Apple TV+ war drama film ‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’ is based on an incredible true story of John “Chickie” Donohue (Zac Efron), a young New Yorker from the Inwood neighborhood. Set in 1967, the film depicts Chickie’s journey to deliver beer to his buddies in Vietnam because he believes the people in the US have become too critical of the war efforts, and the soldiers need to be shown there are still Americans who are proud of them.
Once in Vietnam, Chickie witnesses the horrors of war, finally understanding the cost both sides are paying for the greed of a few. He also meets people whose influence on him will last a lifetime. One such person is Hieu or Oklahoma, a traffic police officer he encounters in Saigon. If you are wondering whether Hieu is based on a real person, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Was Hieu AKA Oklahoma Based on a Real Vietnamese Police Officer?
In ‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever,’ Chickie meets Hieu shortly after arriving in Vietnam to deliver the beer. The likable young police officer is a fan of the 1955 film ‘Oklahoma’ and its main star, Gordon MacRae. He helps Chickie find his hotel. By the next meeting, Chickie has started to understand the realities of war. But he still maintains his inherent optimism, a trait he seems to share with Heiu. Chickie refers to the other man as Oklahoma until Hieu tells him his real name. When he learns that Hieu wants to visit Oklahoma at some time in the future, Chickie points out that there is no direct flight from Saigon to Oklahoma before inviting Hieu to his home in New York.
This moment perfectly sets up the tragedy that follows. Fighting breaks out all over the city as the Viet Cong forces attack. As Chickie tries to find shelter, he finds Hieu lying in the streets near the American embassy. He rushes to his friend and discovers that he is long dead. And just like that, the war ends yet another young dream.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a film adaptation of the 2017 autobiographical book ‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War’ by Donohue and J.T. Molloy. In the book, there is no character named Hieu or Oklahoma, though Chickie meets a Vietnamese police officer in chapter 25, titled ‘Befriending a South Vietnamese Cop.’ The police officer’s name is Nuong, and Chickie meets him the night after the attack. The man stands near what turns out to be a humble hotel owned by his father, used more by couples for an hour or two than regular tourists. But Chickie is so exhausted at that point that it doesn’t matter. During his stay there, he and Nuong become friends, and when Chickie leaves, Nuong is still very much alive.
The screenwriters likely created Hieu as a character to give Chickie a sense of personal grief with his death, the exact thing he experiences whenever his friends from the neighborhood die. That friendship with Hieu gives him some understanding of the extreme price the Vietnamese people are paying, contributing to his eventual transformation as he returns to the US.