Hundreds of aging veterans, their chests decked with medals, watched from the sidelines as the soldiers headed toward the Presidential Palace. The legendary Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap was among them, standing alongside the president.
Giant billboards of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's revolutionary leader, overlooked the parade route and adjoining streets, which had been blocked off to the public due to security concerns.
On April 30, 1975, Communist tanks barreled through the palace gates in what was then Saigon, capital of South Vietnam. The city's fall marked the official end of the Vietnam War, and the United States' decade-long campaign against communism in Southeast Asia. The war claimed some 58,000 American lives and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.
"I was listening to the radio with my family and heard that Saigon had been liberated. I was very happy because for many years we weren't free. After 30 years we have rebuilt our country. Our land is safe and secure and I think the future will be better for my children," said To Thanh Nghia, 51, a government worker marching in the parade.
The atmosphere in the country three decades later has been mostly festive, focusing on Vietnam's recent economic rejuvenation. Memories of the war and its aftermath are little more than anecdotes in history books for most Vietnamese who were born after it ended.