HO CHI MINH CITY: Marching troops paraded down the same route taken by North Vietnamese tanks when they rolled into the city 30 years ago, as Vietnam yesterday celebrated the communist victory over a US-backed government.
Watched by the country's top leaders and legendary figures such as war hero Gen Vo Nguyen Giap, soldiers, government workers and performers marched while waving red flags.
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.
On April 30, 1975, communist tanks barrelled through the gates of the Presidential Palace, the heart of the US-backed Saigon government.
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.
Some 58,000 Americans and about three million Vietnamese were killed in the war.
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.
My father and grandfather fought in the war but I was too young. I think my future will be good because they created opportunities for my generation, said 18-year-old student Nguyen Thanh Tung.
Down the grand boulevard where communist tanks once rolled, capitalism has taken solid root.
Some parade floats, sponsored by Vietnamese banks, sported the logo of American credit card companies.
One float featured women pushing supermarket carts loaded with goods.
While Vietnam proudly recalled its victories over both the United States and colonial France, the focus was clearly on the future.
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. AP
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