The celebrations on Saturday were marked by parading troops on the same boulevard used by tanks on their way to smashing the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam that symbolised the final act of victory.
Watched by the country’s leaders and legendary figures such as war hero General Vo Nguyen Giap, soldiers, government workers and performers marched with red flags waving towards the palace gates in Ho Chi Minh city.
Hundreds of ageing veterans, their chests decked with medals, watched from the sidelines.
Giant billboards of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam‘s revolutionary leader, dominated the parade ground and adjoining streets which had been blocked off to the public due to security concerns.
Fall of Saigon
On 30 April 1975, North Vietnamese tanks barrelled through the gates of the palace, the heart of the US-backed Saigon government.
Vietnam is on the crest of an
The fall of Saigon marked the official end to the Vietnam War, and America‘s more than decade-long attempt to halt the spread of communism in the region. The war claimed about 58,000 American lives and an estimated three million Vietnamese.
“I was listening to the radio with my family and heard that Saigon had been liberated. I was very happy because for many years we weren’t free. After 30 years we have rebuilt our country. Our land is safe and secure and I think the future will be better for my children,” said To Thanh Nghia, 51, a government worker marching in the parade.
The atmosphere in the country three decades later has been mostly festive, focusing on Vietnam‘s recent economic rejuvenation. Memories of the war and its aftermath are little more than anecdotes in history books for most Vietnamese who were born after it ended.
While Vietnam proudly recalled its victories over both the United States and colonial France, the focus was clearly on the future.
“I was listening to the radio with my family and heard that Saigon had been liberated. I was very happy because for many years we weren’t free”
To Thanh Nghia,
“Through our two resistance [wars] against foreign aggressors the historical clashes in Saigon will always be in the forefront,” said President Tran Duc Luong to cheers from the crowd.
He called Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, the country’s “economic locomotive”.
With the president on the giant reviewing platform was a guest of honour, Raul Castro, the brother and successor to Cuba‘s leader Fidel Castro who stood by Vietnam‘s communist government for decades.
Also flanking the leader was Giap, the military mastermind who defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu and ousted the Americans.
Despite Vietnam’s remarkable recovery from the devastation of war, most of its largely agrarian population of 82 million remains poor with per capita income hovering around $550 a year.
But Vietnam is on the crest of an economic wave that saw annual growth of 7.7% last year – second only to China in Asia.