Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Nov. 19 (Reuters): Flying the flag of its former enemy, a US navy frigate docked in Vietnam’s biggest city today, the first to visit the country since their bloody conflict ended nearly 30 years ago.
Watched by curious onlookers and a horde of media, the USS Vandegrift sailed into Saigon port, its crew smartly attired in navy whites and lining the deck, arms clasped behind their backs. “We are showing the world that former foes can be friends,” US ambassador to Vietnam Raymond Burghardt said as American sailors watched from the ship’s upper deck.
In a further gesture of reconciliation, the ship’s Commander Richard Rogers and the US Embassy Defence and Army Attache Stephen Ball witnessed a floral wreath laying at a statue of Vietnam’s first President Ho Chi Minh in a downtown square.
The “Bac Ho” or Uncle Ho statue in the square, surrounded by war-era hotels including the Continental, Rex and Caravelle, shows the resistance leader with a little girl. The Americans saluted the wreath-laying before heading with Vietnamese military officials into a meeting with the city’s local government leaders. The frigate flew the flags of both countries, the stars and stripes of the US alongside that of Vietnam — red with a five-pointed yellow star in the centre.