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The Greatest 'Hold My Beer' Moment In American History Is Thanks To This Drunk Marine Veteran
Have you ever risked life and limb to win a barroom bet, your veins so full of liquid courage that some harebrained feat of strength and derring-do actually seemed like a good idea? If you’re anything like those rambunctious partygoers swimming in Natty Light who sacrifice their bodies for the amusement of their fellow revelers, there’s a chance you’ve probably uttered this phrase: Hold my beer… and watch this.
“Hold my beer” has been the battlecry of would-be American daredevil for decades, a distinctly southern refrain popularized by comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s 1993 “You Might Be a Redneck If …” and a staple of Internet culture since the advent of the viral “fail” videos that made YouTube a place worth visiting. Almost every who’s ever served in uniform knows a “hold my beer” moment when they see one: that moment of idiotic one-upmanship in which the safety of one’s lukewarm can of swill is more assured than his bodily survival.
Well, the entire internet discovered the well-worn war-cry of the booze filled adventurer… and, obnoxiously, used it to death, thanks to recent PR fuck-ups by Pepsi, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and United Airlines. But few know the story of the ultimate “hold my beer” moment — a moment that involved a New York bar, a single-engine Cessna aircraft, and a Marine veteran named Thomas Fitzpatrick.
Thomas Fitzpatrick, left.Photo via Imgur
Fitzpatrick, known as Tommy Fitz to his drinking buddies, was awarded a Purple Heart for his service during the Korean War. But it was his barroom antics that minted his reputation for bravery.
In 1956, Fitz was a New Jersey steamfitter who hung around at the local bars across the Hudson in his childhood neighborhood, Manhattan’s Washington Heights. One evening, on a barroom bet, he stole a plane and landed it in the Upper West Side, right in front of the bar where he’d been drinking.
Two years later, he did the exact same thing again, according to a 2013 New York Times account of the incident:
Both landings were pulled off in incredibly narrow landing areas, in the dark – and after a night of drinking in Washington Heights taverns and with a well-lubricated pilot at the controls. Both times ended with Mr. Fitzpatrick charged with wrongdoing.
The first of his flights was around 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, 1956, when Mr. Fitzpatrick, then 26, took a single-engine plane from the Teterboro School of Aeronautics in New Jersey and took off without lights or radio contact and landed on St. Nicholas Avenue near 191st Street.
The New York Times called it a “fine landing” and reported that it had been widely called “a feat of aeronautics.”
The second flight was on Oct. 4, 1958, just before 1 a.m.
According to the Times, Fitzpatrick had attempted the first flight after a drinking buddy challenged him to make it from New Jersey back to Washington Heights in just 15 minutes, but the second flight came “after a bar patron refused to believe he had done the first one.”
The New York Times on the day after Thomas Fitzpatrick's September 30, 1956, flight.New York Times via MentalFloss
“Tommy had a crazy side,” a childhood friend told the Times in 2013. “The whole group of them, my brother’s friends, were a wild bunch.”
After his second flight, Fitzpatrick even gave New York police officers a typical “hold my beer” statement: It wasn’t his fault! “I never wanted to fly again,” he said, according to a Eugene Register-Guard story from 1958. “It’s the lousy drink.”
A U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicle burst into flames on the side of a Polish roadway on Saturday, the Army confirmed on Monday.
A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer
This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.
This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.