Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Vietnam celebrated the communist victory over a U.S.-backed government today, parading its troops down the same boulevard along which tanks rolled to smash into the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam 30 years ago.
Watched by the country's top leaders and legendary figures like Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, soldiers, government workers and performers marched toward the palace gates. Hundreds of aging veterans, their chests dripping 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 because of security concerns.
On April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese tanks barreled through the gates of the palace, the heart of the U.S.-backed Saigon government. The fall of Saigon marked the official end to the Vietnam War, and the U.S.'s decadelong involvement in Southeast Asia. The war claimed some 58,000 American lives and about 3 million Vietnamese.
But the atmosphere in the country three decades later has been mostly festive, focusing on Vietnam's economic rejuvenation in recent years. Memories of the war and its aftermath are little more than anecdotes in history books for the majority of the country's population 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 Nguyen Thanh Tung, an 18-year-old student.