The celebration to mark the victory over the US aggressors was attended by Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phu Trong, President Truong Tan Sang, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung, former national leaders, and leaders of HCM City and many provinces.
Also in attendance were delegates from Cambodia, Cuba, and Laos, veterans who had fought to liberate the city 40 years ago, and overseas Vietnamese.
Personnel from 38 military and civilian units, including the Army, Air Force, Navy, commandos, police, mobile police, and others marched from the zoo and past the dais on Le Duan Street before splitting up to enter Ton Duc Thang Street or Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street after a flag-hoisting ceremony and music and dance performances.
The parade, watched by more than 10,000 people and covered by hundreds of local and international journalists, was conducted by Lieutenant General Nguyen Quoc Khanh, Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Viet Nam People's Army.
In his opening speech, Dung said: "The great victory in spring 1975 is a glorious chapter in our great history of national construction and defence.
"With that victory, we accomplished a historic mission of liberating the South and reunifying the country, bringing Viet Nam into a new era – an era of independence and reunification and building socialist Viet Nam into a strong nation with wealthy people and a democratic, just and civilised society."
|PM Nguyen Tan Dung delivers an opening speech at the ceremony. — Photo Van Dat|
The Prime Minister, on behalf of the Party, State, people and Army, paid tributes to President Ho Chi Minh, a hero of the nation's liberation, heroic martyrs and other comrades and compatriots who had sacrificed and dedicated their whole lives to the struggle for independence, freedom and reunification.
In 30 years of reforms Viet Nam had achieved things of historical significance, he said.
From being an underdeveloped nation, the country had become a middle-income, developing country with an annual average growth rate of 7 per cent, and its economic structure had transformed positively, he said.
The economy grew consistently and GDP per capita currently was US$2,200, he said.
The economic and social infrastructure had developed strongly with many modern projects, creating a new image for the country, he said.
Social development, justice, cultural development and the building of new rural areas had also seen progress, he said.
Social security was basically ensured, social welfare and people's living standards had greatly improved and poverty had fallen sharply to less than 6 per cent, he said.
Viet Nam had fulfilled most of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule, he added.
Addressing the ceremony on behalf of younger generations, Nguyen Dao Phuong Thuy, an outstanding fourth-year student at the HCM City University of Law and a member of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, said she was proud of the previous generations who had made sacrifices for the country's reunion and pledged to unite with others to safeguard the achievements.
Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Thai, who had fought in two triumphant battles -- Dien Bien Phu Campaign in 1954 and Ho Chi Minh Campaign in 1975 -- said in the last four decades Viet Nam had changed significantly and achieved major development in all areas such as social, economic and cultural, and rural and urban.
With global integration, the spiritual and material living conditions of the people had improved significantly, he said.
Today the country had a strong voice in the international arena, and ties between Viet Nam and other countries were growing rapidly, he added.
Tim Page was an American war correspondent during the Viet Nam War. Back now for the 40th anniversary, he said he was happy to come to the country and see the peace and prosperity here.
He told Viet Nam News: "When I first came back to Viet Nam 35 years ago, everybody was hungry. There were only two restaurants in Ha Noi. Today, they are even making BMWs in Ha Noi. It's good to see the progress. It's good to see your people happy and peaceful."
Michael Ebert, a German photojournalist who was impressed by the ceremony, said it was a very special event for Viet Nam, colourful and powerful and with many great moments.
"I am also teaching the history of photojournalism. I think the Vietnam War was a very important part of the history of photojournalism."
Soo Youn, a US journalist, told Viet Nam News: "I have only been in Viet Nam for one or two days. It's good to see things going forwards here.
"Why should the US be involved in the Viet Nam War?"
The victory was a sweet fruit reaped by the Vietnamese, demonstrating the power of their revolutionary heroism, virtuousness, and intellect under the late President Ho Chi Minh's leadership.
From a war-torn, isolated and sanctioned country, Viet Nam has integrated deeply with the rest of the world in all spheres.
It has established diplomatic and trade relations with most of the world.
Forty years after its reunification, Viet Nam has entered the second phase of renewal with improving institutions and expanding democracy being the focal points.
Tonight (April 30), following a music performance featuring more than 4,400 artists, including nearly all city-based musicians, a 15-minute fireworks display will be set off at the Bitexco Financial Tower in HCM City's District 1 and at seven other locations around the city. — VNS