SAIGON, April 30, 1975 (UPI) -A triumphant Communist army riding tanks, trucks and captured American Jeeps took over Saigon Wednesday and raised the Viet Cong flag over the presidential palace. The Communist world hailed it as a great victory of historic -- The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops-jubilant over the unconditional surrender that ended 35 years of war against American, French, Japanese and South Vietnamese forces-seized Saigon Radio and announced that they have renamed the South Vietnamese capital "Ho Chi Minh City."
The occupation of the city 3 1/2 hours after the last Americans were flown out in U.S. Marine helicopters was mostly peaceful, but there were some sporadic firefights in the capital as last-ditch defenders fought suicide battles.
One by one, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops overwhelmed the holdouts and gained complete control of Saigon. They crashed tanks through the wall at the presidential palace and hoisted a huge Viet Cong flag-red on the top, blue on the bottom with a gold star in the center. President Duong Van Minh was reported in custody.
UPI photographer Hoang Van Cuong rode one of the Russian-made tanks into the presidential compound surrounded by approving, smiling soldiers who shouted, "Press guy, good." The Viet Cong made no attempts to interfere with picture taking or news coverage.
One noisy fight broke out in front of the presidential palace-now the Viet Cong headquarters-while UPI correspondent Alan Dawson was attempting to make contact with senior Communist officials to discuss news and photograph operations.
Dawson spent 10 minutes tucked between two Viet Cong behind a tree. The Communists put out a tremendous volume of tank, machine gun and rifle fire, and Dawson was able to pull out after about 10 minutes.
Other fighting was reported under way with holdout paratroopers near the Saigon Zoo at the north edge of Saigon and with Special Forces troops at the southwest edge.
When a boatload of persons tried to set off down the Saigon River to the South China sea, a Viet Cong officer ordered a tank to fire a round across the ship's bow. The boat turned around and returned to the Saigon dock.
In Washington, President Ford said only that the American evacuation "closes a chapter in the American experience." Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger admitted that the 14 years of American involvement in Vietnam "did not achieve the objectives of those who started the original involvement."
The Communist victory dealt a heavy setback to the United States, which spent $150 billion and lost more than 50,000 lives in a futile effort to save the South Vietnamese government.
Former President Nguyen Van Thieu, in exile on Taipei, maintained silence.
Soviet Tass commentator Sergei Bulantsev said that after more than 30 years of fighting, "At last, conditions were created that peace should reign in the long-suffering land of South Vietnam, and a most dangerous seat of international tensions and military conflict have been liquidated."
The Viet Cong's Provincial Revolutionary Government delegation in Paris hailed the capture of Saigon as an historic victory over the Americans, and hinted privately that the war-divided country soon may be reunited. It was divided into North and South Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh's victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu.
In Hanoi, jubilant North Vietnamese went into the streets and held the noisiest and most joyous celebration of the long, drawn-out war, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported. Hundreds of thousands of people clad in their best clothes attended a victory rally marked by the sound of loudspeakers, firecrackers and rockets.
In Peking, the embassies of North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (Viet Cong) were decorated with flags and banners, and hundreds of firecrackers celebrated the Communist victory, Tanjug reported.