Tens of thousands of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians turned out in the streets of Vietnam to commemorate the communist victory in the Vietnam War 30 years ago.

Vietnamese troops marched down the wide boulevards of Ho Chi Minh City Saturday, tracing the path taken by tanks 30 years ago as the victorious North Vietnamese Army entered the city - then known as Saigon - and toppled the U.S-backed South Vietnamese regime.

Leaders of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party looked on as soldiers marched with red flags to South Vietnam's old presidential palace, where tanks of the victorious invaders smashed through the gates on April 30, 1975. The city was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, after the late leader of the communist revolution, the next year.

Vietnamese women wave paper flowers during celebration in Ho Chi Minh city, Saturday
Despite the inescapable martial overtones, however, Saturday's festivities emphasized the future and Vietnam's economic advances, rather than merely dwelling on the past.

The southern commercial city is now the principal center for investment in Vietnam's booming economy, accounting for 40 percent of exports and industrial output. That is an achievement government officials have been talking about this week almost as much as the victory there 30 years ago.

President Tran Duc Luong praised Ho Chi Minh City's strength, calling it the "engine" of the economy, and urging young people to mobilize to build a prosperous nation.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai spoke here in Hanoi on Friday, where the commemoration began. He urged young Vietnamese to build the economy under the government's so-called "doi moi" economic reforms, with the same vigor their parents showed in the wars against French colonialists and American soldiers.

Mr. Khai says the strength of Vietnam's national unity is the root of the country's victory in two wars against invaders. He says it is also the main factor bringing success in the "doi moi" process.

Saturday's ceremonies reflected the dual themes of communist victory and economic success. Giant posters of Ho Chi Minh were everywhere, but one float advertised a new mega-supermarket. Raul Castro, Cuba's defense minister and brother of Fidel Castro, stood by his communist brethren in Ho Chi Minh City, but he watched floats sponsored by American companies passing by.

The United States is now Vietnam's largest single trading partner, accounting for nearly a quarter of exports. Last year, bilateral trade between the countries was $4 billion.

Thirty years after the Vietnam War ended, the former enemies now find themselves united by trade.