Vietnam

Iconic “Napalm Girl” photo taken after 9-year-old is badly burned in napalm attack

June 8, 1972
Trảng Bàng, Vietnam
9-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc is photographed after being a victim of a napalm attack

A South Vietnamese pilot mistook a group of fleeing South Vietnamese residents as an enemy group and attacked. The attack killed 4, including two of Kim Phúc’s cousins, and wounding many more. The bombing set Kim Phúc’s clothes on fire which she tore off, explaining why she is depicted running naked through the street. Kim Phúc later recalled in an interview she cried “Nóng quá, nóng quá” (Too hot, too hot).

After snapping the iconic photo, photographer Nick Ut took Kim Phúc and the other injured children to a hospital in Saigon. Kim Phúc’s burns were so severe doctors did not expect her to survive. However, she recovered after a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgeries including skin transplants. Ut continued to visit Kim Phúc until he was evacuated during the Fall of Saigon.

Currently she, her husband, and their two children are Canadian citizens. A Miami doctor provided free laser treatments to reduce scar tissue on Kim Phúc’s arm and back in Miami at no charge, concluding in 2017. The treatment was successful and she has reported she has feeling in her arm again. Kim Phúc has also created a foundation which helps children victims of war with medical and psychological treatment.

During a 2008 interview with NPR, Kim Phúc said “Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness. If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?”

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