Vietnam is holding a parade to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the military victory that ended the Vietnam War and reunified the country under communist rule.
As top officials looked on Thursday, thousands of flag-waving Vietnamese soldiers, war veterans, and others marched toward the center of Ho Chi Minh City.
The parade was a reenactment of the events of April 30, 1975, when North Vietnamese tanks victoriously rolled into the center of what was then the South Vietnamese capital, known as Saigon.
The victory marked the end of the North Vietnamese government’s decades-long war, first with France and then with the United States. Around 58,000 U.S. soldiers and up to 4 million Vietnamese were killed in the conflict.
The U.S., which supported the South Vietnamese in an attempt to stop the spread of communism, pulled its last embassy officials out of Saigon as North Vietnamese troops entered the city.
During Thursday’s festivities, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung praised the victory as one of “ardent patriotism” and national reunification.
“I call on Vietnamese people at home and abroad to uphold the sense of patriotism, the tradition of humanity and tolerance; to rise above the past and differences; to sincerely engage in national reconciliation,” he said.
Prime Minister Dung also slammed what he referred to as Washington’s “countless barbarous crimes” that he said caused “immeasurable losses and pain to our people and country,” according to the French news agency.
No U.S. diplomats attended the parade. However, American officials were expected to attend a separate, small ceremony at the U.S. Consulate on Thursday to remember U.S. troops who died during the final days of the war.
Despite their bitter past, economic and military ties between the U.S. and Vietnam have improved in recent years. Thursday is the 20th anniversary since the two countries reestablished diplomatic relations.
Vietnam now embraces a degree of capitalism, though it continues to adhere to a one-party system of government and restricts freedom of speech.