The Greatest 'Hold My Beer' Moment In American History Is Thanks To This Drunk Marine Veteran

History

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.”

Photo: U.S. Army Courtesy photo

Fort Hood's Air Assault School was renamed after Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
An E-2D Hawkeye assigned to the Bluetails of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121 lands on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Will Hardy)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

While attempting to land on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea earlier this month, an E-2D Hawkeye propeller aircraft struck two F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft and sent debris flying into two other F/A-18s on the flight deck, according to the Naval Safety Center.

Read More Show Less

Nobody can be told what The Matrix is; you have to see it for yourself.

More than two decades after The Matrix showed the world what the future of the sci-fi action flick could look like, Warner Bros. Pictures plans on producing a fourth installment of the groundbreaking epic saga, Variety first reported on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sailors from Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 1 conduct category III qualifications on the M2A1 heavy machine gun at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. CRS-1 is qualifying for future mobilization requirements. (U.S. Navy/Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

The Navy is considering giving Ma Deuce a quiet new update.

Read More Show Less
A competitor performs push-ups during the physical fitness event at the Minnesota Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition on April 4, 2019, at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Sgt. Sebastian Nemec)

Despite what you may have heard, the Army has not declared war on mustaches.

The Army W.T.F! Moments Facebook page on Monday posted a memo written by a 3rd Infantry Division company commander telling his soldiers that only the fittest among them will be allowed to sprout facial hair under their warrior nostrils.

"During my tenure at Battle Company, I have noticed a direct correlation between mustaches and a lack of physical fitness," the memo says. "In an effort to increase the physical fitness of Battle Company, mustaches will not be authorized for any soldier earning less than a 300 on the APFT [Army Physical Fitness Test]."

Read More Show Less