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his is a famous war shot by Nick Ut that captures and exposes the horrors of the Vietnam War to the globe. After a big amount of napalm rained on her, the terrified girl in the shot had to rip off her clothes. She kept sprinting and crying “Nóng quá, Nóng quá” (“too hot, too hot”) until she passed out at the South Vietnamese Soldiers’ safety camp. The shot was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and named the ‘World Press Photo of the Year’ in 1973.

Phan Thị Kim Phúc

Phan Th Kim Phc, also known as the ‘Napalm Girl,’ was born on April 6, 1963, in South Vietnam and eventually became a Canadian citizen. She was featured in the iconic battlefield shot displayed in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken during the Vietnam War.

Kim Phuc lives in the South Vietnamese village of Trng Bàng with her family. Her family, like the rest of the townspeople, were farmers who lived a humble existence. However, while Kim Phuc’s childhood, her country was at war.

There was a fierce battle between South Vietnam, which the US-backed, and the communist nation of North Vietnam and its allies, known as the Viet Cong, who operated in the South. This conflict began in the mid-1950s when communists attempted to take over South Vietnam and merge it with the North under Communist rule. The US government, on the other hand, was opposed, fearing that the takeover might incite Communist aggressiveness in other regions of the world.

To prevent this from happening, the United States provided financial and military support to South Vietnamese forces from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. The conflict was severe, with the United States sending thousands of combat troops into the country and carrying out hundreds of air attacks against the Communists. Their attempts to halt them were futile. The United States lost almost 58,000 men, causing serious internal divisions across the country.

When the United States ultimately departed from the conflict in 1973, the Communist forces ended the war in 1975 after seizing Saigon, South Vietnam’s capital city.

Nick Ut

Company C, 1/9 Marines cross rice paddy during Operation Chinook II (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On the outskirts of Kim Phuc’s village in June 1972, there was a combat between North and South Vietnamese troops. The people of Trng Bàng had abandoned their village, according to a report presented to the US military leaders commanding the South Vietnamese forces. Because the US Commander suspected Northern forces were sheltering in the abandoned settlement, he directed the South Vietnamese air force to assault Trang Bàng.

However, unbeknownst to the US Commander and the South Vietnamese Air Force, Kim Phuc, her family, and other villagers remained behind, seeking safety in a small temple. Napalm bombs were dropped on the Village by South Vietnamese planes. When a bomb exploded near the shrine, the locals fled in terror.

Because the South Vietnamese air force pilot mistook them for enemy soldiers, he dropped a load of napalm on them.

Napalm is now described as a highly flammable, viscous liquid that sticks to the body while burning and is used in combat as an incendiary, particularly in wooded areas.

Two of Kim Phuc’s cousins and two other peasants were murdered in the bombing. The stuff landed on the young lady’s back, arms, and chest. Terrified and in serious pain, she pulled off her burning clothes and ran down a nearby road with other terrified children. They came across some South Vietnamese soldiers and reporters dressed in military attire after a few minutes.

One of them was Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, who captured Kim Phuc and other peasants fleeing. He and other reporters rushed to aid Kim Phuc, dousing her with water and transporting her and the other injured youngsters to the hospital. Kim had third-degree burns and it was thought she would not survive.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Nick Ut speaks with the press on Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nick Ut, on the other hand, had emailed his photograph to the company for which he worked. The photograph appeared on the first page of the New York Times and was later awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The photograph sparked outrage among Americans, most of whom had grown to regard the Vietnam War as a dreadful and tragic tragedy.

The horrors of the Vietnam War

Kim Phuc had been unconscious for days when she awoke one afternoon, and physicians confirmed that she would survive. Her body, however, was still far from recovered, as the burns covered much of her small frame. She would pass out every time the staff cleansed and bandaged her wounds because the agony was so excruciating. Ut paid frequent visits to her and arranged a fund-raising drive to assist with her medical expenditures. Kim Phuc was ultimately discharged from the hospital after fourteen months and seventeen operations.

Her burns were a source of anxiety for her; “I remember saying, ‘Oh My Goodness! “I got burned, and I’m unattractive, and people will see me differently,” she subsequently explained. That anxiety drove her to pursue a career in medicine. However, in the 1980s, after being accepted to medical school only to be rejected by the communist regime, her dream of becoming a doctor was dashed.

Kim Pluc contemplated suicide due to her ongoing agony, depression, and resentment for the people who had caused her suffering. However, at the age of nineteen, she went to a local library to study in 1982. She discovered a New Testament Bible there. Which she later read and led to her conversion to Christianity.

Years later, she met with the Vietnamese Prime Minister and informed him that she was unable to study due to the numerous interviews she had to attend and that she needed to return to school. She was granted permission to complete her studies in Cuba in 1986.

A picture of Phan Thi Kim Phuc many years later (Source: Public Domain)

Along the way, due to her faith’s commandments of loving your enemies, she wrote down the names of the ones who caused her pain and suffering on a piece of paper and prayed for them. : “The more I prayed for my enemies the softer my heart became. When I felt real forgiveness my heart was set free.” She said. “If I can do it, everyone can do it too”

Phan Thi Kim Phuc

She later founded the Kim Foundation to help provide medical and psychological aid to children who are victims of war. She also traveled the world as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador, informing others about her experiences and emphasizing how terrible war is and how innocent people suffer the most.

Kim Phuc was invited to the Veterans Day ceremonies at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1996. She delivered a brief address in front of the assembled throng during the ceremony:

“I have suffered a lot from both physical and emotional pain,” she continued, “Sometimes I could not breathe. But God saved my life and gave me faith and hope. Even if I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bombs, I would tell him, we cannot change history, but we should try to do good things for the present and for the future to promote peace.”

Phan Thi Kim Phuc

Kim Phuc was busy taking care of her family and travelling to speak about her experiences in the Vietnam War in the years following her statement at the Veterans’ Memorial. After the war, Nick Ut met Kim Phuc for the first time in Cuba, where she had gone to pursue her studies. She presented him to her boyfriend: “Uncle Nick, I think I’m going to marry him…” she said. Nick and Kim Phuc became lifelong friends.

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