A group of U.S. Navy ships, led by aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, left the coastal city of Da Nang on Friday morning, concluding a historic five-day port call in Vietnam.
The supercarrier, carrying 6,000 sailors and officers, was accompanied by guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain and destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer in the landmark visit that marked the largest military presence of the U.S. in Vietnam since the war ended in 1975.
During the visit, sailors and officers from the USS Carl Vinson and the Carl Vinson Strike Group participated in different cultural and professional exchanges in the form of community service projects, sports competitions, and music performances in Da Nang.
The USS Carl Vinson sailors visited the local SOS Children’s Village and the Agent Orange Victims Center, bringing festivities to children there. The 7th Fleet Band joined both of the visits and also held two ‘night concerts’ to greet and exchange with members of the public in Da Nang.
|A U.S. Navy sailor plays basketball with an Orange Agent victim in Da Nang City, central Vietnam, on March 7, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The sailors also took part in a culinary exchange, where chefs from Madame Lan’s restaurant and Furama Resort taught the chefs how to cook local delicacies including mi Quang (Quang noodles) and banh xeo (crispy fried pancake).
The March 5-9 visit marked “an enormously significant milestone” in the Vietnam-U.S. bilateral relations, and demonstrated U.S. support for “a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam,” U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink said in a statement.
|The U.S. Seventh Fleet band sings ‘Hello Vietnam’ in Vietnamese. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Vice Admiral Phillip G. Sawyer, commander of the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, also stressed that the relationships between the two countries are “the most important outcome” of the port call.
“These ships brought nearly 6,000 sailors to Da Nang, and they had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this beautiful city and connect with its people,” Sawyer told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper in an exclusive interview.
“We haven't brought so many sailors here before at once. So the relationships are the most important outcome.”
|USS Carl Vinson chefs learn to cook Vietnamese food at a culinary exchange in Da Nang City, central Vietnam, on March 6, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
U.S. Navy frigate USS Vandegrift visited Ho Chi Minh City in 2003, followed by a port call by its destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur to Da Nang in 2004. The USS Carl Vinson visit to Da Nang therefore illustrates that the Vietnam-U.S. relations “have come a long way since,” the vice admiral told Tuoi Tre.
“Trust and confidence have grown as our navies have had more opportunities to interact over the years, culminating in this most recent ship visit,” he said.
“Again, it's all about the relationships between our people, and it takes time to build those.”