HO CHI MINH CITY: Vietnam’s premier on Thursday hit out at the “barbarous crimes” of its wartime American foe as the nation marked four decades since the fall of Saigon, an event that delivered a communist victory and a painful blow to US moral and military prestige.
The central streets of southern Ho Chi Minh City—formerly Saigon—were filled with a forest of hammer and sickle flags of the Communist Party, as regiments of goose-stepping soldiers filed past the country’s top leaders.
In front of Independence Palace —whose gates northern tanks clattered through in one of the iconic moments of the 1975 victory—Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung struck out at the US attempt to contain the spread of communism in Southeast Asia through war in Vietnam.
“They committed countless barbarous crimes, caused immeasurable losses and pain to our people and country,” he said in an address.
The war killed millions of Vietnamese—both civilians and combatants from the divided North and South—and left hundreds of thousands more wounded.
The physical effects of conflict still linger, including through deformities that Vietnam says are caused by the dioxin Agent Orange, sprayed by the US airforce to pare back the thick jungle used as cover by the northern guerilla forces.
Some 58,000 US servicemen also died in a war that remains seared into the consciousness of the American public, most often as a tragic waste of young lives and a symbol of the over-extension of power.
It was the first Cold War conflict to be extensively covered by the Western press—and the first to be lost by a modern superpower that thought itself unbeatable.
The communist victory was one of “ardent patriotism,” Dung said, hailing the reunification of Vietnam, which was cleaved apart in 1954 into the communist North and the US-backed South.