She will always be naked after blobs of sticky napalm melted through her clothes and layers of skin like jellied lava.
She will always be a victim without a name.
It only took a second for Associated Press photographer Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut to snap the iconic black-and-white image 40 years ago. It communicated the horrors of the Vietnam War in a way words could never describe, helping to end one of the most divisive wars in American history.
But beneath the photo lies a lesser-known story. It’s the tale of a dying child brought together by chance with a young photographer. A moment captured in the chaos of war that would be both her savior and her curse on a journey to understand life’s plan for her.
“I really wanted to escape from that little girl,” says Kim Phuc, now 49. “But it seems to me that the picture didn’t let me go.”
It was June 8, 1972, when Phuc heard the soldier’s scream: “We have to run out of this place! They will bomb here, and we will be dead!”
Seconds later, she saw the tails of yellow and purple smoke bombs curling around the Cao Dai temple where her family had sheltered for three days, as north and south Vietnamese forces fought for control of their village.
The little girl heard a roar overhead and twisted her neck to look up. As the South Vietnamese Skyraider plane grew fatter and louder, it swooped down toward her, dropping canisters like tumbling eggs flipping end over end.
The ground rocked. Then the heat of a hundred furnaces exploded as orange flames spit in all directions.
Fire danced up Phuc’s left arm. The threads of her cotton clothes evaporated on contact. Trees became angry torches. Searing pain bit through skin and muscle.
“I will be ugly, and I’m not normal anymore,” she thought, as her right hand brushed furiously across her blistering arm. “People will see me in a different way.”
In shock, she sprinted down Highway 1 behind her older brother. She didn’t see the foreign journalists gathered as she ran toward them, screaming.
Then, she lost consciousness.
Ut, the 21-year-old Vietnamese photographer who took the picture, drove Phuc to a small hospital. There, he was told the child was too far gone to help. But he flashed his American press badge, demanded that doctors treat the girl and left assured that she would not be forgotten.
“I cried when I saw her running,” said Ut,.. read more here
This article was totally worth the read. Sometimes people forgot how being at the right (yet wrong) place at the right time can really make an impact on how we view war and the “enemy”. No one deserves to go through this nor to be stuck in the middle of war. However, and unfortunately there is no way to remove them nor ourselves when war strikes. But pictures can capture these moments of desparation and heartache and really make people take stock in the outcome of war. I don’t agree, I don’t think it’s fair, but regardless of what I or anyone else thinks it happens. And thank goodness someone is there to capture it and share it with others. We aren’t all sheep, so speak your truth regardless of outcome and do what you know is right for the ultimate good of others.
- ‘Napalm girl’ photo from Vietnam War turns 40 (ibnlive.in.com)
- Vietnam War photographer Nick Ut recalls Pulitzer Prize-winning shot of girl running from napalm strike (abclocal.go.com)
- Kim Phuc, ‘Napalm Girl’ in iconic Vietnam War photo, discusses life-changing moment (abclocal.go.com)
- Horst Faas Death: Legendary Vietnam War Photographer Dies at 79 (inquisitr.com)