The grey and imposing silhouette of the USS Carl Vinson could be seen on Monday morning from the cliff tops just outside the central Vietnamese city of Danang, where the 103,000-tonne carrier and two other US ships begin a five-day visit.
"This is a historic day and we are honored to receive such a warm welcome here", said Rear Adm. John Fuller, the strike group commander.
'Through hard work, mutual respect, and by continuing to address the past while we work toward a better future, we have gone from former enemies to close partners'.
The sailors and Marines will participate in cultural exchanges with their Vietnamese counterparts, and some personnel will visit a center for victims of Agent Orange - a defoliant that American planes sprayed on the jungle to remove cover.
The Navy now makes regular, small-scale visits to Vietnam that the service calls "Naval Engagement Activities". In 2016, former President Obama lifted a decades-old ban on military equipment sales to Vietnam and last year, the two countries signed a three-year plan for defense cooperation.
Navy musicians from the USA 7th Fleet Band will perform free concerts for the public as well.
China has been aggressive in asserting claims in the South China Sea area, and has built islands on reefs and militarized those facilities.
For Vietnam, which has objected most strongly to China over issues in the South China Sea, the expanding US involvement in Asia has been fortunate.
The high-profile symbolism of the United States attempting to check China's power in the region is not lost among analysts.
"I do not think it's too late to forestall further militarization, but I think we need to have a comprehensive - and not just a military - strategy for how to deal with this".
The United States and Vietnam normalized relations in 1995.
China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, where more than $5 trillion of goods are shipped each year through some of the world's busiest waterways.
Several Danang residents said Monday that they welcomed the Navy's visit. However, a visit by an aircraft carrier is of a different level and something that government officials in Beijing will be paying close attention to.
With a Northrup Grumman E-2 Hawkeye parked in foreground, USA navy personnel cool themselves on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchors off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. "Increased co-operation between the two countries in economic, diplomatic and military areas would serve as a counterbalance to Beijing's expansionism".