Kabul, Afghanistan, 2021; Saigon, Vietnam, 1975: Two occasions when Americans had to evacuate themselves and their allies from a city invaded by hostile forces after a war they basically gave up on because of fatigue. The link is not only symbolic: at least one of the helicopters used in the escape from Kabul appears to have also been used in the one from Saigon.

“Don't trust any helicopter under 30”. This is one of the endearing ways its users referred to Phrog – misspelled “frog” because of its appearance. The iconic CH-46 Sea Knight was introduced in 1964 to the Navy and Marines, a helicopter designed to operate from ships.


Don't confuse with the Chinook. The second, also famous for Vietnam movies, is the CH-47, a stretched version (16m fuselage length vs. 13,67m Sea Knight), based on land and still in use.

The Sea Knights were withdrawn from combat in 2014 by the Navy, and 2015 by the Marines, in a career spanning more than 50 years. But they continue to be used by the US State Department, which leads to our story.

veteran of two wars

The scene of helicopters identical to the Saigon evacuation operating in Kabul was naturally noted:

But one person, the Cold War historian who operates the channel whatismoo, clung to a detail that turned out to be crucial: one of the Sea Knights seen in Kabul, with the prefix N38TU, has a Bureau Number (BuNo) 154038.

This number indicates a purchase and is held until the equipment is retired. Well then: in 1975, a CH-46, photographed on the aircraft carrier USS Hancock in the Saigon evacuation, has this exact same BuNo.

A survey of ours now: the N38TU history extracted from the military archives indicates that it was entered in December 1967 and was part of the HMM-165, a medium helicopter squadron of the Marines. A group that was instrumental in the escape from Saigon.

So yes: everything indicates that at least one of the helicopters used on August 15, 2021 in the Kabul evacuation was also present in the Saigon evacuation on April 30, 1975. If it actually left the aircraft carrier and was used, it is not so right, but was spotted in the operation. It is a device that, in its 53-year career, has seen more than its operators.

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