In 1967, the New York City native boarded a ship to Vietnam to hand-deliver beers to friends from his neighborhood serving on the front lines. Donohue said that since he had been in Vietnam twice before as a merchant seaman, he had confidence he could make the trip.
“I never left the ports,” he explained. “I knew I could get there if there was a ship going there… So I took the addresses of a half a dozen guys, went down to the union hall, the shipping hall, and the first ship up there was the SS Great Victory, which was an old victory ship [from] World War Two. It was at the ammunition dump in Leonardo, New Jersey. It could have only been going to Vietnam.”
Since there were no geographical addresses to use as a locator, Donohue said he relied on military addresses. But he pinned down his first friend by recognizing the patch on his uniform.
“I actually found the first two by patches,” he said. “I saw MPs with a patch that matched the outfit that [Tommy] Collins was in. He was the first guy I found.”
“He was surprised, to say the least,” Donohue went on. “Maybe he'd describe it as shock. He asked me what I was doing there a couple of times. And each time I told him, ‘I'd come over to bring you a beer and to salute you. The guys back in the neighborhood, you know, they support you. We're behind you and we thank you for your service,’ or something like that.”
In 2017, Donohue and co-author J.T. Molloy published the book, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty and War”. The book details Donohue's epic story and is being adapted into a film directed by Peter Farrelly ("Green Book," "Dumb and Dumber," "There's Something About Mary).