chickie” Donohue joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of
seventeen and spent several years as a Merchant Mariner after his discharge. His work took him to numerous foreign ports, including Saigon during the Vietnam War. 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, a post in which he served for over three decades. Donohue is a graduate of the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government where he received his Master of Public Administration degree. He is happily married to Theresa “Terri” O’Neil and spends his time between New York, Florida, and West Cork, Ireland.