Vietnam Napalm

Kim Phuc Phan Thi, center, running down a road near Trang Bang, Vietnam, after a napalm bomb was dropped on the village of Trang Bang by a plane of the Vietnam Air Force. The village was suspected by US Army forces of being a Viet Cong stronghold. Kim Phuc survived by tearing off her burning clothes. Kim Phuc (aged 9) running naked in the middle with her older brother, Phan Thanh Tam (12), crying out to the left. Her younger brother, Phan Thanh Phuoc (5), to the left looking back at the village and to the right are Kim Phu's small cousins Ho Van Bo, a boy, and Ho Thi Ting, a girl. (Source: Wikipedia)

This photo was taken 37 years ago today by Associated Press photographer Nick Út.

Amazingly – Kim survived. She now lives in Canada and has two children. The photograph serves as a reminder that war is indiscriminate and it is the weak and vulnerable – i.e. civilians – who suffer most.

Kim Phúc and her family were residents of the village of Trang Bang, South Vietnam. On June 8, 1972, South Vietnamese planes, in coordination with the American military, dropped a napalm bomb on Trang Bang, which had been attacked and occupied by North Vietnamese forces. Phúc joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese soldiers who were fleeing from the Cao Dai Temple to the safety of South Vietnamese held positions. A South Vietnamese Air Force pilot mistook the group for enemy soldiers and diverted to attack. The bombing killed two of Phúc’s cousins and two other villagers. Associated Press photographer Nick Út earned a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of the aftermath. It also was chosen the World Press Photo of the Year for 1972. The image of Phúc running naked amidst the chaos became one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War. In an interview many years later, she recalled she was yelling “Nong qua, nong qua” (“too hot, too hot”) in the picture.

After snapping the photograph, Út took Kim Phúc and the other injured children to a hospital in Saigon, where it was determined her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive. After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures, however, she was able to return home. Út continued to visit her until he was evacuated during the fall of Saigon, three years later. Source: Wikipedia

More about the picture and the history of the particants and where they are now,  on the BBC website.

Other profoundly powerful and disturbing pictures include the burnt out, charred remains of an Iraqi soldier in the front window of a destroyed truck. Truly awful and initially regarded as “too horrific to print”.

Another is the Pulitzer Prize winning picture of the Oklahoma tragedy in which a firefighter carries a dead child.

6 thoughts on “Vietnam Napalm

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    There is also this one, which has been the source of many heated arguments in our household, since I know the story behind it… There’s a book about war photographers, but I can’t for the life of me remember its name. The Bang-Bang Club, possibly? The tragedy of this photo for me lies in the fact that the photographer took the photo but never bothered to assist the child in making it to the help centre. It is thus not known whether the child survived…

  2. Lula – ugh, what an awful story. I wasn’t familiar with that. I guess the photographer thought he wanted to ‘observe’ rather than ‘interact’, but in this context that is wrong. Awful.

    PS The book sounds interesting.

  3. Even today Kim Phuc still suffers physical pain from her burns that scarred 65% of her body. But she does not wallow in self pity. She instead puts her efforts into the Kim foundation.

    which seeks to provide relief to children of War.
    She is a remarkable woman!

  4. My grandmother served in Air Force during this time, along with my great uncle who was a Marine and one of the first to go in, I am proud to be related to them. Many in this war were left scarred and haunted, not only the civilians suffered.

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