Jet fighters thundered overhead, and thousands of soldiers and civilians marched through Ho Chi Minh City today to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the communist victory over U.S.-backed South Vietnam.
Nguyen Van Linh, Communist Party boss of the city formerly known as Saigon, said in a speech opening the ceremonies that the victory was “a brilliant exploit of the 20th Century.”
He thanked the Soviet Union for its support and said that for the United States the Vietnam War was “a tunnel with no light at the end.”
Goose-stepping infantrymen of the world’s fourth-largest armed forces, carrying U.S.-made M-16 rifles seized at the collapse of South Vietnam, moved past a stand filled with aging revolutionary leaders who had fought the Japanese, French and Americans.
Vietnamese officials said they had invited former American anti-war activists, including actress Jane Fonda and pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock. But only David Dellinger--a defendant in the “Chicago Seven” trial--and John McAuliff of the American Friends Service Committee attended. No official U.S. delegation was present.
Thousands of spectators watched the parade, officially said to include 50,000 participants.
It traveled to the former presidential palace, where on April 30, 1975, South Vietnam surrendered to communist forces who had surrounded the city the previous day.
Soviet-built artillery pieces, tanks, and armored vehicles were part of the parade. Soviet-built MIG-21 jet fighters, helicopter gunships and transport aircraft flew overhead.
The parade began at almost exactly the same time that on April 30, 1975, the last helicopter had lifted off the roof of the U.S. Embassy at 7:52 a.m. to end a mass evacuation of Americans and South Vietnamese.
Linh said in his speech that Saigon had suffered for 116 years as an imperialist city, “a place full of debauchery, prolific in social evils, oppression and injustice.”
He claimed that major advances have been made over the last decade, such as more vegetable growing and elimination of prostitution.
With Linh on the stand were eight of 13 members of the Politburo, the nation’s key organ of rule. They included Communist Party Secretary General Le Duan, Premier Pham Van Dong and Defense Minister Gen. Van Tien Dung, the architect of the 55-day campaign that climaxed with the fall of Saigon.
Portraits of the revered late President Ho Chi Minh, the national hero who died in 1969 and is known as “Uncle Ho,” were posted in the parade area, and constant references were made to him.
Absent was Le Duc Tho, who negotiated the peace agreement between North Vietnam and the United States in 1973 and later refused to share the Nobel Peace Prize with U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.