Hanoi (dpa) – Large crowds gathered on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the nation’s reunification, with a parade involving 6,000 soldiers and civilians.
The occasion, known as both Reunification Day and Liberation Day, commemorated the 1975 triumph of the North Vietnamese forces and the vanquishing of the old US-backed Saigon regime in what is known in Vietnam as “the American War.”
“The Great 1975 Spring Victory is a magificent page in the history of protecting the country,” said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on a rostrum constructed near the gates of a museum called Reunification Palace.
“We have finished the gloriously historical mission to totally liberate the South and reunite the country, bringing our country to a new era of independence and unification.”
The event, which appeared live on national TV, featured marching bands and several military, militia and police units.
Many soldiers wore uniforms and used the same military flags of the troops that entered the city – then called Saigon – on April 30, 1975.
The procession also featured a replica of “Tank 390,” which became a national symbol when it was photographed crashing through the gates of what was then the Presidential Palace 40 years ago, marking the downfall of the Saigon government. The structure is now the Reunification Palace.
Youths marched behind a giant portrait of former President Ho Chi Minh, leader of the communist revolutionary forces that defeated both the colonial French and later the US forces that had backed the Saigon regime.
The southern city was renamed in honour of Ho after the victory.
In addition to Dung, the nation’s leadership was represented by Vietnamese Communist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong, President Truong Tan Sang and National Assembly leader Nguyen Sinh Hung.
They were joined at the parade by dignitaries representing foreign countries including Cambodia, Laos and Cuba.