HANOI, Vietnam – As you approach K2000, Vietnam’s equivalent to the Pentagon, it’s impossible to miss the row of warplanes on the side of the road.
Fighter jets and even a helicopters line the street, similar to how retired jets are displayed at U.S. military bases or aviation museums.
But these are not Vietnamese aircraft. In fact, some are U.S. military planes that were downed during the Vietnam War (see photo below).
The museum set the stage for an interesting morning at the Vietnamese military headquarters where it was clearly visible just how far one-time foes have come almost 40 years since the end of that conflict.
Vietnamese defense officials put on quite the show during a welcome ceremony for U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that included a military band, marching, a troop review and a whole lot of red carpet.
Afterward during a joint press conference, Panetta and Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh exchanged artifacts recovered by each country during the Vietnam War (toward the end of the video below).
Panetta served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, however, he never saw combat in the country. Quang Thanh fought for the North Vietnam army in the war.
If you watch Quang Thanh face during the exchange, he genuinely appears moved upon receiving a diary recovered of a dead North Vietnam army soldier by an American soldier 1966.