Vietnam is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the end of what it calls “the American War” by staging a military parade without a real tank in sight.
It was on April 30, 1975 that Saigon fell to communist North Vietnamese forces fighting the US-backed regime in the south. “As I attend the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Saigon I am deeply moved,” said one war veteran. “Back then we could never have conceived of this event. We’re deeply moved and proud of this celebration.” A retired teacher remembered: “We dropped everything and rushed into the streets. We tried hard to see the faces of the soldiers. We even wanted to touch them with our hands.” Vietnam’s government has been concerned that too visible a show of “triumphalism” could harm relations with the United States. Although diplomatic ties were only established ten years ago, Washington is now Vietnam’s biggest trading partner. What was Saigon is now called Ho Chi Minh City, after the late President and founder of today’s united Vietnam. But before the celebrations, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai urged all sides put the past behind them. Most Vietnamese are too young to remember the conflict that killed two million of their compatriots and more than 58,000 Americans. In a sign of the times, many shops have advertised “30 percent off on the 30th”. In these days of economic boom, ideological fervour is a rare commodity in Vietnam.