Pham Quoc Hung felt calm when the end finally came. It was the morning of April 30, 1975, and North Vietnamese tanks were rumbling towards their final military objective: Saigon.
Those tanks were a sign that the war in Vietnam was finally over, said Hung, recounting the last hours, 40 years ago, of the country once known as the Republic of Vietnam, and the fall of its former capital, Saigon, to North Vietnamese forces.
“I felt calm because I could expect the result,” said the 75-year-old Hung, who was a battlefield photographer with the defeated South Vietnamese army at that time.
After years covering the war that brought so much death and destruction on his country, Hung said he wasn’t filled with dread at the prospect of a Communist victory. He was just relieved that peace would finally arrive.
When the last American helicopter flew out of Saigon on the morning of April 30, 1975, more than 58,000 US military personnel had been killed in the war. So many more Vietnamese had died that it is difficult to calculate. Estimates range from 1.5 million to more than 3.5 million Vietnamese killed in fighting from the mid-1950s until the war’s end in 1975.
Since then, Vietnam’s economy has gone from one of the worst to one of the hottest in Southeast Asia in the past 20 years. The United States is no longer the enemy, and Americana culture appears to be winning the “hearts and minds” of a new generation of young Vietnamese.
Among the Vietnamese themselves, however, post-war reconciliation is still a fraught subject and not everyone will be celebrating today’s anniversary. A number Vietnamese have recounted instances of discrimination in education and employment opportunities over the years because of their family links to the vanquished South Vietnam.
According to Tran Huu Quang, a leading Vietnamese sociologist, reconciliation is still a work in progress and there is a long way to go before “… all people, including children of families whose fathers were on the other side, could truly recognise that this country, this nation, is theirs.”
- Pray for the country of Vietnam, as it continues to come to terms with the impact of the Vietnam war, 40 years ago.
- Pray for full reconciliation between North and South Vietnamese.
- Pray for the many families who are still being impacted by the effects of the war, specifically from chemical residues and land mines left behind.
- Pray for the Vietnam Church, to be a leader in reconciliation and forgiveness, and to have freedom to worship and witness to Christ.
2 Corinthians 5 vs 18: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation“