It was April, 1975 and Saigon was about to fall to Communist forces. People were desperate to flee. Now the United States Naval Academy has honored Freedom Plaza Sun City Center resident Rear Admiral Larry Chambers, USN (Ret.) for a military career that included leading the rescue of thousands from South Vietnam nearly 43 years ago. He received the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Award alongside five other graduates, including Senator John McCain, in a ceremony in Annapolis, Maryland. Freedom Plaza Sun City Center is a Brookdale community.
Rear Admiral Chambers, from the Academy’s class of 1952, was the second African-American to graduate from the school and first to command an aircraft carrier. He was assigned to captain the U.S.S. Midway in early 1975 after flying combat missions for two years and commanding a combat stores ship.
Then he was ordered to take the aircraft carrier as fast as possible from the Philippines to the coast of South Vietnam to help in the rescue. After refugees and helicopters filled the ship’s deck, a Cessna loaded with people began circling overhead. Finally, the South Vietnamese Air Force officer piloting it threw down a note, explaining he was trying to escape with his wife and five children. Chambers ordered that numerous helicopters be pushed overboard from the Midway so the small plane could land, which it safely did to the cheers of the carrier’s crew.
After retiring from the Navy in 1984, Rear Admiral Chambers went on to a successful career in the private sector. In 2011, he and his wife Sarah moved to Freedom Plaza Sun City Center. The professional and personal qualities that have distinguished him throughout his life have benefitted those around him at his community, where he has chaired resident committees, mentored associates and is a great friend to many. As Rear Admiral Chambers receives the U.S. Naval Academy honor for his service, the Brookdale team is honored to serve him and his family.