Larry Chambers, who was the skipper of the U.S. aircraft carrier Midway during the fall of Saigon in 1975, said during an interview that was published on Sunday that what is happening now in Afghanistan is “worse” than what happened in Saigon.
Chambers made his initial remarks in an interview with The Military Times several days ago, before all out chaos erupted on the ground in Afghanistan with the Taliban rapidly recapturing nearly the entire country in just a few short days. Numerous media figures, politicians, and activists have compared the situation in Afghanistan to the rooftop evacuations in 1975.
“To be perfectly honest with you, what is happening now is worse than what happened in Vietnam,” Chambers said. Chambers oversaw the evacuation of thousands of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese nationals during the fall of Saigon.
Then, on Sunday, Chambers doubled-down in additional remarks to the publication, saying, “Of course it’s worse than Saigon.”
“We tried to get out as many people who worked with us as we could,” Chambers added. “Did we do a good job? Who knows? I do not know what [the Taliban is] going to do, but whatever it is [it’s] not going to be pretty.”
“In Afghanistan, we are abandoning the folks who supported us while we were there,” Chambers said. “We had a huge amphibious force sitting off Saigon. We don’t have a huge amphibious force sitting off Kabul.”
Chambers noted that the Taliban are different than the North Vietnamese and that at this point “you can’t save everyone who helped us.”
“Remember all of those attacks by people willing to kill themselves?” Chambers continued. “That is a different world over there as opposed to what we were facing in Vietnam.”
The Military Times reported on the heroic actions that Chambers took to save lives during the chaos:
As the human misery unfolded, Chambers, the first Black aircraft carrier skipper, risked his career to help save those who helped the U.S. As Vietnamese air force Maj. Buang-Ly circled overhead with his family in a Cessna Bird Dog, dropping desperate notes on the deck, Chambers made a fateful and, as it turns out, historic decision.
Despite being ordered to let Ly ditch into the sea, Chambers knew the man and his family would never survive. So he had his crew push millions of dollars worth of helicopters into the sea to make room for the small plane, which had no business flying over open water. Chambers, who retired in 1984 as a rear admiral, said he knew he was risking a court-martial, but acted anyway.
“I’d have to live with my grandmother yelling in my ear ‘do the right thing,’” Chambers said as he explained his actions during the interview. “Everyone has a conscience. You look at the options. There are no winners in these situations. You do the best you can, do the thing you know you can live with and figure you will pay the consequences for the act.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.