Today, April 30, red flags are festooning the streets of Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, to mark the fourth decade since the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government surrendered to communist North Vietnamese troops and ended the Vietnam War. But most Vietnamese are too young to remember the day in 1975 when Saigon fell, celebrated in Hanoi as Reunification Day. For the nearly 70 percent of the population under age 40, April 30 is just a day off from work or school.
“No one our age talks about it,” Hien, a recent university graduate from Hanoi who gave only her first name, told me. “Most young people nowadays don’t really care about what happened. They just want to have fun.”
Forty years after millions of Vietnamese were killed in the war, in which more than 58,000 Americans also died, locals I’ve spoken with bear little animosity toward the United States. During the three years I spent in Hanoi, I never witnessed hostility toward Americans. When I told Vietnamese I came from the U.S., they would smile and talk about American celebrities, like the pre-teen who told me she loved Beyoncé or the parking-lot attendant who shook my hand enthusiastically: “Ah, Obama!”
Vietnamese millennials have grown up without direct experience of what they call the “American War,” though many lost grandparents in the fighting. An estimated 300,000 soldiers remain missing, and those whose relatives died still feel their absence keenly. “My parents talk a lot about the war,” said Nguyen Thi Huong, 20, a university student in Hanoi whose grandfather died in the conflict. But she does not take part in those conversations. “Old people often reminisce. We young people can't relate, so we mind our own business.”